Curtain falls on Knutby appeals

And so the cast of characters in the Knutby trial shuffles off into the wings, where they will wait nervously for the Appeal Court’s verdict in two weeks’ time.

Pastor Helge Fossmo wants the sentence of life imprisonment for the murder of his second wife, Alexandra, overturned. But the prosecutor, Elin Blank, wants him found guilty of murdering his first wife too. She also wants Sara Svensson, the nanny who has admitted killing Alexandra Fossmo and attempting to kill a neighbour, sentenced to prison rather than psychiatric hospital.

But the lack of conclusive evidence or indeed any form of agreement on the main points in the case has left the pundits utterly baffled as to the likely outcome – and has raised audience expectations of a session in the Supreme Court next year to complete the trilogy.

The cast trod the boards for the final time this season on Tuesday, as the prosecution and defence lawyers presented their closing statements. But on Monday the court heard expert opinions on the not insignificant subject of Sara Svensson’s state of mind at the time of the murder in January. Was she insane – or just religious?

Svensson’s fate hinges on the answer to this question and the prosecution team produced a consultant in psychiatrics, Goran Kallberg, who argued that she was not psychologically disturbed. On the contrary, he considered her to be calculating and unemotional as she shot Alexandra Fossmo while she slept.

“The investigation has not recorded any symptoms of [psychological] disturbance, either around the crime or earlier in her life,” he told the court.

“The crime was planned for a long time and performed methodically. It was carried out with unusual coldness.”

Sara Svensson told the court earlier in the trial that she believed that only through the murders would she “reach God”. She also believed that she was receiving text messages from God. But according to Kallberg, this did not mean that she was psychologically sick.

“You must be careful drawing such conclusions,” he said. “Religious delusions should not be seen as a sign of psychiatric illness.”

But Kathe Elmgren, the expert called by Sara Svensson’s legal team, disagreed.

“Delusions are by definition always psychotic,” she said.

According to Svenska Dagbladet it became clear in court that Elmgren counted belief in God, heaven and hell as psychotic delusions. In her view killing another person to get God’s mercy was the clearest indication of madness – not to mention believing that God communicates through SMS.

She also said that the Bride of Christ was more of a symbol than a delusion.

“But what if I should declare myself to be the Bride of Christ?” the pastor’s lawyer asked her, somewhat oddly.

“Then there would be an SMS from God pretty quickly,” Elmgren responded, causing the courtroom to erupt in laughter.

Tuesday’s closing statements echoed the opening statements in the original trial. Elin Blank called for the court to ignore the technical disagreements surrounding the death of the pastor’s first wife in their bathtub in 1999 and find him guilty of killing her.

“You don’t need to be an engineer or hold a doctorate in technology,” she said. “Common sense and basic knowledge of the law of gravity are enough to see that this cannot have been an accident.”

And Blank said that the pastor “was the architect behind the killing of his second wife and the attempted killing of the neighbour, Daniel Linde”. But she repeated her request that Sara Svensson be imprisoned on the grounds that she took part in the planning, spending weeks trying to find a weapon and suitable clothes.

Sara Svensson’s lawyer, on the other hand, said that life imprisonment “sounds rather simplistic when you consider all the analysis we have”.

The pastor’s lawyer, Ola Nordstrom, said that he should be freed. The accusation that he killed his first wife only came about with the death of his second wife and was built on the media’s – and the congregation’s – portrayal of him as the root of all evil in Knutby.

And any suggestion of involvement in the death of his second wife was based almost entirely on unreliable evidence from Sara Svensson, who stands to benefit personally if the court believes he was behind the killing – even though she has admitted pulling the trigger.

The verdict is due on November 12th.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen, Aftonbladet

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The Local, Sweden
Oct. 29, 2004

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday October 29, 2004.
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