Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Unholy Homicide, Part One

A Complicated Defense

Svensson admitted to the January 10, 2004, murder of Helene Fossmo and also to the shooting of Daniel Linde, who survived the attack.  Apparently Fossmo had been having an affair with Linde's wife and wanted her husband out of the picture.  Svensson also told the courtroom that after receiving the messages, Fossmo asked her if she could kill someone if God told her to.  "I thought it was a very strange question, but thought that if I really knew it was God saying it, I would have to obey. There would be no alternative," she said.

Photo: Helene Fossmo
Helene Fossmo

During the trial, it was also revealed that Fossmo was suspected of murdering his first wife, Helene Fossmo, who was found dead in their bathtub in 1999.  Her death was originally declared an accident after medical examiners decided she hit her head on a tap.  But during the trial, prosecutors reopened the investigation into Helene's death, claiming that Fossmo had killed her by bashing her head against the tap.  Regardless, there was little evidence to prove that case.

Photo: Sara Svensson
Sara Svensson

According to reports in the Irish Examiner, Svensson told the court that Fossmo convinced her that killing his wife and neighbor was the only way to win God's grace.  She claimed to have been manipulated by Fossmo for months, and said he made her feel unloved by God.  "I was a robot, programmed to kill," Svensson told the court.  Fossmo's defense attorney insisted during the trial that his client was innocent and said the former nanny misunderstood the text messages, which were meant only as spiritual guidance and not as an incentive to murder.

Regardless, the court believed Svensson's claims, saying it was clear that Fossmo, "through intense, purposeful and long-lasting influence, made Sara Svensson commit the murder."

On July 30, 2004, Fossmo was found guilty of inciting Svensson to shoot his wife and was sentenced to life imprisonment.  "Helge Fossmo ruthlessly made use of Sara Svensson's love for him and her dependency on him as a religious leader," read the verdict.  Following the trial, Svensson was judged mentally ill and placed under psychiatric care.

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