Lindh killer escapes jail

At eleven o'clock on Thursday morning the appeal court surprised observers by overturning the sentence of life imprisonment handed down to Mijail Mjailovic, the man who murdered Anna Lindh last September. Instead of jail, the 25 year old will be treated in a secure psychiatric hospital.

Mijailovic admitted killing the foreign minister in the original trial but claimed that he was motivated by the voices in his head. At the time, this was rejected and tests showed that he was not mentally ill.

But the appeal court, which was unanimous in its verdict, found that “the analysis shows unequivocally that Mijailo Mijailovic is a person with considerable psychiatric problems. The majority of experts completely support the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder.”

Despite the changed sentence, the court did not reduce the verdict to manslaughter, agreeing with the earlier finding that Mijailovic was indifferent to the fact that Anna Lindh died. It is still unclear whether the murder was planned or carried out on impulse.

The state prosecutor, Agneta Blidberg, on the other hand, said she had expected the verdict.

“There are grounds for this judgement – given the legal and scientific analysis I understand it would have been hard for the court to go against it,” she said.

She told the press that she has not yet decided whether to take the case to the supreme court.

Understandably, Mijailovic’s defence lawyer, Peter Althin, was satisfied with the decision.

“I completely agree with the appeal court. This is what I have been fighting for in both the trial and the appeal.”

He acknowledged that the verdict may not have been what the Swedish public had expected or, indeed, wanted. But he told the press that this was a result of a lack of understanding of the issues in the trial, and that the legal experts offering their views to the media had to take responsibility for this.

“If you’re a professor of law and you say that it’s definitely going to be a life sentence and then it’s not, then you create difficulties for the public who are following the case. The experts must express themselves carefully and with substance and not say things that they’re not sure of.”

Despite Althin’s criticism, the experts were queuing up to give their opinions. Anders Forsman, a professor in criminal psychiatric care in Gothenburg told the media that although he hadn’t expected the decision, he felt it was the right one.

“I must admit, I’m surprised that the court has shown such courage and was unanimious. Of course, I think it was the correct judgement because Mijailovic is, in my view, seriously disturbed. The court has acted in accordance with our laws.”

Mijailovic will now be taken to Huddinge Psychiatric Hospital, where he will await a decision about his long-term future. He could stay in Huddinge or be moved to other secure units in Katrineholm, Dalarna or Sundsvall. According to Aftonbladet, he will not be kept in isolation and will be treated with both medicine and counselling.

But paper pointed out that ‘long-term’ in psychiatric care is very different to life imprisonment. Murderers who are sentenced to a term in a secure psychiatric hospital are released after an average of five years.

Peter Althin would not speak of Mijailovic’s reaction other than to say: “He thinks that the appeal court’s judgement is better than the district court’s.”