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The serial killer who never was

19A disturbed individual, a flawed justice system, and two stubborn investigative journalists

by Patrik Öhberg

Hannes Råstam, Thomas Quick: The Making of a Serial Killer. Translated by Henning Koch. Edinburgh, Scotland: Canongate, 2014. 459 pages.

Dan Josefsson, Mannen som slutade ljuga : berättelsen om Sture Bergwall och kvinnan som skapade Thomas Quick [The man who stopped lying]. Stockholm: Lind & Co., 2013.



The story of Sture Bergwall is one that even today’s popular Swedish crime writers – Henning Mankell, Liza Marklund, Johan Theorin, Camilla Läckberg, Stieg Larsson, Åke Edwardson – could not have made up.

Bergwall confessed to 30 brutal sex murders, including of children, and even to having ritually devoured some of his victims. But Bergwall just made up his stories to please his psychiatrists and gain access to the drugs to which he was addicted. He would still likely be in jail if it were not for the investigative journalists who tore the lid off a legal system that failed completely.

Sweden regularly comes out near the top on quality of life indexes. And yet the story of Sture Bergwall shows that it is not immune to serious miscarriages of justice.

—The editors


Sture Bergwall was born in Falun, a small city in central Sweden, in 1950. As a teenager he took drugs and struggled with his homosexuality. After Bergwall sexually harassed younger boys, he came into contact with the psychiatric system. In 1970 Bergwall was diagnosed as a pedophile and hospitalized in a psychiatric clinic. A couple of years later, a drugged Bergwall tried to stab a friend. Because Bergwall was still under psychiatric treatment, he was not sentenced. 

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About the Author

Patrik Öhberg
Patrik Öhberg is a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Political Science, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.


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