Sture Bergwall

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Sture Bergwall
Born (1950-04-26) 26 April 1950 (age 64)
Korsnäs, Falun, Sweden
Other names Thomas Quick
Sätermannen ("the Säter Man")
Criminal penalty
Psychiatric confinement
Killings
Victims Convicted of 0
Acquitted in retrials after convictions in 8 other cases
Country Sweden
Date apprehended
First time: 1969
Last time: 1990

Sture Bergwall (born Sture Ragnar Bergwall; 26 April 1950 in Korsnäs, Falun, Sweden), also known as Thomas Quick, is a Swedish man previously believed to have been a serial killer, having confessed to more than 30 murders while incarcerated in a mental institution for personality disorders as a result of committing less serious crimes. Quick was convicted of eight of the more than thirty murders he confessed to, but all of these convictions have now been overturned.[1][2]

Background[edit]

With no eyewitnesses or technical forensic evidence to connect him to the crimes, Quick was convicted on the merit of his own confessions while undergoing recovered-memory therapy together with taking benzodiazepines. Details in the confessions were wildly wrong. Bergwall researched unsolved murders in the public library on day release, and relied on hints and body language from his interrogators to guess the answers expected of him. Close examination of his answers showed that his initial attempts to provide answers to questions concerning, for example murder weapons and birthmarks, were wrong, leading questions were asked in police interviews, and the initial erroneous guesses edited out of the version presented to the court.[3] [4]

The involvement of therapists meant that Quick's early failure to provide anything more than a vague, confused and vacillating picture that gradually sharpened and focused was explained away as the result of repressed memories being retrieved as a result of therapy; e.g. "In the judgment for the case of Therese one can read that the psychologist Christianson told the court that "Traumatic events are retained in the memory, but there can be protective mechanisms that work in the unconscious to repress their recall. Similar arguments about Quick's/Bergwall's "repressed" memories recur again and again in the judgments."[5]

The credibility of Quick's confessions was widely debated in the Swedish media. Critics of these confessions, and the trials, claim Quick never murdered anyone, and that he is a compulsive liar. In December 2008, Quick recanted his confessions, and denied taking part in any of the murders for which he had been convicted, or any of the other murders (over thirty) he had confessed to.[6] The eight murder convictions handed down in six trials were all quashed on appeal, the last one in July 2013 and Thomas Quick, now Sture Bergwall, has been given his freedom after more than twenty years in an institution for the criminally insane, with conditions that he refrain from alcohol and narcotics.

Early life[edit]

Bergwall grew up in Korsnäs with his six siblings.[7] He adopted his mother's maiden name, Quick, around 1991.[8] After a history of delinquency (molestations of boys and stabbing a man), Quick was sentenced in 1991 for armed robbery.

Confessions and convictions of murder[edit]

After the robbery conviction, Quick was confined to care in an institution for the criminally insane. During therapy, he confessed to more than thirty murders committed in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland between 1964 and 1993. One of his confessions led to the solving of an 18-year-old murder considered to be unsolvable, and another to the informal solving of a murder in Växjö in 1964. This 1964 crime was outside the then 25-year statute of limitations in Sweden, but with the information given by Quick, the case was considered closed.

Between 1994 and 2001, Quick was convicted of eight murders (in chronological order) at six different District Court trials:

  • Charles Zelmanovits, Piteå 1976, sentenced in 1994 – no forensic evidence, except for the confession – Charges waived July 2013
  • Johan Asplund, Sundsvall, 1980, sentenced in 2001 – no body, no forensics except for the confession. Charges waived March 2012.
  • The Stegehuis couple, Appojaure (Gällivare) 1984, sentenced in 1996 – no forensics, but Quick gave information regarding facts that had never been disclosed to the public. His confessions were later questioned, as Quick seemed to have been privy to all information before the trial - retrial granted by the Supreme Court. Charges waived May 2013.
  • Yenon Levi, tourist from Israel, Rörshyttan, 1988, sentenced in 1997 – no forensic evidence, but statements included in Quick's testimony were matched against undisclosed police facts. Charges waived September 2010.
  • Therese Johannesen, Drammen, Norway, 1988, sentenced in 1998 – no forensic evidence. Charges waived March 2011.
  • Trine Jensen, Oslo, 1981, sentenced in 2000 – no forensic evidence. Charges waived September 2012.
  • Gry Storvik, Oslo, 1985 – no forensic evidence, confession; the semen found in victim did not belong to Quick. Charges waived September 2012.

In Sweden a defendant always gains access to the full police investigation prior to the trial. Quick's lawyer Claes Borgström has been criticised for failing to protect his mentally disturbed client's objective interest in being judged not guilty.[9]

Confessions and subsequent withdrawals[edit]

In the years following 1990, when Quick was sentenced to closed psychiatric confinement, he confessed to several unsolved murders.[6] His first murder, according to his own accounts, occurred in Växjö in 1964, when Quick was only 14 years old. The victim, Thomas Blomgren, was described by Quick as being the same age but not as strong and tall as himself. The second alleged victim was Alvar Larsson, whom Quick claimed to have murdered at Sirkön in the lake Åsnen outside the town of Urshult. According to Quick's sister, Quick never left Falun at the time of this murder. The credibility of Quick's confessions had been widely debated in the Swedish media since 1993, up until 2008, when Quick withdrew all of his confessions.[6] There have been consistent doubts about the reliability of his statements, and some of his confessions have been proven to be fabrications – in some cases the victims have turned up alive and well. A DNA sample from a crime in Norway was subsequently found to be a mismatch, and there was no technical forensic evidence to link Quick to any of the crimes. Another dubious circumstance is the fact that no witnesses have ever testified to seeing Quick in the proximity of any of the crime scenes, even though more than 10,000 people were interviewed for intricate details.[citation needed]

Critics of these confessions and the trials claim that Quick never murdered anyone, but that he is a compulsive liar. Among the critics are the parents of a child he confessed to having murdered in the late 1970s. In response to these accusations, Quick himself wrote an article for the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter in 2001 in which he said that he refused to cooperate further with the authorities concerning all open murder investigations.

