Lund district court convicted the man of assaulting the woman outside a supermarket in Landskrona. The attack caused her to fall over and sustain injuries to the back of her head that led to her death in hospital two days later. The 23-year-old was also found guilty of assaulting the woman's 71-year-old husband.
The 23-year-old was also ordered by the court to pay 25,000 kronor ($3,500) in damages to the 78-year-old's husband and her estate.
The Lund court said the 23-year-old would have faced a slightly longer sentence of two years had he not suffered from psychological problems. An examination carried out by the National Board of Forensic Medicine (Rättsmedicinalverket) found the he had long suffered from a form of constant anxiety and related stomach complaints which made him less well-equipped for jail than the majority of prisoners.
The court found that the 23-year-old punched the 71-year-old man in the head and back in an unprovoked attack. He also punched the 78-year-old woman in the head when she intervened to help her husband.
The 23-year-old was fully aware that he was hitting an elderly woman, the court found.
The 23-year-old's credibility in the case was damaged by the fact that he left the car park immediately after the attack and did not make himself known before the police arrived at his home to place him under arrest. When questioned by police, he denied having been at the scene of the crime.
The 71-year-old on the other hand provided the court with consistent information from the outset. The court also took into account the fact that a man who witnessed the attack from a nearby restaurant provided a different account than the 23-year-old as to why the woman fell to the ground.
Details provided by the 23-year-old's 9-year-old niece were of very limited value, the court said, since the perpetrator had four days to exert his influence on the girl before his arrest.
The 23-year-old's lawyer Leif Silbersky immmediately anounced his intention to appeal the verdict.
“I don't agree with the district court's evaluation of the evidence,” he said.
Name and address details of the 23-year-old and his family were posted on several websites after his arrest. Because of the heightened threat level, the man and his lawyer hesitated before appealing an earlier remand ruling as they considered it “safer” for him to remain in custody.
The 23-year-old comes from a family of immigrants and his arrest led to ethnic tensions in Landskrona. The right-wing extremist National Democrats called a public meeting in the town square to “protest against anti-Swedishness”. Seeking to counter a rising tide of racial antagonism, organizations including the Church of Sweden and the local Islamic society held their own anti-violence demonstrations.
“But this isn't a problem specific to Landskrona,” said Urban Jansson, the 23-year-old's original defence lawyer.
“This incident could have happened anywhere and most of the comments on the internet probably weren't written from here.”