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Photo for illustrative purposes Image Credit: Pixabay

Helsinki: Finnish prosecutors on Monday charged a Danish man over the death of a German backpacker and wounding of his girlfriend on a passenger ferry three decades after the incident.

The two students from West Germany, on a tour of the Nordic countries, were discovered with serious head injuries in the open-air sleeping area on the upper deck of the Viking Sally cruise ship on July 28, 1987.

The pair were airlifted to hospital but Klaus Schelkle, 20, was pronounced dead on arrival. His girlfriend Bettina Taxis, then 22, survived with serious injuries.

The Danish suspect denies murder and attempted murder and has not been taken into custody, prosecutors said, refusing to comment on whether the suspect was currently in Finland.

"The acts targeted defenceless victims and demonstrated particular brutality and cruelty," prosecutors said in a statement, adding that the case is due to be heard in May next year.

Although police questioned everyone on board at the time, the murder remained unsolved in part because of incomplete passenger records and a lack of DNA and CCTV evidence.

In September this year Finnish police announced that they had identified a suspect after receiving new information in 2016.

The Viking Sally was later renamed the MS Estonia, which in 1994 sank during a crossing from Estonia to Sweden, claiming 852 lives.