Norrmalmstorg robbery

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The former Kreditbanken building at Norrmalmstorg 2005.

The Norrmalmstorg robbery was a bank robbery and hostage crisis best known as the origin of the term Stockholm syndrome. It occurred at the Norrmalmstorg square in Stockholm, Sweden in September 1973, and was the first criminal event in Sweden covered by live television.[1] Jan-Erik Olsson was a convicted criminal on leave from prison who held up a bank and took four hostages. During the ensuing crisis, the Swedish Attorney General, Lennart Geijer permitted to bring Olsson's his alleged friend Clark Olofsson from a prison to the bank. Olofsson was an infamous criminal years before this event, and it's doubtful he was in league with the unknown robber. [2] Still the two bonded with the hostages, who acted to protect their captors despite being repeatedly threatened by them. The police mounted a tear gas attack five days into the crisis, and the robbers surrendered. Olsson was sentenced to 10 years for the robbery, while Olofsson was ultimately acquitted. The paradoxical actions of the hostages led to a great deal of academic and public interest in the case, including a 2003 Swedish television film and a 2018 American film.


Jan-Erik Olsson was on leave from prison on 23 August 1973 when he went into Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstorg, Stockholm and attempted to rob it.[3][4] Swedish police were called in immediately; two of them went inside and Olsson opened fire, injuring the hand of police officer Ingemar Warpefeldt.[5] He ordered the other officer to sit in a chair and "sing something", so the officer started singing "Lonesome Cowboy".[5] Olsson then took four people as hostages. He demanded that his friend Clark Olofsson be brought there, along with three million Swedish kronor, two guns, bulletproof vests, helmets, and a fast car.[3][4] He was a repeat offender who had committed several armed robberies and acts of violence, the first at age 16.[1]

The government gave permission for Olofsson to be brought as a communication link with the police negotiators. Hostage Kristin Enmark said that she felt safe with Olsson and Olofsson, but she feared that the police might escalate the situation by using violent methods.[6] Olsson and Olofsson barricaded the inner main vault in which they kept the hostages. Negotiators agreed that they could have a car to escape, but would not allow them to take hostages with them if they tried to leave.[7]

Olsson called Prime Minister Olof Palme and said that he would kill the hostages, backing up his threat by grabbing one in a stranglehold; she was heard screaming as he hung up.[5] The next day, hostage Kristin Enmark called the Prime Minister and said that she was very displeased with his attitude, asking him to let the robbers and the hostages leave.[5]

Olofsson walked around the vault singing Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly".[5] On August 26, the police drilled a hole into the main vault from the apartment above and took a widely circulated photograph of the hostages with Olofsson. Olofsson also fired his weapon into the hole on two occasions, wounding a police officer in the hand and face.[1]

Olsson fired his weapon and threatened to kill the hostages if any gas attack was attempted.[8] On August 28, police used tear gas nevertheless, and Olsson and Olofsson surrendered after an hour. None of the hostages sustained permanent injuries.[1]

After the robbery[edit]

Both Olsson and Olofsson were charged, convicted, and sentenced to extended prison terms for the robbery; Olofsson, however, claimed that he did not help Olsson and was only trying to save the hostages by keeping the situation calm. At the court of appeal, Olofsson's convictions were quashed. He later met hostage Kristin Enmark several times, their families becoming friends. He later committed further crimes.[1]

Olsson was sentenced to 10 years in prison.[9] He received many admiring letters from women who found him attractive. (The woman he later got engaged to was not, as some state,[10] one of the former hostages.) Following his release, he is alleged to have committed further crimes. After having been on the run from Swedish authorities for ten years for alleged financial crimes, he turned himself in to police in 2006—only to be told that the charges were no longer being actively pursued.[11]

The hostages sympathized with their captors, which has led to academic interest in the matter. The Swedish term Norrmalmstorgssyndromet (Norrmalmstorg syndrome, later known as Stockholm syndrome) was coined by criminologist Nils Bejerot.[12] The hostages, although threatened by Olsson, never became violent toward the police or each other.[1]

In 1996, Jan-Erik Olsson moved to northeastern Thailand with his Thai wife and son,[5][13] and moved back to Sweden in 2013. Olsson's autobiography Stockholms-syndromet was published in Sweden in 2009.[1]

Cultural influence[edit]

The general concept of Stockholm syndrome, and the term "Stockholm syndrome" itself, have been referred to numerous times in popular culture.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g 40 år sedan Norrmalmstorgs dramat Archived 1 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Svensson, Per (2016-11-07). Dramat på Norrmalmstorg: 23 till 28 augusti 1973. ISBN 9789100169350.
  3. ^ a b "Norrmalmstorgsdramat". Nationalencyklopedin (in Swedish). Retrieved 30 October 2010.
  4. ^ a b "Norrmalmstorg Robbery Which Defined the Stockholm Syndrome". Trevl - Discover Places To Visit In Stockholm. 2018-10-31. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Karlsson, Jan (2 May 1999). "Rånarens krav: släpp Clark fri" [The robbers demand: set Clark free]. Aftonbladet (in Swedish). p. 17. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  6. ^ "The Birth of "Stockholm Syndrome," 40 Years Ago - History in the Headlines". Retrieved 14 August 2016.
  7. ^ "Nils Bejerot: Strategin i sexdagarskriget vid Norrmalmstorg" (PDF). Retrieved 2019-08-05.
  8. ^ Radio, Sveriges. "40 år sedan Norrmalmstorgsdramat - Avgörande ögonblick". (in Swedish). Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-10-11. Retrieved 2013-08-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ Annin, Peter (8 July 1985). "Hostages: Living in The Aftermath". U.S. News & World Report. p. 34. Two women even became engaged to two of the hostage takers.
  11. ^ "Janne Olsson anmälde sig själv | Kvällsposten". (in Swedish). Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  12. ^ "Nils Bejerot - Uppslagsverk -". Retrieved 2019-06-07.
  13. ^ "'Inhuman beast' finds his peace". 21 March 2010.
  14. ^ Jeanette Gentele (1 September 2003). "Norrmalmstorgsdramat blir riktigt spännande tv". Svenska Dagbladet (in Swedish). Retrieved 16 June 2013.
  15. ^ Grobar, Matt; Grobar, Matt (2018-04-19). "Ethan Hawke & Noomi Rapace Learn True Meaning Of 'Stockholm' Syndrome — Tribeca Studio". Deadline. Retrieved 2019-02-27.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 59°20′00″N 18°04′26″E / 59.3332°N 18.0740°E / 59.3332; 18.0740