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Thomas Quick: the Swedish serial killer who never was
October 23, 2012 1:47 AM   Subscribe

Then, he changed his name and revealed his confessions were all faked
posted by episodic (27 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Råstam unpicks in painstaking detail the way in which the deeply troubled Quick was able to gain key information surrounding each case from psychiatrists, police officers and lawyers, before cobbling together the rambling and confused testimonies into a coherent narrative that could stand up in court.

Stage magic.
posted by pracowity at 2:40 AM on October 23, 2012


Cold reading with an audience who very much want the evidence to be true [and may even have asked leading questions, who knows?] combined with the ability to research the subjects beforehand? Well, that doesn't even seem hard. Stupid, obviously; one has to be a little insane to just want to rack up the years of imprisonment in return for just a little more attention and notoriety. But not that hard.
posted by jaduncan at 2:53 AM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not stage magic. Stupidity, gullibility, and staggering incompetence on the part of the Swedish police and social services. It's like all the effort expended on pursing the feckless Christer Pettersson for the murder of Olaf Palme - a murder which remains to this day unsolved.

One could argue that Quick was a serial killer of police resources. Enormous efforts were expended chasing the wrong man - and the real killers got away. It seems to me however that this would be giving the Swedish police more credit than they deserve. As if they were ever going to catch anyone. Dimwits.

Wi nøt trei a høliday in Sweden this yër ?
See the løveli lakes
The wøndërful telephøne system
And mäni interesting furry animals

Rob a bank, burgle some homes, steal a car... chances are very good that you'll get away with it.
posted by three blind mice at 3:03 AM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Stupid, obviously; one has to be a little insane to just want to rack up the years of imprisonment in return for just a little more attention and notoriety.

From the article:
"I was a very lonely person when it all started," he continues. "I was in a place with violent criminals and I noticed that the worse or more violent or serious the crime, the more interest someone got from the psychiatric personnel. I also wanted to belong to that group, to be an interesting person in here."

Bergwall had always wanted to meld in. He was a teenage misfit.[...]
I can easily see someone doing this. Everyone wants to be somebody. There are many people all around you who you'll never learn the name of despite the fact they live less than an eighth of a mile from you. To some people, the anonymity can get to be crushing. No one will remember any of our names, the vast majority of us will someday die and that will be it, a thinking person with dreams and loves and desperate hopes and unknown sadnesses, who once suckled at his mother's breast and, if he's lucky, will eventually stoop with age and have to live with the hundred indignities of age will disappear and the universe won't pause to note.

It'll happen to you. It'll happen to all of us. And most of the people who will be remembered are, frankly, undeserving of the distinction. I am offended that I even know who some people are. I mean, Miley Cyrus, WTF? Who the heck is George W. Bush but a sufficiently useful idiot who was in the right place?
posted by JHarris at 3:10 AM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


"with his non-identical twin sister" um how could she be anything else? (But still a fascinating story)
posted by b33j at 3:10 AM on October 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


It fits interestingly as a piece with the recent interrogation FPP too; there are many reasons for people to give both true and false information.
posted by jaduncan at 3:11 AM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can easily see someone doing this. Everyone wants to be somebody.

Sure. That's why it's a little insane rather than something absolutely impossible to understand.
posted by jaduncan at 3:12 AM on October 23, 2012


b33j: Fraternal twins. You only get identical when they're the same sex, and even then not always.
posted by Jilder at 3:13 AM on October 23, 2012


I know, Jilder. She couldn't have been anything other than a non-identical twin given that they were different gendered siblings. But my snark was not well formed, so I take your information graciously.
posted by b33j at 3:14 AM on October 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Actually (at the risk of derailing, or being otherwise annoying) monozygotic twins can in extremely rare cases be phenotypically of different gender - eg in cases where the zygote has three chromosomes and splits unevenly. Of course such people wouldn't be 'identical' in the ordinary sense (but then identical twins never are, quite; eg they have different fingerprints).
posted by Segundus at 3:33 AM on October 23, 2012


I have a twin sister, and it's actually pretty funny how often we are asked if we are "identical". Neither of us have any interest in serial killers, or long-term psychiatric care either.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:40 AM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


"with his non-identical twin sister" um how could she be anything else?

