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CRIME

“Cop killer” Östberg fails in parole bid

Annika Östberg was left "extremely disappointed" as a Los Angeles parole board for the third time turned down her request for clemency. She was found guilty in 1981 of being an accessory to two murders, including that of a policeman, and sentenced to "25 years to life imprisonment".

She asked the Board of Prison Terms for a fixed sentence and to be able to serve the remainder in Sweden.

Östberg, now 51, moved to California with her mother in the 1960s. As a teenager, she ran away from home and soon became a heroin addict. She married and attempted to stop her drug abuse. But when the marriage collapsed, she returned to her former lifestyle.

She then started a relationship with a drug dealer, Brian Cox. In April 1981, the couple argued with restaurant owner, Joe Torre, over money. Cox shot Torre dead.

The following day, they got a puncture and policeman Richard Helbush pulled over to help them. Thinking they were about to be arrested, Cox shot Helbush dead as well. The couple fled in the police car and were later arrested after a police pursuit and a gunfight. Cox hanged himself in his cell prior to the trial.

According to Californian law, Östberg is just as guilty as Cox, even though she did not pull the trigger.

Östberg was not hopeful in the run-up to the latest hearing. Her pleas had been turned down in 1997 and 2002. The fact that Cox killed himself, was crucial, since it left her to bear the burden of guilt. She also felt the presence of the murdered policeman’s family would be decisive.

“Since the actual murderer took his own life, they want to lay all the blame on me. The murdered policeman’s daughter can attend the hearing and speak against me. As long as a relative of the victims turns up on these occasions, I don’t think I’ll ever be released,” she told Expressen.

During the hearing, Östberg attempted to convince the Board that she was remorseful and that she had changed during her 24 years in prison.

“I’ve been a liar, drug addict, prostitute and murderer. What happened stays with me every day, but I’m a different person now,” she told the hearing tearfully.

As expected, Helbush’s two daughters addressed the Board in highly emotional terms.

“You don’t kill cops, you did that,” said one.

“I hate you. I hope you stay here until you die,” said the other, Tara Salizzoni.

The Chairman of the parole board, Margareta Perez, referred in her decision to the “cold-blooded” nature of the crimes and the “trivial motive”.

“She continues to belittle the extent of her involvement,” said Perez. Referring to the support Östberg has received from her native country, Perez said the Swedish press had given a one-sided view of her and recommended that she continue therapy.

Östberg has been the subject of high-level representations from prime minister, Göran Persson, and justice minister, Thomas Bodström. She’s also received assistance from the Swedish consulate in Los Angeles and consul-general, Tomas Rosander, was extremely disappointed after the hearing.

“She had good references, but they were completely ignored. It was as if they didn’t exist.”

As a Swedish citizen, Östberg faces expulsion from the United States when (or if) she is finally released. Rosander had been hopeful that she would therefore be allowed to serve some of her sentence in Sweden.

“It would be good for her to have a transition period in a Swedish prison to allow her a better chance to acclimatise to a new country,” he said.

Östberg’s next chance to appeal is in 2008.

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen, Aftonbladet

POLITICS

Swedish party leader calls for chemical castration of sex offenders

Sweden's Christian Democrats have called for tougher sentences for sex offenders and making release conditional on chemical castration.

Swedish party leader calls for chemical castration of sex offenders

The Swedish Christian Democrats (KD) leader has called for the chemical castration of certain sex offenders as part of plans for a tougher grip on sexual crime and punishment in Sweden.

Speaking to the Swedish parliament on July 1st, KD party leader Ebba Busch said, “Every day, 27 rapes are reported. How many days must pass before the government takes action?”

“Today we propose that rapists and people who commit sexual crimes against children should be able to be chemically castrated.”

The controversial chemical castration proposal was the headline grabbing soundbite in a broader set of proposals to recalibrate the structure of Sweden’s sexual crime sentencing.

Among KD’s proposed sentencing changes is a life sentence for the aggravated rape of a child, the removal of automatic conditional release for sex offenders, and an increase in the sentence for aggravated rape up to a maximum of 25 years.

In addition, they want a “monitoring period” for convicts who have been released, equivalent to one third of the sentence served.

They also want to establish a national knowledge centre for sexual violence where people who feel that they have “problematic sexuality” can receive support. The center must also “be able to administer chemical castration on a voluntary basis to those who are concerned about unwanted sexual thoughts and impulses and have a compulsive sexuality”.

READ ALSO: What’s the Swedish Christian Democrats’ abortion contract all about?

Chemical castration, she suggested, should be implemented as a condition of release for some sexual offenders. “It may mean that if a person like Nytorgsmannen is to be able to become a free man, a chemical castration must have taken place before the release,” Busch said, referring to Andreas Holm, a man sentenced in 2021 for 35 different crimes including 24 rapes.

But this is not the first time the Christian Democrats have toyed with the idea of chemical castration as a form of legal punishment. As far back as 20 years ago, under former leader Alf Svensson, the right-wing party raised the idea of conditional chemical castration of rapists and pedophiles.

At the time the proposal was rejected by all other parties.

Chemical castration, the process of preventing sex hormone production through chemicals, can reduce sexual libido but the effects on those with deviant behaviours are relatively unknown.

Chemical castration can also prove costly as it is not a one-off treatment but rather requires regular interventions, which means the police would be reliant on those sentences to chemical castration making regular trips to the authorities for further treatment.

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