Niklas Lindgren, known as the ‘Haga Man’, was arrested at the end of March after his DNA was found to match that of the attacker.
The ‘Haga Man’ name came from the fact that he found his first victim in the Haga area of Umeå, back in 1998. Over the next seven years he terrorised the city with intermittent attacks on lone women late at night.
The prosecution application presented by chief prosecutor Annika Öster relates to six attacks on women aged between 15 and 51. Four of these are categorised as serious rapes, while two were so brutal that they will be tried as attempted murder.
A psychiatric examination of Lindgren showed that he was not suffering from serious psychiatric problems, and was therefore eligible to be jailed rather than sent to a secure hospital if convicted.
Öster outlined the evidence against Lindgren in her submission to the court. Apart from his own confessions and the testimony of his victims and witnesses, the prosecution will cite forensic evidence from the scenes of the rapes, DNA analyses and mobile phone records.
The court will keep records of the women’s testimony secret.
Asked in police questioning by his lawyer Leif Silbersky why he had been so violent towards the women, Lindgren replied that it was a way to keep them quiet and stop them resisting.
Having read about the attacks in the papers he had been scared, and worried that he would be caught. The rapes had not been planned and things had got out of control, he said.
Lindgren claimed that he had chosen his victims randomly. He had not been looking for a particular kind of woman, but had attacked whoever came his way. He also said that he had not planned in advance where to carry out the attacks.
The last of his attacks took place on 10th December 2005. It was also possibly his most violent attack.
In questioning, Lindgren claimed to have only vague memories of the attack, on a 51-year old woman on the Tegsbron bridge in Umeå. He had been at the pub with colleagues and had come out to sober up when he saw the woman.
The prosecution claims that he pushed the woman to the ground, then dragged her along the footpath towards the river. He told her repeatedly that he was going to rape her and kill her. He also punched her several times and stamped on her head and body, held her round the neck as if to strangle her, and bit off a part of one of her ears.
After raping her, the prosecution says that Lindgren tried to kill the woman by strangling her and dragging her to the riverside, where he tried to push her in the water. The victim struggled against him by kicking him and by grabbing on to a tree.
Lindgren was eventually interrupted by a person shouting “what are you doing” from a bridge a short distance away.
Asked by police what the purpose of the attack was, Lindgren replied “rape.” He said that his other attacks had also ended in rape.
The psychiatric report on Lindgren observed that he lived an “apparently well-ordered life with stable social contacts” and that there was “nothing remarkable in his life history or his psychological status.” He had never before been in contact with mental health services.
All the attacks for which Lindgren is being tried took place under similar circumstances. In all cases, he had been at the pub and got drunk, and then raped women he happened upon. It was noted in the psychiatric report that alcohol played a significant role in the rapes and that Lindgren showed signs of behavioural difficulties when he was drunk. The report said that he fulfilled the criteria for being classed as an alcohol abuser.
The report also tackled the five-year period during which the attacks appear to have ceased. Lindgren says he cannot give any explanation for the break in attacks, apart from that he had a lot to do at home and hadn’t been to parties as often. During this period his second child was born.
The Haga Man investigation is one of the biggest ever undertaken in the town of Umeå, 650 kilometres north of Stockholm. Some 14,000 names have been linked to the investigation, 2,500 people have been interviewed and 777 DNA samples have been taken.
Lindgren was arrested on 29th March after a tip-off, and after initially denying involvement in the crimes he confessed three weeks later.
According to Lindgren’s lawyer, Leif Silbersky, there are a number of factors that make it unique.
“In the 44 years that I have been working I have never experienced someone who has been so socially well-established, so well-liked by everyone and so gifted who has lived such a double life,” he said.
“He was extremely relieved to be able to confess.”