Psychologist’s body found in forest

The eleven day search for the missing psychologist, Helena Bering, came to a grim and tragic conclusion yesterday afternoon. The body of the 56-year old mother of five was found at 15:45 by mushroom pickers in a forest near Bålsta, about 25km north-west of Stockholm. The indications are that she was murdered, although police would only say that injuries had been found on the body.

The body lay not particularly well concealed, in thick forest about 50m in from route 263 (the old E18).

“It’s too early to draw any conclusions about how the woman died,” said Uppsala police spokesman Christer Nordström in Monday’s DN. Christer Nilsson of Stockholm police, who had led the investigation into Bering’s disappearance, was also on the scene as the body was taken away for a post mortem.

Police found the location of the body “very interesting”. It’s unusual for a body to be dumped so far from a road. The forest is very thick and remote, indicating according to today’s Aftonbladet possible local knowledge. Jarmo Vepsä, who lives a stone’s throw from where the discovery was made, also told the paper that he’d heard a suspicious vehicle in the area on Friday night.

“I noticed the sound of the engine straight away. It belongs to an American van, it’s unmistakable. It’s very unusual for cars to come at that time… When I came out of the house, I heard that the car had stopped, but I couldn’t see any headlights. I realised it must have parked in the lay-by.” That was the nearest point of the road to where the body was found.

Vepsä said that the car was there for about ten minutes before screeching off at high speed.

Bering’s disappearance has baffled police since she went missing on 18th August, when she failed to turn up for a dentist’s appointment. Their investigation has taken in Östermalm, where she was last seen and where her practice is located; Nynäshamn, where her car was found with traces of blood; and even Estonia, the destination of ferries sailing out of Nynäshamn. Possible theories concerning her fate have been that she met someone in connection with the purchase of furniture for her practice or that a former client from her time as a prison psychologist held some kind of grudge.

Another theory is that she was car-jacked by someone desperate to get to the ferry terminal at Nynäshamn and that she resisted in some way.

The police have tracked down relatively few witnesses and have been desperate for information from the public. Potentially vital information has now emerged from a man whose story has appeared in today’s Expressen. The police are anxious to talk to him themselves.

The man described how he was sitting at the front of a bus near the junction of routes 73 and 229 south of Stockholm, when the bus driver was forced to brake suddenly. The reason was that a car, similar to Bering’s dark grey Chrysler, appeared from nowhere and swerved in front of them.

“The bus driver had to slam on the brakes… I don’t understand how they could have popped up in front of us like they did.”

The witness claims to have got a good view of the occupants of the car: two men in the front seats with a woman in a peculiar position between them. “She resembled the woman in the pictures in the papers… I had eye contact with the people in the front seats. The woman was standing in an odd way between them. She stood up, stared and looked confused.” His impression was that she was terrified.

The witness described the driver of the car as a man in his fifties, with a blue cap and short hair.

Expressen claims that a possible explanation for the car’s sudden swerve was that they realised they’d taken a wrong turn. If the man’s story is correct, the car headed off in the direction of route 73, which is the main road from Stockholm to Nynäshamn, where Bering’s car was later found.

“If this person’s information is correct, then it’s very interesting,” said prosecutor Ronnie Jacobsson.

He admitted that there were few other promising leads. The traces of blood found in Bering’s car are still being analysed by the forensic laboratory. It’s hoped that comparing the DNA with samples from police registers will provide important information.

SvD reported that the police have also been concentrating on Bering’s lengthy career within the prison service. As a prison psychologist, she worked with a number of dangerous criminals at Österåker, Hall and Norrtälje institutions. A number of these former clients have already been interviewed by police.

Spokesman for Stockholm police, Kjell Lindgren, told TT that at the moment there were no suspects.

If the various forensic analyses of the body, the forest and the car fail to produce any significant clues, it’s hard to see where a breakthrough in the investigation will come from.