Sture Bergwall was described for almost two decades as Sweden’s ‘Hannibal Lecter’ before reinvestigation of his cases discovered he is innocent of the eight murders he was convicted of committing. He has been released after all his convictions were overturned.
In December 1990 Bergwall held a family hostage while his accomplice forced the father to take out about $37,000 from his bank.[fn.1] Although Bergwall brandished a knife no family member was harmed during the incident. Bergwall was arrested and prosecuted for serious robbery. After his conviction the judge took into consideration that Bergwall had been diagnosed with a personality disorder, and in June 1991 he was sentenced to inpatient mental care. Bergwall was incarcerated in the secure psychiatric unit of the Säter mental hospital in Säter, Sweden.
Immediately upon his incarceration the 41-year-old Bergwall was administered large quantities of psychotropic drugs, and he would remain in a constant drugged state for the next ten years — until 2001.
Bergwall began using the name Thomas Quick at Säter and started confessing to heinous crimes that he said he committed between 1976 and 1988. Bergwall chose Thomas Quick because Quick was his mother’s maiden name, and he said his first victim’s name was Thomas. Bergwall told hospital and police authorities tales of stabbings, stranglings, rape, incest, and cannibalism involving more than thirty victims in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland.
Bergwall was eventually tried and convicted after six separate trials of murdering eight people in Sweden — five men and three women. His first trial was in 1994, and his last was in 2001. During all of Bergwall’s trials the same prosecutor presented the State’s case, the same police forensic inspector testified, and the only substantive evidence of his guilt were his confessions, because no physical, forensic, or eyewitness evidence linked him to any of the crimes.
Bergwall’s trials were national news in Sweden. The reporter for Sweden’s largest circulation tabloid, Aftonbladet, wrote during his first trial comparing his appearance as “a pale and unremarkable man in jeans with a shiny bald head”—with his accused actions: “The man is a serial killer, pedophile, necrophiliac, cannibal and sadist. He is very, very sick.”
None of Bergwall’s convictions were appealed, so weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, such as inconsistencies between his confessions and the crimes, were not reviewed before his convictions became final.
After his 2001 trial Bergwall refused to talk with anyone about his self-confessed crimes. Bergwall’s silence roughly coincided with him no longer being administered psychotropic drugs.
After seven years of silence, in 2008 Bergwall agreed to a visit from a Swedish filmmaker called Hannes Råstam. During their third meeting Råstam pointed out to Bergwall that in police videos of Bergwall talking about his confessed crimes he seemed drugged up and he didn’t seem to know any important details himself. The next time they met Bergwall told Råstam, “I haven’t committed any of the murders I’ve been convicted of, and none of the murders I’ve confessed to, either. That’s the way it is.”
In Råstam’s documentary broadcast on Swedish television in December 2008 Bergwall recanted his confessions. Bergwall claimed they were a combination of being heavily medicated and his desire for attention. He explained that he obtained information about the people in his confessions from newspapers and magazines in the local library. Bergwall’s recantation wasn’t surprising to many people in Sweden who for years had doubted he committed the crimes he confessed to under his alias of Thomas Quick. Doubters of his guilt included the parents of some of his alleged victims. A book had even been published by one skeptic that was called Thomas Quick: Mythomaniac.
In 2009 Bergwall submitted a petition challenging his 1997 conviction. and he eventually filed petitions challenging all eight of his murder convictions. Reinvestigation of the cases resulted in disclosure that four of the “murders” may not even have been crimes — and two of the people may not even be dead. Between September 2010 and July 2013 Bergwall was acquitted or the charges were dismissed in all eight murder cases. It was official. Scandinavia’s most notorious serial killer was nothing but the figment of “Thomas Quick’s” drug fueled imagination.
Swedish legal expert Sven-Erik Alhem called Bergwall’s case Sweden’s “greatest miscarriage of justice in modern times.”
Bergwall’s first-person account of how he came to confess to more than two dozen murders he didn’t commit is in Thomas Quick is Dead, the book he wrote with his brother Sten-Ove that was published in 2011 in Sweden.
Because of his known mental issues he wasn’t immediately released after his exoneration pending a review of his condition.
In November 2013 the Swedish government appointed a special investigator to review Bergwall’s case. It was announced the “investigation will not lay blame on individuals involved in the case but rather seek to understand what went wrong,” and the investigator is ‘tasked with going over the actions of legal and health care officials who convicted and cared for Bergwall during his court-ordered stay at a psychiatric hospital.” The mother of a man Bergwall confessed to murdering told Swedish Radio she wanted the investigation to identify the officials responsible for the failure of justice in Bergwall’s case, and “I think it is absolutely horrible that the authorities can do so much wrong and yet not have to answer for it. All the time has been devoted to Thomas Quick, instead of following the real killers.”
On March 19, 2014 the administrative court in Falun issued its ruling that although he continues to suffer from a “personality disorder” it didn’t require his confinement, and that “the forensic psychiatric care of Sture Bergwall shall continue and change from closed to open care.” The 64-year-old Bergwall was released later that day after 23 years at the Säter state hospital.
Bergwall’s blog is, www.sturebergwallsblogg.wordpress.com (Translated into English).
Bergwall’s Facebook page is, www.facebook.com/stureragnarbergwall.
Bergwall’s Twitter page is, www.twitter.com/StureBergwall.
1. The amount was SEK245,000. The value of the Swedish Kroner was .15121 to the U.S. Dollar on Nov. 16, 1995, and .15422 to the U.S. Dollar on April 9, 2014. So the Kroner’s longterm value appears to be fairly stable related to the U.S. Dollar. Nov. 16, 1995 is the oldest historical currency date available on the webpage www.xe.com/currencytables/?from=SEK&date=1995-11-16#.