The shadowy underside of small-town Sweden will be exposed to public gaze this week in an extraordinary murder trial involving a nanny and an adulterous minister.
The trial, in Uppsala, about 100km north of Stockholm, could break legal ground in Europe because the prosecutor will try to prove, for the first time, that a man brainwashed a young woman and effectively made her pull the trigger on a murder victim.
In the dock is a Pentecostal minister, Helge Fossmo, 32, who is charged with murdering his first wife, inciting the murder of his second wife and masterminding the attempted murder of his neighbour.
Alongside Mr Fossmo is Sara Svensson, 27, his former nanny, who is charged with the murder of his second wife and the attempted killing of his neighbour.
The killer came by stealth on a night last January, walking across a field to the priest’s house, opening the front door without force, climbing the stairs to the second floor and shooting the priest’s wife, Alexandra, 23, who died instantly from two silenced shots to the head and one to the pelvis.
None of the three children in the house awoke. The killer then left by the front door and walked three minutes to the neighbouring house, rang the bell and shot in the face and chest Daniel Linde, 30, using the same silenced gun.
At first the police were baffled. It seemed like a professional job, yet why would a contract killer come to Knutby? The detectives were even more baffled by the silence and hostility of many villagers.
Soon it emerged that the villagers, many of them wealthy young software specialists, were part of a rigidly self-regulating Pentecostal cult and in the thrall of Asa Waldau, 36, who calls herself the Bride of Christ.
Her followers believe Ms Waldau is in constant conversation with God, is married to Christ and has absolute power over them. Little happens in Knutby without her authority. But at the time of the killing she was in London for the January sales.
The Bride’s high priest was the charismatic, Norwegian-born Mr Fossmo. Police discovered that the priest was having an affair with Mr Linde’s wife and at first assumed the murder plot had been dreamt up between them.
Then villagers said they had seen the minister fondling his nanny and that the Bride of Christ had later banished her from Knutby to remove temptation. Within 24 hours of the murder the nanny confessed to the killing of Mrs Fossmo and the attempted murder of Mr Linde, and directed police to the murder weapon. The priest denied all connection with the killing and blamed the nanny. At first the police seemed willing to accept Ms Svensson’s version. But they noted her answers seemed very rehearsed and her motives fuzzy.
Further investigation showed that the priest’s first wife had also died in mysterious circumstances, apparently slipping in the bathtub after taking large numbers of painkillers. The priest claimed to have been asleep on that occasion too. Now that death has also been added to the charge sheet.
The prosecutor, Elin Blank, believes the key to the riddle is in the control wielded by the priest over Ms Svensson.
“He made her believe she was doing it on an assignment from God,” the prosecutor said. “She thought she would come closer to God by carrying out these deeds.”
May 19, 2004