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Twenty years of police work down the toilet

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17:51 CET+01:00
Police officers in the small town of Hagfors in western Sweden have finally made it through their massive stock of toilet paper, twenty years after a shock delivery first took over the local station.

"There were times when we weren't sure we'd make it," said station chief Björn Fredlund.

One March day in 1986 a juggernaut came rolling into town, full to the brim with paper products and plastic bags for the local police station.

Somebody had messed up the invoice and ticked off the box for pallets instead of packets of toilet paper, paper towels, kitchen paper and plastic rubbish bags.

The police chief could only look on in despair as a seemingly endless supply of products was unloaded from the truck.

"He asked the driver to stop. But the driver said it would cost a lot of money to return the goods and that he would need it in writing.

"Nothing was signed and the unloading continued," said Fredlund.

Rather than moaning about getting a bum deal, it was all hands to the pump for the next few hours.

"The driver got help from some of our people. It took them from 8 or 9 in the morning until late in the afternoon to unload it all.

"There was an unbelievable amount of stuff. We filled 12 garages with it all, as well as all other available spaces," said Fredlund.

Just how much was there?

"I don't know how much toilet paper there was but one of my colleagues worked out that there were 550,000 paper towels and 3 million plastic bags," said Fredlund.

There was nothing for it but to get on with the paperwork. As a gesture of neighbourly goodwill, police patrols from other towns in the northern Värmland region would sometimes drop by and take a few rolls back with them from Hagfors.

And this Thursday, 20 years after the original delivery, the final roll of toilet paper finally met its last police posterior.

But was it really a cock-up? Or could it have been a cunning economic plan hatched by the police force of Hagfors?

"Back in 1986 it was the National Police Board that paid. I think it came to 60,000 kronor.

"If it had happened a few years later the local police district would have had to pay," said Fredlund.

And was about the quality of the class of '86? Was the paper still up to the job 20 years later?

"Oh yes, there was nothing wrong with it. It was single sheet mind you, and double would have been nice, but overall it was fine," said Fredlund.

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