SWEDISH JUSTICE Minister Beatrice Ask vowed Monday to order a review into the handling of a convicted serial killer who later withdrew his confessions and was acquitted in several cases.
A number of high-ranking opposition politicians and legal experts have called for an independent commission to examine how Swedish courts could have convicted Sture Bergwall – for many years known as Thomas Quick – of eight murders.
Under pressure to look into the matter, Ask said Monday some type of review would be undertaken.
“I don’t want to go into exactly what type (of review) right now,” she told Swedish news agency TT, but added: “I’m very concerned about this case.”
Bergwall is serving a life term in a psychiatric institution after being convicted of eight murders committed between 1976 and 1988.
During therapy for an armed robbery conviction, he admitted to all eight murders along with more than 20 others committed in Sweden, Norway and Finland, often describing how he butchered his victims and in at least one case ate the body parts.
In December 2008, however, he suddenly withdrew 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 is seeking or has been granted retrials in the five remaining ones.
“This is ultimately about faith in the legal system. If Quick has been convicted for a number of murders that it turns out he didn’t commit, then we have a number of criminals out there who have gotten off,” Morgan Johansson, a member of the opposition Social Democrats, told TT.
He called for a commission to examine whether individual decision-makers may have made mistakes with regard to the police investigations, whether there is a systematic problem with the legal system, and whether any changes need to be made to the legal system.
The issue came to a head Monday when a former justice chancellor – who represents the state in legal disputes – wrote an article in Sweden’s biggest daily Dagens Nyheter calling for the issue to be “cleared up to find out what went wrong, when and why.”
Goeran Lambertz was justice chancellor in 2006 and examined and approved the convictions against Bergwall.
He maintained however there remained “convincing evidence” against Bergwall in two of the murders for which he has been acquitted.