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Drugged cake "a bad joke"

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19:09 CET+01:00
Seasonal workers at Bergianska, one of Sweden's leading botanical gardens, gathered on Friday morning for an end-of-season coffee break and found themselves assailed by an altogether different kind of weed.

A 27 year old man "with an interest in unusual plants" served a homemade cake laced with cannabis to his unwitting colleagues. Thirteen of them were taken to hospital suffering from palpitations, hallucinations and breathing difficulties.

On Friday afternoon the man turned himself in after having "fled in his mother's Mercedes". He is expected to be charged on Monday with serious assault and drugs offences.

Caretaker Paul Möhlenberg told Expressen that as he came into the staff room to join the party he saw "the first victim sink to the floor". Soon after more began to feel ill and colleagues called the emergency services.

"People were lying on the floor, on tables," he said. "They were thirsty and cold so we got blankets for them and held their hands."

One of the first to fall ill was 49 year old groundsman Åke Kestner, whose wife spoke to Expressen from the hospital.

"He loves cakes and quickly grabbed a couple of pieces of the home-baked cheesecake," she said.

A short while later Åke was lying on the floor and "thought he was going to die".

Of the thirteen who were taken to Danderyd and Karolinska hospitals on Friday, seven were released after a few hours including one who apparently didn't eat any cake but felt a bit odd nevertheless. A spokesman ascribed the person's symptoms to 'mass hysteria'.

The remaining six victims stayed in hospital overnight and were released on Saturday. The results of analysis on the patients' urine samples are not expected until the middle of the week.

The 27 year old apparently slipped away shortly after the cake's illicit ingredients began taking effect. On Friday evening police raided his apartment in Solna, where, according to Dagens Nyheter, they found "cannabis, a lot of unknown plants and a starting pistol".

Police continued interrogating the man, who has been employed by Bergianska for the last few summers, on Sunday and sent what was left of the cake for analysis - along with a mixture of drugs found in the man's apartment.

But the 27 year old denied the charge of serious assault through his lawyer, Tommy Nilsson.

"He didn't have any intention at all to injure his colleagues, with whom he has a very good relationship," said Nilsson to TT. "He is full of regret."

"Basically you could say that it was an ill-considered joke which he completely miscalculated," he added.

The duty prosecutor, Cecilia Cassmer, told the media that police had also found drugs in the summer house where the 27 year old spent Friday afternoon. The man was released on Monday pending further investigations.

But the 27 year old's colleagues appeared to have a rather more mellow attitude towards what happened.

"He's kind and nice and I only have good things to say about him," said Åke. "This was a practical joke which went wrong - I don't believe it was a murder attempt."

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen

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