Why prosecutor dropped probe against Swedish couple ‘who isolated children for years’

A Swedish prosecutor closed a police investigation into two parents who had isolated their children after she was unable to show they had committed a crime, local police have confirmed.

Why prosecutor dropped probe against Swedish couple 'who isolated children for years'
Police spokesperson Ewa Gun Westford said that the case could be reopened if the children start to speak against their parents. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Ewa-Gun Westford, press spokesperson for the police's Southern Sweden region, said the social services in the municipality of Ystad had filed four police reports about the parents, one for each of their four youngest children. 
“We had a meeting with the authorities in Ystad and the prosecutors, and decided that we had to move further on with our investigations,” she told The Local. “But she couldn't find that any crime had been committed against the children.” 
The case shocked Sweden on Monday when a series of articles in the Sydsvenskan newspaper described how the family's house in the countryside of Skåne had been raided in August last year, and four of the five children taken into care, after the local schools chief realized they were not receiving an education. 
According to the articles, the house appeared abandoned from the outside and while neighbours sometimes heard the voices of the children, they never saw them.
The parents had claimed to be educating the children using a US online school, but this turned out not to be the case. 
Westford said that it was up to the social services and not the police to act against the couple for failing to send their children to school and isolating them socially. 
“Our responsibility is real crime: if they had hit them or sexually abused them,” she said. “Now the children are in new families, and perhaps later on if they start to tell stories, then we can reopen the investigation again.” 
Westford stressed that as far as she knew the reporting of the case in Sydsvenskan had been “very correct”. 
The parents, however, claim that their family and style of parenting has been unfairly portrayed.  
“They think everything is lies against them, so they have gone to court. They are very angry of course,” Westford said. 
“This is very, very unusual. They have lived under the radar for so many years, and it's very strange.” 

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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.