• Sweden's news in English

Axe attack feud 'not as simple as it seems'

Peter Vinthagen Simpson · 18 May 2009, 12:10

Published: 18 May 2009 12:10 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The Swedish Supreme Court (Högsta domstolen) will soon rule on whether to grant leave for the five members of the Grönfors family to appeal their convictions for a vicious axe attack against a neighbour in May 2008. The attack was the culmination of more than two decades of conflict in the small community.

The attack left a 47-year-old former neighbour with life-threatening injuries and Allan Grönfors facing eight years in prison for attempted murder. His sisters, brother and father all received sentences in connection with the attack.

It was the unprecedented broad application of the definition of complicity in the crime that led to Maciej Zaremba's deeper interest in the case.

Zaremba found on reading the court documents surrounding the trial that the family members had been convicted as a group and that the evidence presented for the convictions appeared incomplete.

When he then decided to visit the village he found that the motives for the attack were significantly more complicated that the picture presented in the trial and the Swedish media.

The family has repeatedly been described in major Swedish media sources as the "terror family" and the accepted truth is that the family had terrorized their neighbours who had lived in fear for their safety.

Zaremba questions whether these prejudices held against the members of the Grönfors family have affected the judgment of the court.

"One gets a feeling that there is something between the lines in this judgement, which we are expected to have knowledge about and which renders it unnecessary to investigate further," Zaremba writes in Dagens Nyheter.

After three months in the village Zaremba found a contrasting picture to the accepted media interpretation of the conflict. Since the Grönfors' move to Vojakkala in 1986 it is they that have been frozen out, bullied and harassed, Zaremba writes.

The explanation as to why, Zaremba claims, was near at hand.

"'The family', wrote the prosecutor, and meant just that. But in Tornedalen you read: 'The gypsies'."

When the family moved in they tried to employ help to clear the snow on their drive, but were turned down. When they tried to buy hay for their horses: the same response. So it continued for 23 years, according to Hilkka Grönfors.

Zaremba interviewed inhabitants of the village who told of a concerted attempt to freeze out the Grönfors family under the threat of violence for anyone found breaking the boycott.

Allan Grönfors told the court that he attacked the 47-year-old because he wanted him to leave his family in peace. He also wanted him to stop desecrating his mother's memory.

The court did not ask, and was not told, what Allan Grönfors meant but Zaremba has discovered that he was referring to an incident in November 2006 when the 47-year-old threw a paper flower on the Grönfors' front lawn.

The paper flower had been stolen from Allan Grönfors' mother's grave - 350 kilometres away, across the border in Finland. The 47-year-old also claimed to have desecrated the grave and tampered with her body - a claim confirmed by church reports from the time, Zaremba writes.

At the time of the attack, the 47-year-old had moved from Vojakkala and was subject to a restraining order that prevented him from approaching the Grönfors family.

Despite the restraining order his car was parked on the neighbouring property and he was found to have a pistol and 36 rounds of ammunition under his jacket.

Story continues below…

Zaremba writes that the media campaign to discredit the Grönfors' was part of a deliberate approach by the same people who were behind the harassment. He also found that the reason why the Grönfors' side of the story has never emerged is that no journalist had taken the time to visit, and ask.

Zaremba argues that the case raises issues of media ethics but expressed understanding that the story had not been that attractive to investigate.

"When a media picture becomes so massive it can be difficult to understand that the truth can be another," Zaremba said in an interview with Svenska Dagbladet.

Allan Grönfors was convicted in December 2008 for attempted murder and had his sentence raised to eight years by the the Court of Appeal (Hovrätten) for Upper Norrland in April. His sisters Hilkka and Anneli were given eight months for harbouring a known criminal. Brother Demetri and father Yrjö were given six years for planning the attack.

The Supreme Court will soon rule on whether the family members will be given leave to appeal their convictions and the sentences imposed by the appeals court.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

15:07 May 18, 2009 by moh
just wondering if some other foreigners are going through thesame problem.........hate as a result of racism is the most painfull thing to happen to a foreigner....i think
16:02 May 18, 2009 by RocknRoll
this smells of mob justice ... how is Sweden any better than Hungary in this case .. where the gypsies are murdered & discriminated against.

This is a sort of lynching ... should not happen in a country that prides itself in its quest for social eqality, justice & human rights.