Well, Sweden once led the world in sex reassignment surgery...
posted by Skeptic at 3:50 AM on October 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Not stage magic. Stupidity, gullibility, and staggering incompetence [...]

Stupidity, gullibility, and staggering incompetence are what make people believe in psychics. Stage magic.
posted by pracowity at 4:14 AM on October 23, 2012


In order to visit, you must enter through a succession of automatically locking doors and walk through an airport-style security gate. You must leave your mobile phone in a specially provided locker and hand over your passport in return for an ID tag and a panic alarm.

God, I knew my office was like some sort of scandinavian mental institution, but I had no idea just how much!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 4:17 AM on October 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


God, those poor families. I can't even imagine what it must be like to lose your child/sibling/spouse/friend, go through that grief - or, maybe even worse, the grief of not finding them and knowing they're probably dead but you'll never be sure - then learn that someone confessed to horrifically murdering them, and then, just as you've maybe found some way to struggle on with your life with the knowledge that at least he's faced justice, find out that it wasn't justice and you have no idea what happened to the person you lost or who killed them. At least Björn Asplund's family didn't believe it in the first place and seem to have had some amount of justice with the person they think did take him, small comfort though that must be.

Even the same sniffer dog, Zampo, was used to trawl each "murder" site.

"During the course of the investigation, Quick mentioned at least 24 different places in Sweden and Norway where he had committed murders, handled dead bodies or left body parts," says Leyla Belle Drake, who was Hannes Råstam's literary agent. "Zampo marked for human remains 45 times at those 24 locations. Not a single trace of blood or body parts was ever found. The dog is just as bad as the rest of them."


Or maybe just doing what he thought the people around him wanted and would respond to, in the same way Bergwall was. It's like CSI meets Clever Hans the counting horse.
posted by Catseye at 5:21 AM on October 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


astonishingly, he was able to borrow a copy of Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho from the hospital library.

Wouldn't there be the danger of a prisoner using this to escape by threatening to read passages out loud to the guards?
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:34 AM on October 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


He was also really, really high. I mean, this seems to be a non-trivial aspect to this. He was really high, he said all kinds of wild shit that he thought they wanted to hear and then he got more drugs.

When the drugs stopped his 'confessions' stopped. The whole story is an amazing clusterfuck of dumb and sad.
posted by From Bklyn at 5:34 AM on October 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


The whole story is an amazing clusterfuck of dumb and sad.
I think you've successfully described governments and bureaucracies nearly everywhere.
posted by smirkette at 7:04 AM on October 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


To my knowledge this is the same rotten behaviour by the investigators as seen previously. There's just a propensity within the swedish system to go with greek logic instead of actually doing the hard work involved with figuring out wtf happened, instead we get utter circuses by investigators and the judicial branch.

Which is why I often say that the swedish legal system isnt what it seems to you lads & lass's outside of Sweden.
posted by xcasex at 7:17 AM on October 23, 2012


Sometimes in talks about the death penalty, it will be said that we should reserve it for only those who have confessed. As then we are sure not to kill anybody not guilty, for who would falsely claim to be a murderer in the face of death? Cases like Thomas Quick and Henry Lee Lucas make this belief laughworthy.

If we can believe somebody is mad enough to be a serial killer, we should equally believe they are mad enough to falsely claim to be a serial killer.
posted by Jehan at 7:51 AM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


At the time, he remembers being fascinated by depictions of fictional serial killers – astonishingly, he was able to borrow a copy of Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho from the hospital library.

Indeed, he seems to be a living Swedish incarnation of Patrick Bateman, given over to self-obsession and grotesque, grandiose fantasy. All he lacks are the business cards & the musical nous.
posted by chavenet at 8:08 AM on October 23, 2012


Years ago, on a dark and stormy night, I am driving past Riverview Psychiatric Hospital near Vancouver when I hit a pothole that punctures my tire. While changing the tire I accidentally kick the hubcap holding the five wheel bolts into a deep, muddy ditch. So here I am swearing at myself for being stranded in such a spooky place, when along comes a dark, wet figure in a grey hoodie marked with the hospital logo. He stops and asks about my predicament.

