Scary taxis lure crime freaks to Stockholm

A new crime tour of Stockholm offers a unique glimpse of Swedish crime history from the comfort of a taxi cab. But will the pricey ride really lure tourists? The Local’s Sophie Inge investigates.

Scary taxis lure crime freaks to Stockholm
Stockholm by night. Scary? Photo: Helena Wahlman

It’s 8:30pm in Stockholm’s Old Town, Gamla Stan, and the cobbled streets are packed with tourists and locals sampling the island’s many restaurants and bars.

It was at this time on the evening of February 28th 1986 that the then Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme and his wife Lisbeth entered Gamla Stan subway station. They planned to take a train to a cinema just a few stops away.

In just a few hours, he would be dead, and Sweden would launch one of the biggest murder investigations of all time.

Tonight, I’m in a cab hired for the slightly ghoulish experience of tracking the last movements of some of the victims of Stockholm’s most shocking crimes.

But this is no ordinary crime tour. I’ll be observing each scene with the help of an iPad fitted with GPS positioning as my guide.

Launched by Taxi Stockholm this week, the creepy ride is just one of the tours on offer as part of the cab company's Explore Stockholm initiative.

It's designed to appeal to appeal to fans of Nordic Noir and, undoubtedly, also to users of the rival car-sharing service, Uber, which has recently been eroding the business of regular cabs.

Whichever firm you use, taxis never come cheap in Stockholm. But at 950 kronor ($113), this tour is not one to be undertaken lightly. So, can it offer a suitably scary experience for Noir-loving tourists?

Screengrab: YouTube

The taxi pulls away from Gamla Stan subway station. We leave Palme and his wife to catch their train (we’ll be joining them later) and head for the Normalm district, which is home to some of Sweden’s biggest designer stores.

Time to fast-forward almost 20 years to the afternoon of September 11th 2003, when Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh and her friend arrived in the area to do some clothes shopping.

As they passed some of the more exclusive shops, Lindh pointed out some of the telephone-number prices to her friend and laughed.

In the end, they both entered Nordiska Kompaniet, one of Sweden’s flashiest department stores, where the Foreign Minister hoped to find a smart jacket to wear for a televised debate later that evening. The subject was the referendum about Sweden’s adoption of the euro, so she knew the programme would be watched by millions.

But she would never make it. Suddenly, as Lindh’s friend watched in horror, the minister was pushed into a clothes rail and stabbed in the chest, abdomen and arms.

Back in my 21st century cab, I’m now driving past the store. The screen in front of me is showing the original subtitled news reports as well as interviews with witnesses. Finally there are reports on the arrest of the murderer.

Later in the tour we join the trail of Palme and his wife as they leave the Grand Cinema and walk to the spot where he will be shot – the junction between Sveavägen and Tunnelgatan.

Many of the shops have changed since then and there’s nothing but a small plaque to mark the place where he died.

The original footage, however, brings the crime scene into sharp focus, in a way that no walking tour could quite match.

Palme’s assassin was never found, but my iPad guide offers several theories about his death – including the possibility of a link with another crime on the tour.

From an international perspective, the murders of Lindh and Palme are the most notorious Swedish crimes of recent years, but the other crimes included on my drive round Stockholm are just as intriguing.

You’ve no doubt heard of ‘Stockholm syndrome’ – but did you know about the crime that led to the coining of the term? Now you can draw up at the former bank where hostages in a siege showed sympathy for their captors – and were later immortalised in the phrase.

Our final stop is a rather unremarkable building: a former cash depo in Västberga, in the south of the city, where robbers used a helicopter to carry out a spectacular theft in 2009. The only remaining trace of the crime is a metal fence at the top of the building, installed to prevent helicopters from landing.

The tour ends. I've had an unexpectedly enjoyable and informative ride. Whether many will want to spend so much time in a taxi during Stockholm's current heatwave is another matter – but the dark and cold winter months will certainly help create the right atmosphere. 

As I leave the car, I reflect on the very safe, peaceful city where I’ve lived for the past few years. It hasn’t made me more wary, but it’s ensured that I’ll never view Stockholm in quite the same light again.

The crime tour was launched by Taxi Stockholm as part of Explore Stockholm.


Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

A man was shot to death in Kristianstad, Skåne, late on Thursday night. He is the 48th person to be shot dead in Sweden this year, meaning that the previous record for most fatal shootings in one year set in 2020 has now been broken.

Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

“Unfortunately we can’t say more than that he’s in his twenties and we have no current suspects,” duty officer Mikael Lind told TT newswire.

According to police statistics, this most recent deadly shooting means that 48 people have been shot to death in 2022, meaning that Sweden has broken a new record for deadly shootings per year.

Earlier this week, Sweden’s police chief Anders Thornberg said that this number is likely to rise even higher before the end of the year.

“It looks like we’re going to break the record this year,” he told TT on Tuesday. “That means – if it continues at the same pace – around 60 deadly shootings.”

“If it ends up being such a large increase that would be very unusual,” said Manne Gerell, criminiologist at Malmö University.

“We saw a large increase between 2017 and 2018, and we could see the same now, as we’re on such low figures in Sweden. But it’s still worrying that it’s increasing by so much over such a short time period,” he said.

There also seems to be an upwards trend in the number of shootings overall during 2022. 273 shootings had occured by September 1st this year, compared with 344 for the whole of 2021 and 379 for the whole of 2020.

If shootings continue at this rate for the rest of 2022, it is likely that the total number for the year would be higher than 2021 and 2020. There are, however, fewer injuries.

“The majority of shootings cause no injuries, but this year, mortality has increased substantially,” Gerell explained. “There aren’t more people being shot, but when someone is shot, they’re more likely to die.”

Thursday’s shooting took place in Kristianstad, but it’s only partially true that deadly gun violence is becoming more common in smaller cities.

“It’s moved out somewhat to smaller cities, but we’re overexaggerating that effect,” Gerell said. “We’re forgetting that there have been shootings in other small cities in previous years.”

A report from the Crime Prevention Council (Brå) presented last spring showed that Sweden, when compared with 22 different countries in Europe, was the only one with an upwards trend for deadly shootings.

Temporary increases can be seen during some years in a few countries, but there were no countries which showed such a clear increase as Sweden has seen for multiple years in a row, according to Brå.

The Swedish upwards trend for deadly gun violence began in the beginning of the 2000s, but the trend took off in 2013 and has continued to increase since.

Eight of ten deadly shootings take place in criminal environments, the study showed. The Swedish increase has taken place in principle only among the 20-29 year old age group.

When police chief Anders Thornberg was asked how the trend can be broken, he said that new recruitments are one of the most important factors.

“The most important thing is to break recruitment, make sure we can listen encrypted and that we can get to the profits of crime in a better way,” he said.