Shots ring out in Knutby again

For the first four 'trial days' the press following the Knutby case was treated to a seemingly never-ending stream of gory details from the nanny herself about how she killed one person and tried to kill another, revelations about the pastor's sexual misdeeds and insights into the daily workings of a fanatical religious cult.

But last Friday, trial day five, it was the turn of the expert witnesses to be questioned by the court. The defendants’ contrasting stories suggest that neither is particularly reliable and the verdict is expected to hinge on the experts’ evidence.

Nevertheless, the fact is that sex-obsessed pastors and blonde assassins sell a lot more papers than professors of orthopaedics and noise experts – and the newspaper coverage diminished accordingly.

Friday focused on the pastor’s first wife, Hélène Fossmo, who died in December 1999 after an apparent fall in the bath. At the time the death was recorded as an accident but the pastor is now accused of her murder since, according to the prosecutors, further analysis has shown that she could not have been killed by a fall.

Saturday’s Dagens Nyheter reported that all the witnesses agreed on one thing: “The pastor’s wife had hit her head on the handle in the bathtub which regulates whether the water runs from the tap or the shower. The handle fit precisely the wound in her temple.”

But they couldn’t agree on whether the impact was the result of a fall, or of someone bashing her head on the handle.

Lars Eriksson, the pathologist who performed the original post mortem stuck by his conclusion that her death could have been caused by a fall and his view was supported by two police analysts.

However, the prosecution’s expert, Professor Olle Nilsson, took a completely different view. With the aid of a skull in one hand (“like a modern Hamlet,” according to Expressen) and a set of taps in the other, he demonstrated to the court his belief that a simple fall could not possibly have led to the fatal injury.

“If she fell like this she would also have received a wound on her forehead, and if she fell like this she would have got a wound on her neck. But there were no such injuries to the soft-tissue.”

Professor Nilsson’s second argument concerned the injury which the pastor’s wife did receive.

“The force of a fall is not enough to cause an injury of this sort in the skull. The injury cannot have been brought about by a fall. She died from violent force – I am 100% certain.”

He then dropped either a case-closing bombshell or an irrelevant detail – depending upon which side of the court you were sitting on – into proceedings, revealing that the tap in question was moveable.

“This changes everything,” declared the pastor’s defence lawyer. “It opens up a number of new possibilities about how the fall came about.”

“This changes nothing,” retorted the prosecutor, Elin Blank. “Everything is built on the pastor’s statement that the tap was positioned straight and the water ran into the bathtub.”

The big question on Tuesday was ‘could the pastor have slept through the noise of the nanny shooting his second wife in the bedroom down the hall?’. And in an attempt to answer it, the court went on a day trip to the scene of the crime itself.

Oddly, as well as the members of the court itself, fourteen journalists and photographers were invited into the pastor’s house to witness an experiment designed to measure the noise levels the pastor said he slept through.

The journalists were ushered into the child’s bedroom that the pastor says he was sleeping in, along with lead detective Kenneth Åhgren from Uppsala police and a technician from the National Criminal Technology Laboratory. Meanwhile, in the main bedroom, Inspector Bertil Olsson fired three shots (into a sandbag) from a revolver with the same silencer that the nanny used on the night of the murder.

Everyone agreed that the sound in the room where the pastor ‘slept’ was very loud – 107 decibels, to be precise. Louder than a motorbike revving, for example, and as the police pointed out, that was with eighteen people in the room, which will have muffled the noise.

Åhgren told Stockholm City that in his view the pastor would have woken up.

“I myself felt the pressure in my ears,” he said.

Fascinating stuff – but it doesn’t sell papers.

Luckily for Sweden’s press, one of the trial’s main attractions, Åsa Waldau – the so-called ‘Bride of Christ’ – was top billing on Thursday and the hacks were sharpening their quills. But contrary to expectations of a scripture-spouting, power-crazed cult leader, Waldau presented herself simply as one of the more active members of the congregation who, like everyone else, had been shocked by recent events.

Her evidence, along with that given by another member of the congregation on Thursday, was not good news for the pastor. She said that when they first began working together she thought a great deal of him, and “loved him as a brother”. But by the end of her cross-examination she had described him as a liar and a double-crosser.

When asked by the pastor’s defence lawyer about her position in the congregation, she said that it was the pastor himself who promoted the ‘Bride of Christ’ doctrine.

“He wanted to elevate me,” she explained, and denied that she had publicly pretended to be the ‘Bride of Christ’. “He pushed me to live as the ‘Bride of Christ’ to exert his power. He tricked me and this year I have gradually come to question this picture of myself.”

Two weeks before his first wife died, the pastor told Waldau that he had dreamed seven times that his wife would die in the bathtub.

“I linked that to the visions. God can talk through visions. But today one can imagine that it was an idea.”