Criminologist revisits cold cases of exonerated ‘Swedish Hannibal’

Swedish criminologist and novelist Leif G. W. Persson
Swedish criminologist and novelist Leif G. W. Persson.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A man named “Sweden’s Hannibal Lecter” has had all murder charges against him dropped after he admitted making up his confessions. Sture Bergwall, also known as Thomas Quick, was convicted of murdering eight people, including three children, between 1976 and 1988 after he told police about how he raped, mutilated and ate his victims.

But in an exclusive interview with Metro, leading Swedish criminologist Leif G.W. Persson said he suspected that Bergwall – then known by his alter-ego Thomas Quick – hadn’t committed the murders he confessed to under treatment at high-security psychiatric hospital Säter.

Persson said he had suspected that Bergwall was innocent as early as 1993.

“I couldn’t know for sure back then, but I voiced my strong doubts. If they had listened to me then you could have saved half a billion Swedish krona,” Persson said.

“I have seen badly handled murder investigations before, but nothing close to this.”

Here are the eight murder victims whose cases have been reopened now that 63-year-old Bergwall has been found not guilty. For each case, Persson weighed in on how he believes each case happened in reality.

Charles Zelmanovits
A 15-year-old boy disappeared in November 1976 after a school party in Piteå in northern Sweden. His remains were found in 1993. Police did not consider his death suspicious.

In the spring of 1994, Bergwall confessed to killing the teenager. He was sentenced the same year despite a lack of technical evidence. The sentence was revoked when the prosecutor for the appeals court dropped the charges Wednesday.

Persson’s theory: “It is probably not even a murder. It was 10 below [zero] that night, the boy was poorly dressed, a little bit drunk; he got lost, fell asleep and froze to death.”

Marinus and Janni Stegehuis
The Dutch couple was found knifed to death in their tent at a campsite in Gällivare County, northern Sweden, in July 1984. Bergwall confessed to the murders in November 1994. He was sentenced in 1996. There was no technical evidence, and an accomplice was named in the sentence but never charged. Bergwall was cleared in 2013.

Persson’s theory: “A single perpetrator, probably a local. There was a body builder in the investigation who committed suicide later on, or it was someone like him who did it.”

Trine Jensen and Gry Storvik
Trine Jensen, 17, was found murdered 10 km south of Oslo in 1981. Gry Storvik, 23, was found murdered south of Oslo in 1985. Bergwall was sentenced in 2000. There was no technical evidence, and he was cleared in 2012.

Persson’s theory: “Many things suggest that it is the same perpetrator in both murders.”

Johan Asplund
The 11-year-old boy disappeared from the Swedish city of Sundsvall in 1980. Bergwall was sentenced in 2001 and cleared in 2012.

Persson’s theory: “Johan’s mother’s ex-boyfriend was tried in a civil court but found not guilty. It was probably he who did it.”

Therese Johannessen
The 9-year-old girl disappeared in 1988 from Drammen, Norway. Bergwall was sentenced in 1998, and cleared in 2011.

Persson’s theory: “She isn’t necessarily dead. She disappeared and she may have been taken to Pakistan. Her mother had a relationship with a Pakistani 10 years before Therese’s disappearance.”

Yenon Levi
An Israeli student, 24, was found murdered next to a country road in Dalarna, central Sweden, in 1988. Bergwall was sentenced in 1997, cleared in 2010.

Persson’s theory: “A lot suggests that a man of Arabic descent had gotten mad and killed the Jewish boy. He may even have had an accomplice. That man was questioned but released and has returned to North Africa.”


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Oval oasis: Summer of fun kicks off this…

A bold partnership between the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the city's Parks and Recreation Department is kicking off this weekend with family activities re-activating this unused public space.

Local

African couple claiming misidentification in robbery case to…

At a bail hearing today for Vickson and Lorfu Korlewala, charged in the robbery of an 80-year-old woman, bail was reduced from $1 million total to $500,000.

International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

National

Chelsea Clinton pregnant with first child

Chelsea Clinton is pregnant with her first child.

Television

Dick Wolf to bring fictionalized world of 'Law…

A&E has ordered a pilot called "D.O.A." from "Law and Order" mastermind Dick Wolf that will focus on real detectives reexamining cold cases. A trio…

Movies

Review: 'Transcendence' is not stupid but sometimes lacks…

The cyberthriller "Transcendence" explores artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and other ethical quandaries, but has too much ambition, if anything.

Television

Shane West talks WGN America's 'Salem'

The actor on history lessons, a new network and showing his butt.

Music

Both feet on the ground with Aimee Mann…

What began with a cool double-bill of Ted Leo opening for Aimee Mann morphed into a full-fledged collaborative project that they're calling The Both. “There…

MLB

Jimmy Rollins is key to Phillies success

When John Kruk was asked about what the Phillies need to contend for a playoff berth, the ESPN analyst said Jimmy Rollins needs to play like a MVP again.

MLB

Ben Revere lifts Phillies to avoid sweep

Ben Revere came through with a two-out RBI single against Atlanta’s tough lefthander Alex Wood.

NBA

Season wrap: 76ers make the grade

The 76ers opened the 2013-14 season with a victory over the Miami Heat. The Sixers closed the season with a win at Miami.

NBA

Fantasy basketball: Finding next year's NBA studs

Before we put the 2013-14 fantasy basketball season to bed, it’s worth thinking about next year’s breakouts while they’re fresh in our mind.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.

Travel

Earth Day travel in the Florida Keys

See why this eco-friendly destination deserves your attention.

Tech

Sorry, Facebook — FarmVille goes mobile with 'Country…

Zynga has released a version of the hit "FarmVille" tailored for smartphones and tablets in the hope of reaping a bumper crop of players.