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Birth dash halted by car theft

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There were plenty of stories this week that had Swedes shaking their heads over their morning coffee and wondering just what the hell is happening to their country. But in amongst the usual rape and murder headlines - ever-present random acts, it might be said - there were a couple of incidents which, although lower down a general scale of awfulness, perhaps spoke more about the nation's moral state.

Last Tuesday night a Stockholm couple were getting into their car when two young men approached them, pulled out a gun and stole their car. Unpleasant, but nothing particularly unusual in that - except that the woman was pregnant and the couple were rushing to the hospital after her water had broken.

According to Aftonbladet, her husband had gone to get the car - an 'exclusive' Porsche jeep, all the papers pointed out in their opening paragraphs - from the garage in Östermalm and double-parked it outside their apartment. He went upstairs to help his wife down, but then realised he had left something in the car.

As he went back to the car, the two assailants ran towards him from the other side of the street. One of them pulled out a gun and screamed at him to lie on the ground and give him the car keys.

"The husband pleaded with them and said he had a pregnant wife who he was about drive to the hospital, but the men didn't give a damn," said Kenneth Karlsson of Stockholm Police.

They took the car to Stadion underground station - all of 300 metres away - and fled after driving it into a wall. The police thought they escaped on the train but so far have no leads. The happy conclusion to the story was that the police drove the woman to Danderyds hospital in time for her to give birth safely.

But Saturday's Göteborgs Posten reported that the number of 'road-robberies' is increasing dramatically - particularly in the west of the country. Two years ago only around 20 such attacks - where drivers parked in lay-bys have their cars stolen - were reported. But last year that rose to 160 incidents, of which 120 took place in Västra Götaland.

Most of the victims were tourists, and, no doubt with the best intentions, police inspector Per-Arne Nilsson showed GP readers why he won't be temping for the Swedish tourist board this summer.

"There's no need for tourists to get themselves into this sort of bother," he said. "It's just about behaving sensibly. That means avoiding lay-bys and instead stopping at campsites, always parking in well-lit areas and not leaving valuable items on the dashboard."

Last year's increase "caught police napping" but since then a number of people have been arrested and warning signs have been put up in problem areas.

"Sweden is a safe country for tourists," said Bo Öster of the West Sweden Tourist Board, "but reports of these road-robberies can ruin how Sweden is perceived by foreigners."

Maybe, but not nearly so much as headlines such as the one which appeared in Monday's Dagens Nyheter: "Jewish girl knifed by Nazis".

The 16 year old was in Maria Torget, a popular square in Södermalm, at around 6.30pm on Sunday when six skinheads began insulting her, calling her a whore and shouting racist slogans at her.

According to Mats Svensson of Stockholm Police, they began doing Nazi salutes "to show where they stood politically". Then they kicked her to the ground and slashed her with a knife. She was wounded on the stomach, chest and arms and taken to Söder Hospital where she was said to be in shock.

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