West Side Stories

Hardly a day seems to go by without another story of robbery, murder or malicious egg-throwing in the county of Västragötaland on Sweden’s west coast.

Mothers were very much to the fore last week. The 23 year old gangster accused of incitement to murder in Gothenburg’s so-called “Venetian blind murder” trial received unflinching support in court from his foster mother.

Tuesday’s Gothenburg Post reported her description of him as a “nice little boy…always cheerful and happy.” She also complained about “constant police harrassment” of the 23 year old, who is the younger brother of the imprisoned leader of the “Original Gangsters”.

A different picture emerged from the prosecution’s star witness, a 25 year old former associate. Saturday’s GP reported how he had “feared for his life” on several occasions in his dealings with the accused, including having a pistol pointed at him and a more veiled threat with a screwdriver.

A 20 year old has already been convicted for the actual murder, in which an 18 year old was shot through a window with drawn blinds in June 2002. The intended target was the victim’s older brother, a prominent member of the rival “Bandidos X-Team” gang. A violent gang war has ensued.

A rather different approach with errant sons was taken by a Trollhättan mum.

This week four young right wing extremists were given prison sentences for possession of weapons at an anti rascism demonstration in the town in October 2002. The fifth member of the gang, which planned to disrupt the demonstration with egg-throwing, was also convicted of weapons offences, but escaped prison because his mother had forbidden him from attending the demonstration.

As Aftonbladet reported: “He was never asked to join in the attack because his friends knew his mum had grounded him.”

The weapons in question, incidentally, were not eggs but batons.

No finger-wagging mothers in evidence in Strömstad on the west coast, however, where eight men have been charged with carrying out a particularly brutal bank robbery a year ago. Uddevalla’s public prosecutor, Per-Åke Kvarnström, describes the men in Tuesday’s GP as “hardened criminals”. The paper says the men took 12 million crowns.

The heist was characterised by violence and planning. Three security guards were threatened with execution if they didn’t open up all cash boxes in a security van and a bank vault. The robbers had equipped themselves with weapons, explosives, bullet proof vests, masks and, intriguingly, ‘Spanish riders’. For the uninitiated, these are specially welded spikes for placing in the road (outside a police station, for example) or throwing out of a car window to puncture the tyres of pursuing vehicles.

GP reports that the gang was caught as a result of the police tracing the ownership of a gun, which one of the robbers dropped.