The 69-year-old man, a resident of Lofthammer in southern Sweden, is now demanding compensation for being falsely accused of murder.
“He has been detained on suspicion of a crime that was never committed,” the man’s attorney, Jonas Granfelt, told the TT news agency.
Granfelt is highly critical of the way in which prosecutors and the police handled the investigation after the 63-year-old woman was found seriously injured near the shore of a lake outside of Loftahammar in northeast Småland in September 2008.
According to the lawyer, investigators were too quick to assume that his client had killed his wife.
“What was first characterized as a murder has now been shown to be a tragic accident,” said police spokeswoman Cecilia Brick at a press conference in nearby Västervik.
She said that the case had been complicated for investigators, with new questions popping up constantly.
Police have conducted hundreds of interviews, as well as employed assistance from the National Laboratory of Forensic Science (Statens kriminaltekniska laboratorium – SKL) and the National Criminal Investigation Department (Rikskriminalpolisen) assailant profiling team.
Johan Bruun, head of forensics with the Kalmar County police department, said he first believed the woman had been killed in a location other than the one where her body was found.
Investigators also believed that strands of hair found on the woman’s body came from a dog.
“The turning point came when we learned from SKL in January that it was hair from an animal in the deer family,” Bruun told TT.
Göran Ericsson, a professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Umeå in northern Sweden, said it’s not uncommon for elk to behave aggressively toward humans or to attack outright, but serious injuries would only likely result following a series of unfortunate circumstances.
He considers the woman’s fatal run in with the elk to be an extremely rare event.
“We’re not aware of any similar case in the world,” he told TT.