Escapism III: massive hunt for two more prisoners

Sweden's increasingly experienced fugitive-hunters were back in action on Thursday night following a break-out at Mariefred Prison, 50km west of Stockholm. Two men escaped, armed with knives, and took a prison warder hostage. This is the third escape in as many months and the general director of the prison service, Lena Häll Eriksson, has resigned.

Tobias Jaderberg, 28, who is serving a life sentence for murder, and Åke Martinsson, 35, who is serving two years for drugs offences, seized two hostages at around 7.30pm on Thursday as they were about to be locked in for the night.

They took the men to the prison’s exit where they “forcibly obtained” the keys to a car parked just inside the outer wall. There they released one of the hostages, bundled the other into the car and demanded that the gates be opened.

The head of the prison, Henrik Svärd, told Dagens Nyheter that prison officers are instructed not to intervene in such a situation, so the gates were opened and the prisoners drove off.

According to Svenska Dagbladet the car, a white Toyota Previa, “belonged to a company who, ironically enough, were working in the prison on a system to increase the security”.

The hostage is a 54 year old man who has worked for many years in the prison and who “has long experience of criminal care”. A number of his colleagues apparently followed the car but “lost it several kilometres south of Mariefred”.

Expressen reported that the released hostage, who is in his 30s, is not a permanent employee at the prison and was on Friday morning in the care of police and the prison’s support group.

The ensuing police reaction has a familiar ring to it: over a hundred officers from several districts in the Sörmland area, as well as the elite SWAT unit, NI, hunted the prisoners through the night but as of Friday morning had no real clues.

Officers investigated several addresses where the prisoners had contacts or friends in Strängnäs, Vånga, Stallarholmen and Västerås, said Expressen, as well as the nearby forest areas. As the hunt progressed through the night, responsibility was handed over to the head of the national police force, Lars Nylén. By Friday morning the search area had expanded to “the whole of southern Sweden”.

Police warn that the men are dangerous.

Just before midnight on Thursday Justice Minister Thomas Bodström announced that the general director of the prison service, Lena Häll Eriksson, had resigned.

“She has worked through a time when crime has changed where escapes are concerned and I understand her decision,” he told media. “Now I am following developments. My thoughts go to the hostage and his family.”

But while Bodström may have thought that Eriksson’s resignation would appease critics of Sweden’s lax prison security, it seems only to have highlighted his own decision not to go.

The leader of the Moderate Party, Fredrik Reinfeldt, told DN that Bodström is ultimately responsible for today’s prison system.

“Bodström has been Justice Minister for several years,” he said. “What he has done or not done during all these years is what has led to this. You just need the right kind of network and weapons – then the Swedish criminal system is defenceless.”

“The Justice Minister’s credibility hasn’t exactly risen after this,” he added.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen, Aftonbladet, Metro