Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Sweden’s Most Prolific Serial Killer Maybe Just Compulsive Liar

Sture Bergwall, aka Thomas Quick

Sture Bergwall, aka Thomas Quick

Convicted Swedish serial killer Sture Bergwall, aka Thomas Quick, who ultimately confessed to 20 murders and was convicted of 8 in 1978-1998, was considered Sweden’s worst serial killer — until December 2008 when he recanted his confessions and his convictions began to be overturned. In fact since then five of the eight murders for which he was convicted have been overturned, because the only evidence in those cases was Bergwall’s own confessions. No witnesses ever saw him near the scenes of the murders, and there was never any forensic evidence to tie him to the crimes. In light of the lack of evidence, prosecutors declined to retry. On February 1, 2013, a judge ordered retrials of the remaining two cases: The 1976 murder a boy, 15, whose remains were found in 1993; and the 1984 murders of a Dutch couple. It is unlikely that prosecutors will choose to retry in either case. Depending on how things go, Bergwall could be a free man in 2013.

Declared mentally unfit for trial, Bergwall was serving a lengthy sentence for armed robbery in an asylum for the criminally insane when he made the confessions. According to his attorney, he was receiving therapy and drug treatment for anxiety. The heavily medicated, allegedly lonely, Bergwall confessed to the murders during therapy while in this altered, incredibly relaxed state, as a way to get some attention. Bergwall told AP, “To make myself interesting I suggested that I had done something difficult. It aroused interest. I was given intense therapy and benzodiazepines.” He confessed to 20 murders, some cold cases, the likes of which police never dreamed of solving. He dazzled the press by confessing to cannibalizing and dismembering his victims, and changed his name to Thomas Quick. Bergwall now says that he changed when he went off benzodiazepines in 2001 and the morbid fantasies stopped. He relates entering a seven-year phase in which he did not speak to anyone. Then he came out of it and recanted his confessions.

Now police are left with a bunch of ice-cold cases thanks to overeager prosecutors and investigators. Until Sweden lifted it’s 25-year statute of limitations on murder retroactively in 2010, some of those unsolved murders would have been considered unsolvable, but now those cases would be considered unsolved and could be reopened.

Bergwall has declared himself sane enough for release. Of his case he now says, a mite self-righteously I might add, “This is the justice scandal of the century.” This from a man who allegedly let interrogators coach him on what prosecutors needed him to say if they were to file murder charges against him. He also blames his now open, but then closeted homosexuality for his behavior, claiming that he molested three boys in the late ’60s, but never killed anyone. I guess he’ll be changing his name back to Sture Bergwall.

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