He says, "Why don't you use one or two bolts off each of the other three wheels? That'll be secure enough to get home."

"Brilliant," I say. "Why didn't I think of that? So what is a clever guy like you doing in a place like this?"

"Well," he says, "I may be crazy, but I ain't stupid."
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:13 AM on October 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


>The whole story is an amazing clusterfuck of dumb and sad.
I think you've successfully described governments and bureaucracies nearly everywhere.


But you don't go far enough. These kinds of errors happen everywhere, without exception, in governments, bureaucracies, corporations, organizations, churches, social cliques, individuals, everywhere. Humankind as a whole is a fair sight less competent than it perceives itself as being; the reason we don't see that is that we are as bad at self-examination as everything else.
posted by JHarris at 9:24 AM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


"In 1990, he robbed a local bank dressed in a Santa Claus outfit"
posted by doctornemo at 9:46 AM on October 23, 2012


There are many people all around you who you'll never learn the name of despite the fact they live less than an eighth of a mile from you.

This is even more the case in Sweden, especially Stockholm. I couldn't tell you the name of one of my neighbours, and they have their names on the door. We have recently started nodding at the people who live next door when I see them. You do not talk to strangers while you wait for a bus, or if something unusual happens in a shop or whatever.

I think the article completely overstates the "public outcry" however. I was actually completely unaware of this, I noticed he'd been on the news during the summer but I didn't pay too much attention. I have never heard anyone talking about this around the water cooler, etc. Did a quick survey of fb-friends and they seem to mainly see it as that there are a few murders that can't be proved or seem unlikely that he committed.
posted by Iteki at 9:56 AM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


But you don't go far enough. These kinds of errors happen everywhere, without exception, in governments, bureaucracies, corporations, organizations, churches, social cliques, individuals, everywhere. Humankind as a whole is a fair sight less competent than it perceives itself as being; the reason we don't see that is that we are as bad at self-examination as everything else.
True. I guess my own personal frustration with this sort of thing is that I expect error or even outright incompetence on the individual level because humans mess up. What bothers me more is that often when we pool our resources, we end up pooling our stupidity as much as our ability, that the group either doesn't catch it, or doesn't care enough or dare to do anything about it once discovered.

(yes, yes, mob rule, a group is only as smart as its dumbest member, etc. It STILL bothers me.)
posted by smirkette at 9:49 PM on October 23, 2012


The process has been outdrawn, so the public outcry has not been of the same kind as you'd have from an instantaneous event. Råstam's first TV documentaries were broadcast several years ago and the legal process is slow. His book was published posthumously this fall, and by then two sentences had been changed.

Still, the debate has been very heated and prominent in all news media, and I'm baffled that Iteki and her fb friends were unaware of it. I read Råstam's book and it makes a very convincing case. This is an enormous shame for the Swedish system of justice and exposes systemic problems that need to get fixed. It's not so much the courts themselves that have messed up, they made the right decisions given the investigation that was presented to them.

Göran Lambertz who speaks in the article was supposed to investigate the trials independently, which he did in a very short time by looking only at the court protocols. He declared that he saw no problems with the investigations, and his verdict was then used by the other believers to smooth over the criticism. He very much has a dog in this fight, and is under a lot of heat, both for the way he handled the initial investigation and for the way he has since liasoned with the prosecution to save his face.

Quick's former attorney Claes Borgström is under investigation by the attorney union for working against his former client, by indicating that Bergwall may be guilty after all. He was about as keen as the prosecutor to get Quick convicted, so he carries a lot of blame.

All of these people are at the very top of the Swedish legal system - Lambertz used to be the Government's Attorney (freely translated) and sits on the Supreme Court. Borgström used to be the national Ombudsman for gender equality. At least in Sweden, legal scandals don't get any bigger than this one.

Hannes Råstam exposed this pretty much by himself, and it's such a shame that he passed away. We need more journalists like him, and I would have loved to hear him take part in the present media debate.
posted by springload at 5:33 PM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


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