A Swedish man long considered Scandinavia’s worst serial killer has been cleared of eight murders he once confessed to, after prosecutors Wednesday dropped their final charge against him.
The prosecution said it lacked proof that Sture Bergwall, 63, killed a 15-year-old boy who died on a cold winter night in northern Sweden in 1976.
The convictions against Bergwall — for many years known as Thomas Quick — have been dubbed Sweden’s grossest miscarriage of justice in recent times because of the swiftness with which he was found guilty of the eight murders, which occurred between 1976 and 1988.
“Today is a day of joy and a day of reflection,” Bergwall wrote on his blog, demanding that a commission be set up to identify those responsible for “things going so wrong”.
Bergwall, who is serving a life term in a psychiatric institution, was convicted of the boy’s murder in 1994 based on his own testimony, which included macabre descriptions of molestation.
Remains of the victim, Charles Zelmanovits, were found in 1993, but a forensic examination failed to produce evidence that he was murdered.
“An overall assessment of the evidence currently available …indicates that a murder conviction against Bergwall can no longer be envisaged,” prosecutor Haakan Nyman wrote.
During psychological counselling following an armed robbery conviction, Bergwall confessed to all eight murders as well as more than 20 others in Sweden, Norway and Finland for which he was not tried.
He often described how he butchered his victims and how in at least one case he ate body parts.
In December 2008, however, he suddenly retracted all his confessions, saying he had been craving attention at the time and had been heavily medicated by doctors.
He has since been acquitted in three cases, and had the charges dropped in the remaining five.
However, it was unclear if the retrials would lead to Bergwall being released from the Saeter psychiatric clinic, 190 kilometres (120 miles) northwest of Stockholm.
He’s been a patient at the institution since being convicted of armed robbery in 1991, three years before admitting to his first murder.
“The care he receives is based on an earlier ruling, which will determine whether he will (continue) to receive care or not,” Ulf Christofferson, head of operations at the clinic, told the tabloid Expressen.
“It’s the same regardless of the acquittal,” he added.
Bergwall said he would launch legal proceedings against the clinic.
“I now move on. But first, today’s decision has to sink in and … then it’s time for the next process, that against Saeter,” he wrote on his blog.
A number of high-ranking opposition politicians and legal experts have called for an independent commission to examine how Swedish courts could convict Bergwall based on so little evidence.
In response, Justice Minister Beatrice Ask announced a review in August 2012.