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Knutby - from tragedy to comedy

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The Local knows what you're thinking: what about Knutby? The circus - sorry, trial - resumes on 8th July but given Sweden's addiction to the story there was no chance that the papers would hold off for the full four week break.

And who can blame them? The craziest village in Sweden, home to an extreme pentecostal sect and the scene of at least one murder, hit the front pages again this week with a number of stories that could teach Hollywood a thing or two about subplots.

Sunday's Expressen splashed with the most extraordinary story of the bunch. Åsa Waldau, the so-called 'Bride of Christ' and one of the leaders of the Knutby congregation, has been revealed as the mystery buyer of the pastor's house.

This, remember, is the house in which, last January, Åsa Waldau's sister - the pastor's second wife - was shot dead by the family's nanny while she slept. And in December 1999 the pastor's first wife was found dead in their bathtub. At the time her death was recorded as an accident but now the pastor is accused of her murder, as well as being an accomplice in the murder of his second wife.

Åsa Waldau and her husband, Patrik Waldau, were already part-owners of the property since the pastor was refused a bank loan by himself. But rather than selling up, they have paid an undisclosed sum for full ownership of the 170 square metre pad.

"The events have nothing to do with the house itself," said Patrik Waldau, who at least had the good grace to acknowledge that he and his wife were taking over the property "with mixed feelings". Apparently they haven't yet decided whether to move into the place or let it out.

"It's not going to be the easiest place to hire out," he admitted.

As Expressen pointed out, the light grey house has become a symbol of the Knutby story, with people visiting the village just to take pictures of it.

"We're thinking of painting it," Waldau confirmed.

Monday's papers brought the news that Åsa Waldau is having a breakdown and is being treated by a psychotherapist.

"She feels as though someone has stolen her life," her husband told Aftonbladet. "She can't live freely anymore, even though she hasn't done anything wrong."

Åsa Waldau has certainly been the focus of much of the media attention throughout the course of the trial. Until her appearance as a witness she was depicted as the mystical, powerful leader of the Knutby sect - not least by the pastor himself, who blamed her for the breakdown of his marriages. But when she was cross-examined she said that the 'Bride of Christ' concept was not of her doing and that her power had been greatly exaggerated.

Patrik Waldau said that she did not choose the fame that has been thrust upon her, and she doesn't feel good about it. As a way of dealing with the situation - and her media-imposed seclusion - Åsa Waldau is said to be writing down her account of everything that has happened since her younger sister Alexandra was murdered in January.

"Of course, it could be a book," said her husband. "We'll have to wait and see."

The pastor's mistress at the time of the murder of his second wife - who is married to Daniel Linde, the intended second victim of the nanny's gun - has chosen a more direct route to some ready cash. She has been awarded over 100,000 crowns in compensation for her two weeks in jail on suspicion of involvement in the killing.

According to Svenska Dagbladet, this is ten times higher than the normal payment.

"This is clearly higher than usual," said her lawyer, Roger Häggquist, "but we find it hard to understand why she got less than the 35 year old in the Anna Lindh trial."

The woman was in custody between 28th January and 11th February and the investigation into her role in the affair was closed at the end of April. She was seeking 200,000 crowns compensation for her "suffering" and justified the inflated amount on the grounds of the "extreme media attention" that the case brought upon her.

Extreme media attention is exactly what the more musical members of the Knutby congregation will be hoping for this year. They're planning to release a record of songs of praise. Yes, you read it correctly. But it's worth repeating: the Knutby congregation is planning to release a record.

"We want people to be able to hear our songs," said Anna Alexandersson, one of the congregation's songwriters.

One of Knutby's other pastors, Peter Gembäck - a key trial witness who claimed that the pastor had asked him how professional killers avoid having their mobile phone calls traced - said that there had been plans to record a collection of songs for a while.

"We've had other priorities recently, what with the trial and all that, but now we want to put out a record as soon as possible," he told Aftonbladet.

"We have a guy in the congregation who has his own studio," said Gembäck. "He's going to let us use it."

Anna Alexandersson told Aftonbladet that it's still too early to say when the record will be in the shops.

"Maybe six months..." she hinted. 'Songs of Knutby' as a Christmas number one? The bets are on.

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