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Press ‘M’ for murder

Reuters, USA
July 30, 2004
Simon Johnson
www.iol.co.za

ReligionNewsBlog.com • Friday July 30, 2004

Stockholm – A Swedish Lutheran pastor who faked cellphone text messages from God to get his nanny-lover to murder his wife and try to kill the husband of a second mistress, was sentenced to life in jail on Friday.

The case has fascinated Sweden with its intoxicating mix of sex, death and the workings of an obscure religious sect.

The court found Helge Fossmo, a Pentacostal minister in the town of Knutby, north of Stockholm, guilty of inciting Sara Svensson, his childrens’ 27-year-old nanny, to kill his second wife and his next-door-neighbour, Daniel Linde.

He was having an affair with the nanny and Linde’s wife.

The nanny admitted to the January murder of Alexandra Fossmo and to shooting Linde, who survived the attack. The same court has ordered her to be sent to a psychiatric institution.

“Helge Fossmo ruthlessly made use of Sara Svensson’s love for him and her dependency on him as a religious leader,” read the verdict of the court in the town of Uppsala.

The trial painted a picture of a bizarre religious community, far removed from the liberal and secular society most Swedes would recognise. Life in the sect, an off-shoot of the Lutheran Church of Sweden, was controlled by a woman known as “Christ’s Bride” after she got engaged to Jesus in a ceremony.

The community’s ministers also exercised a controlling influence in the lives of their flock. In Fossmo’s case that included using the latest technology to get his nanny to commit murder. Svensson testified she received anonymous text messages, which she believed to be from God, urging her to kill.

A technology company traced erased messages on her phone to Fossmo, who admitted sending them but said they were intended only to guide the nanny in her faith.

Svensson also said the pastor told her that killing his wife and neighbour was the only way she could please God.

The confessions of the nanny led the police to reopen the investigation into the death of Fossmo’s first wife.

She died in 1999 after apparently falling over in the bath, hitting her head on the tap, according to Fossmo. At the time, her death was treated was an accident. The court on Friday cleared him of any responsibility for her death.

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