A woman in Sweden suspected of holding her son captive inside their apartment for decades has been arrested, police said on Tuesday, with reports claiming the man was found undernourished with infected sores on his body and almost no teeth.
Stockholm police spokesman Ola Osterling told AFP the man had been "locked up for a very long time" in the apartment in a southern Stockholm suburb but refused to comment on local reports he had been held for 28 years.
Neighbors said they had not seen the son, now 41, for years -- or ever.
Tove Boman, a 24-year-old who lives in the building next door, told AFP she had only seen the mother. “I grew up here so I've always known who she is and recognized her. She’s a little strange,” she said.
The Expressen and Aftonbladet newspapers reported that the woman had taken her son out of school when he was 12 and kept him locked inside the apartment since then.
An unnamed relative found the man on Sunday after the mother had been taken to hospital, Expressen reported.
The man had infected sores on his legs, could barely walk, and had almost no teeth, limiting his ability to speak, the reports said.
Osterling would not comment on those details, saying only: “The man is in hospital. His injuries are not life-threatening.”
The woman is suspected of illegal deprivation of liberty and causing bodily harm – allegations she denies.
‘Urine, dirt and dust’
Media reports suggested the mother was overly protective after having lost her firstborn son when he was 3 years old.
The relative said the mother had convinced the boy that everybody was out to get them and that she was the only one who could protect them.
The relative also told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper she had contacted social services several times over the years but was told no crime had been committed because the man was not physically locked up.
Police tape was stretched across the apartment’s door on Tuesday, and officers were seen leaving the scene around midday, an AFP photographer said.
The relative said the apartment, in a nondescript grey and yellow low-rise building in the working class suburb of Handen, looked like it had not been cleaned in years.
“There was urine, dirt and dust. It smelled rotten,” she told Expressen, adding that she had to wade through piles of rubbish to get through the hallways.
“I'm in shock, brokenhearted, but at the same time relieved. I've been waiting for this day for 20 years.”
Police are due to question the man and his mother in the coming days to determine what had happened.
‘How could no one have noticed?’
Neighbours contacted by AFP expressed shock that the man could have been hidden for so long.
Kenth Svedberg said he had noticed an “unpleasant odor” coming from the apartment but it was “nothing I thought very much about”.
“What’s so scary is that it’s gone on for so many, many years,” he told AFP.
Many neighbors wondered why neither social services, the school nor any other authority ever checked in on the boy over the years.
One woman told Aftonbladet she found it odd that their window was never open, and the same candlestick had been in the window for 30 years.
“But what can you do? How do you know what’s going on behind closed doors? It’s all so awful, you can’t believe it’s true,” she said.