So very shameful.
16:14 May 18, 2009 by Keith #5083
restraining order?neighboring property.Pistol + 36 rounds.What is he doing there under these circumstances? Bird watching??? This looks more like 'self defence' than anything else.Axe versus gun? Something strange here.
17:16 May 18, 2009 by DeepFriedTwinky
Great reporting and discovering the truth. After reading this, my view had changed for the family. I hope more comes to light.
21:33 May 18, 2009 by randomboy
Just like Dogville!
23:32 May 18, 2009 by mikelasel
Well RocknRoll its always easy to construct wonderful frames about oneself, Social equality-Justice-Human rights, but its only in real life that the true nature of these notion becomes manifest. The 'great nation of Sweden' will be great only for the Swedes.

So let Social Justice and Human Rights rejoice, I'm being sarcastic of course.
21:55 May 22, 2009 by Spud Lite
The Roma have been in a state of siege globally for hundreds of years. I'm surprised that we are still around.

Some of us are accepted, because we have assimilated, bought houses, gotten normal jobs (other than seasonal fruit-picking and the like), and not identified ourselves as Roma.

Those who maintain the traditional lifestyle are generally reviled throughout the world, with the exception of France where we can congregate annually in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer for weddings and other festivities. Roma-bashing will never end.
01:46 May 23, 2009 by Coalbanks
I'm not sure that 'Roma-bashing" is the whole of this story: desecration of a grave? restraining order & a loaded firearm? The possibility of justifiable homicide is a distinct possibility, given the lack of information provided it's difficult to say for sure, as is the case for self-defense against "Roma-bashing", given the long-standing animosity between the Roma & other residents in the area.
12:15 August 2, 2009 by romani1
Its suprice me as a human right fighter, a formernational advisor for the word. Ewrybody took it for grant, that the romafamily, was the problem. Then one day Anneli Grönfors, caled me and askin for help. When I heard the right side of the story and red the good atricle, abouoth the journalis, wha has spen a night there. She told ewerything, like Anneli was. So once again , Sweden and Finland shows the right side of the human right, in theese countryes, i was compleatly chocked. I, who has been in Kosovo, and with my expirence, was totaly out. Thats life for the romagroup in our countries. So what is the differen betwen Hungary who is killing and doing much bad and we try to help the people in this coutnries, meet the doverments, the NGO groups e.t.c.. We have to stan up for the familys, liked the Grönfors in Sweden. Im going to do ewerything to help the family and would be glad if some media wont to talk to me or whatewer. Im ready. Here is my address valamahelge@hotmail.com
11:43 August 10, 2009 by Amies2277

And this is the Finnish media side of the story.
Today's headlines
Löfven: 'Sweden will double its number of troops in Iraq'
Stefan Löfven and Haider al-Abadi during the visit on Monday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has promised to double his country's number of troops in Iraq following a meeting with Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi on Monday.

Will Swedes soon be looking for fairtrade porn?
Should Swedes think fairtrade with porn? Photo: Karin Malmhav/SvD/TT

A fairtrade attitude to pornography would be beneficial, Sweden's health minister told The Local.

Presented by Stockholm University
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

Nordic fashion took centre stage in the Swedish capital last week as Stockholm University hosted the “first-ever” academic conference looking at luxury and sustainability in the fashion industry.

Referee, coach and parents in Swedish youth football fight
File photo of a referee holding a red card not related to the story. Photo: Stefan Jerrevång/TT

A football dad broke his leg in the brawl in front of 11-year-old kids after a Hammarby youth football game.

Illicit abattoir kept more than 100 bulls' penises
A couple of young bulls not related to the story. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Dried cattle genitalia, goats' heads and hundreds of litres of lard were just a few of the many strange finds discovered when police raided a property in Sweden.

This is officially Sweden's most beautiful beard
The most beautiful beard in Sweden. Photo: Memo Göcek

According to a jury of barbers and 'well known bearded profiles', that is.

Presented by Invest Stockholm
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm

You might think it’s hard to make friends in a new city. But if at first you don’t succeed – try something else!

Injured Swedish photographer protected by 'guardian angel'
Swedish photographer Paul Hansen on another occasion. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Photographer Paul Hansen thanked his lucky stars for surviving sniper fire while covering the battle for the Isis-held city of Mosul in Iraq.

How Sweden is trying to smooth relations with Saudis
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven meeting Saudi Arabia's Trade Minister Majid bin Abdullah Al Qasabi. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has visited Saudi Arabia a year and a half after relations turned frosty in a major diplomatic row.

My Swedish Career
'Swedish people love it, but they find it quite odd'
Scottish entrepreneur William Macdonald. Photo: Michael Campanella

Meet the web developer and entrepreneur using traditional Scottish ceilidh dancing to break the ice with Swedes.

Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
People-watching: October 21st-23rd
Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
People-watching: October 12th
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
Missing rune stone turns up in Sweden
Nobel Prize 2016: Chemistry
jobs available