A week after the 32 year old businessman was released by his captors in Gothenburg’s Slottskogen park, the focus of the investigation has dramatically switched to Vienna. The first indication that police were making significant progress in the case came on Tuesday, when a man was charged in absentia with crimes surrounding the kidnapping. This is the man who was arrested yesterday. The action was carried out at the request of the Swedish police.
Ernst Geiger of the Austrian national police agency told TV4, however, that none of the men arrested were suspected of being the kidnappers.
“We’re not talking about the actual perpetrators.”
Gothenburg police spokeswoman, Jenny Widén, said that Swedish authorities would be seeking the extradition of the suspect still in custody.
In keeping with the extreme secrecy which has been a feature of this case, Gothenburg city court decided against releasing the suspect’s identity. The prosecutor, Peter Larsson, argued that such a move could endager the search for other individuals involved in the kidnapping.
Larsson told the court that there were other suspects, but that the evidence against them was not yet sufficient for the authorities to take any action. Larsson claimed that the evidence against the arrested man was strong, although the man has denied involvement through his lawyer, Rolf Skårman.
Larsson told Gothenburg paper, GT, that he was very unhappy with the fact that the Austrian police had publicised their arrests.
“I would really have preferred if this information had not come out. It’s my view that it has harmed the investigation. Things haven’t exactly got easier since we involved the Austrian authorities.”
The suspect has a previous conviction for serious weapons offences and a number of minor crimes and is said to have connections with Gothenburg. According to Expressen, all those arrested yesterday belong to a “mafia-like organisation in Gothenburg”, consisting of a loose network of a hundred criminals.
According to Aftonbladet, one of the police’s best leads is a telephone conversation. The paper claims that one of the kidnappers probably spoke French and that an East European language was also spoken. The police refused to comment on the claims.
Such has been the thoroughness of the police’s efforts to keep as much information about the case secret, that both Fabian Bengtsson himself, and the women who found him wandering around Slottskogen last Thursday, have been requested not to make any statements to the press.
However, it seems that the razor sharp Expressen reporters got to the women before the police. One of those was 21 year old Mirjam Sedin, who described how talkative Bengtsson was.
The 32 year old was driven to Slottskogen early on Thursday morning, let out of the car and told to run away, not to look back or to talk to anyone. After 17 days in captivity, Bengtsson was terrified.
“I couldn’t run, I could barely walk. I came across a person, but I didn’t dare talk to them. It wasn’t until I was further away from the kidnappers that I dared ask for help.”
A friend of Bengtsson’s recounted to the same paper how Bengtsson described his captivity:
“The kidnappers forced me to sit in a crate. It was unbelievably warm and I could barely breathe. I thought I’d suffocate.”
A constant talking point of the case has been the police’s extreme secrecy. Whilst Bengtsson was captive, and even since his release, the police have released very little information and mostly refused to confirm or deny statements from the press. On Sunday, senior investigators Klas Friberg and Krister Jacobsson, sought to explain their approach in a GP article.
“We have good reason to believe that the kidnappers have carefully followed reports in the media. Descriptions of the location of CCTV cameras, how to track telephone calls and e-mail addresses, which geographic areas have been searched, where traffic controls are being done. They have read all such information in the media with the greatest interest. Some of it has been true, some false. Our strategy has been not to comment on such information and we’ve been criticised for not denying false information. We think that by denying false information, we’d be indirectly confirming correct information.”
The two officers also claim that they were fully aware that the Bengtsson family would broadcast a videotaped appeal to the kidnappers on Swedish TV.
“At the time it was important for Fabian Bengtsson’s safety that the kidnappers would get the impression that there was a major split between the family and the police. The gang had demanded that the police should be kept out.”