The former host of a survival show on Finnish TV charmed at least 10 women across Canada with promises of love before he was arrested in Orangeville, Ont., on assault charges last month, CBC’s the fifth estate has learned.
- This Friday, the fifth estate has a special show inspired by tips sent by viewers across the country. 'Your Tips, Our Stories' airs at 9 p.m. ET on CBC-TV.
Before coming to Canada, Markus Vuorinen had a disturbing past in Finland, where he deceived more women into financially supporting him, and is facing two other assault charges.
In early February, the fifth estate received a tip about Vuorinen from one of the women he’d been living with, Anna Ripmeester of St. Catharines, Ont., alleging he was taking advantage of women here in Canada.
“I never believed something like this could happen to me,” she wrote in her first email to the fifth estate.
“My hope by telling this story is that somehow we can stop him from hurting/scamming more women.”
Online dating site
The fifth estate has learned that Vuorinen has been in Canada since at least 2011. He set up a profile on the online dating site Mingle2 under the screen name 72Markus. It included many photos of him doing outdoor sports like hiking, white-water canoeing and sharpshooting, and it suggested he was looking for a long-term relationship.
The profile impressed Ripmeester.
“He had lots of pictures, he was a nice-looking guy, but the biggest thing wasn’t even, I mean, looks - it was just the fact that, ‘Oh my gosh, here is a guy who loves the outdoors as much as me,” she told the fifth estate’s Bob McKeown.
Within 48 hours of meeting online, Vuorinen was declaring his love for her. But as their relationship continued, he would not come visit Ripmeester and he discouraged her from coming to his home in Winnipeg.
There was a good reason. He was living there with another woman, Lynne Kohler, who he also met through Mingle2. She said he was very loving and supportive, and eventually he asked her to marry him.
“I said yes. I was very much in love with him,” she said.
But Kohler’s marriage plans were interrupted when she intercepted a text message to Vuorinen from a woman in British Columbia, who claimed he had got her pregnant.
Kohler says she told Vuorinen not to come home.
Shortly after that, Ripmeester received a call from Vuorinen saying he was finally on his way to visit her in Ontario.
“When he got to my place, he got down on his knee and asked me to marry him, and he asked me several times. And I was always like, ‘Yeah, sure, whatever,’ right? And after a while I finally said yes,” she told McKeown.
Before that marriage could take place, Ripmeester received a phone call from a woman in Alberta, who also believed she was in a committed relationship with Vuorinen.
That’s when Ripmeester sent her email to the fifth estate.
Since then, the fifth estate has learned that there are at least 10 women who believed they were in a committed relationship with Vuorinen, some of whom supported him financially, in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.
Pattern of deception
The fifth estate has learned that Vuorinen started his pattern of dating and deception years before, in Finland.
There, Vuorinen is known as the host of a reality TV show called Luonnon Lait, or The Laws of Nature, in which he taught survival skills to celebrities. He said it was experience he gained during his time in military combat around the world.
Have a story idea?
If you have a story idea for the fifth estate, you can email them at email@example.com or visit the show's website.
But Finnish journalist Risto Kunnas received a tip that suggested Vuorinen was not telling the truth. In an interview, Kunnas asked him how he could travel so extensively without a passport.
“He was silent,” Kunnas told McKeown. “He said, ‘come on, you should understand that life isn’t so easy. Life is hard. I had to do something for a living.’”
Kunnas said that Vuorinen eventually admitted he’d only been out of Finland once, to go to Sweden, which doesn’t require a passport.
Soon after his deception was revealed, Kunnas said about 20 women came forward saying they’d been fooled into relationships with Vuorinen, and two of them claimed they had his children. There were also two assault charges against him, in 2009 and 2010.
Kunnas said a magistrate told him Vuorinen never went to court to face the charges against him in Finland.
Back in Canada, Vuorinen continued dating multiple women until he was arrested on Feb. 11. The police in Orangeville, Ont., were called to a domestic dispute, where they say they found him in a woman’s house. He is charged with assault. He was also charged with possessing a weapon, and two counts of uttering death threats.
There are also allegations of theft. Some of the women Vuorinen met in Canada say he stole their jewelry to give to new girlfriends.
Vuorinen is being held in custody, while Canadian and Finnish authorities sort through the allegations against him.
The fifth estate contacted Vuorinen and his lawyer requesting an interview, but he declined to comment.
Ripmeester says she wants others to be aware of her story.
“I wanted him to not be able to hide behind the internet, and target women and prey on women anymore,” she told McKeown. “I just wanted him stopped.”
[If you have a story idea for the fifth estate, you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the show's website.]