May 2009: Quick's brother Sten-Owe Bergwall and lawyer Pelle Svensson with the books they authored, in which they criticise the Swedish authorities' handling of the Thomas Quick cases.

In November 2006, Thomas Quick's trials were reported to the Swedish Chancellor of Justice by retired lawyer Pelle Svensson on behalf of the parents of a murder victim who wished to have the trials declared invalid.

Several principals in the fields of law and psychiatry, among them Swedish criminologist and television crime commentator Leif G. W. Persson and two police officers involved in the investigation of the murders who refused to involve themselves further in the investigations [10] all claim that Quick has a history of mental illness, but it was unlikely he was guilty of any of the crimes to which he had confessed. The handling of the Quick cases has been described as the "most scandalous" chapter of Scandinavian crime history, branding it as glaring incompetence, naiveté, and opportunism within the police and judicial system.

Quick withdrew all of his confessions in 2008 during the recording of a TV documentary.[11] made by prize winning investigative journalist Hannes Råstam, who died shortly before his book version was published.

Quick's attorney contended that the prosecution withheld important investigative material from the defence (which the prosecution adamantly denied). Quick's attorney claimed that his client is mentally ill and was being given prescription drugs (benzodiazepine) when he confessed to the killings.[12] These arguments were some of the grounds for quashing all the eight murder convictions in six trials and six appeals.

Thomas Quick, now having reverted to his birth name Sture Bergwall, recanted his confessions and requested the Svea Court of Appeal order a new trial for the murder case of Yenon Levi at Rörshyttan. In December 2009, the court of appeal granted a retrial of the Yenon Levi case. In the judgment, the court found that the lower court had heard that Quick correctly identified the murder weapon. However, information had been withheld from the court that initially, Quick had made many erroneous attempts to identify the murder weapon before finally giving an account that corresponded with police findings.

Quick moved for a judgment of acquittal, and was acquitted in September 2010.

Quick's counsel also declared his intention to ask for a retrial of the Therese Johannesen case, claiming that Quick had an alibi for the day when Therese Johannesen was abducted and murdered. SKL (Statens kriminaltekniska laboratorium The Swedish State Forensic Laboratory) found in March 2010 that two exhibits claimed by the prosecution to be bone fragments were, in fact, pieces of hardboard. A retrial was granted, and Quick formally acquitted when the prosecutor dropped the charges.

On 30 July 2013, Quick was acquitted of the last of eight murder convictions[13][14]

Sture Bergwall has been released from Säter's institution for the criminally insane and most of the treatment plan has been made confidential and subject to secrecy. However, from the uncensored portions released to the press, it is apparent that Bergwall has not taken medication for several years and is assessed as not requiring any.[15]

See also[edit]

  • Henry Lee Lucas, an American "serial killer" whose confessions are now believed to be fabricated

References[edit]

  1. ^ Day, Elizabeth (20 October 2012). "Thomas Quick: the Swedish serial killer who never was". The Observer. 
  2. ^ Råstam, Hannes (2012). Fallet Thomas Quick : Att skapa en seriemördare (in Swedish). Ordfront. ISBN 978-91-7037--604-7. 
  3. ^ London Review of Books
  4. ^ Dokument visar att åklagare och polis manipulerade viktiga bevis Documents prove that the prosecutor and police manipulated important evidence
  5. ^ Dagens Nyheter March 10, 2014 Newspaper debate article signed by Linus Brohult, editor Swedish Television Science Anna Schytt editor-in-chief Swedish Television Science
  6. ^ a b c "Quick retracts serial murder confessions", The Local - Sweden's News in English, December 15, 2008.
  7. ^ ”Han kan inte ha begått morden”
  8. ^ Heath, Chris (August 2013). "The Serial Killer Has Second Thoughts: The Confessions of Thomas Quick". GQ. 
  9. ^ http://www.dn.se/debatt/dn-debatt-jag-anmaler-mig-sjalv-till-advokatsamfundet/
  10. ^ Av: Ntb. "Visste Quick var uskyldig". bt.no. Retrieved 2012-10-20. 
  11. ^ Thomas Quick del 1 on YouTube (Swedish). Thomas Quick, part 1Sveriges Television Swedish Television (hosted on YouTube). At 21 min 57 sec is an interview with Gregg McCrary, FBI security consultant, in English (Swedish subtitles)
  12. ^ Stockholm, Sweden News, April 20, 2009
  13. ^ Sweden drops final 'serial killer' murder charge
  14. ^ Karl Ritter: Sture Bergwall Case: Prosecutors Drop Last Remaining Charges Against Suspected Swedish Serial Killer. Huffpo (AP), 2013-7-31
  15. ^ Bergwall's treatment plan subject to secrecy. Swedish Television (Swedish)

Further reading[edit]