A judo club in Stockholm has been at the centre of a “torture scandal” this week, after allegations that youngsters attending a summer camp were physically assaulted by leaders.
But the club chairman’s attempt to contain the scandal with a formal apology was undermined by the news on Friday that one of the participants was recently on trial for murder.
IK Södra, one of the country’s largest and most successful clubs, has for several years run a programme of judo training, sports and games at the camp. But this year parents became concerned after their children came home from the camp “covered in bruises”.
An anonymous father told Dagens Nyheter that there was nothing unusual in coming back from judo training with a few bruises, but “this was far worse”.
One child was so badly marked that his parents reported the matter to the police.
After a police investigation, more of the children spoke up about events at the summer camp. One 11 year old boy described how three children were buried in sand so that only their heads were above the surface, while leaders poured petrol on the ground nearby and set fire to it.
He spoke of a boy who was bullied into drinking a glass of water with a tick – which in Sweden can often carry the Borrelia infection – floating in it.
The boy also told police of a tent at the camp where the leaders had a bong, or water pipe. Children who took a drag on it were promised that their team would win the camp competition.
The most visible damage, the bruising, did not come from judo but from a paintball gun, with which one of the leaders is alleged to have shot at the children in the dark.
“First he shot just to the side of the children, but then it degenerated,” said the father of one of the boys.
“None of the children had body protection or face masks – if a pellet had hit them in the eye they would have been blinded.”
Police are investigating the allegations further. The board of IK Södra made no attempt to defend the actions of the leaders and assured parents that action would be taken.
“I can only say that it’s awful to hear about these things,” said board member Lars Andersson.
He told Swedish Radio that he was unable at this stage to explain how it had happened. The leaders, who are all adults and in many cases have been members of the club since childhood, will be interviewed over the next few days.
“We must get to the truth, and what lies behind what’s happened. We want to know what they were thinking and how they could go astray in this way,” said Andersson.
One of the leaders has now left the club.
But the shadow of violence darkened over the club on Friday when it was revealed that one of the adults who trained with the camp over the summer recently stood trial for the murder of Marcus Gabrielsen on Stockholm’s Kungsgatan in May.
The 19 year old was found not guilty of murder and given a suspended sentence for assaulting Gabrielsen’s friend.
“This guy was at open training,” said a parent.
“I reacted when I saw him – it felt strange to see him there.”
Lars Andersson told Aftonbladet that the IK Södra board had decided after the trial that the young man would no longer represent the club.
” I didn’t know anything about this,” he said.