Swedish sect murder case set to feature in HBO documentary

HBO Nordic is reportedly working on a documentary about the Knutby sect murder case, a killing in a small town which gripped the country at the time.

Swedish sect murder case set to feature in HBO documentary
Buildings belonging to the parish in Knutby, which was formally closed down in 2018. Photo: Pontus Lundahl / TT

The streaming service is planning a series revolving around the Knutby murder case, according to Expressen's TV blog which was first to report the news.

The small town near Uppsala was rocked by the murder of a young woman and the non-fatal shooting of a man in 2004. The murdered woman's husband was a pastor in the local pentecostal church, described by many as “cult-like”, and the day after the murder, his former nanny confessed to the killing.

It later emerged that the pastor had manipulated the nanny through anonymous text messages she interpreted as messages from God. 

In May 2019, new charges were brought against three former members of the congregation, unrelated to the 2004 case.

READ ALSO: How a small Swedish town ended up at the centre of a sect murder

HBO Nordic confirmed to Expressen that the company was in “advanced stages of development of a documentary series about Knutby”, but could not comment further.

Journalists Anton Berg and Martin Johnson are reportedly working on the documentary series. 

The duo are best known in Sweden for true crime podcast Spår (meaning 'track' or 'trace'), which has looked into some of the best known criminal cases in Swedish history, and whose first series helped acquit one man from murder charges after 13 years behind bars.

The series would be the latest of HBO Nordic's efforts to invest in Swedish original series. 

Its first Nordic series Gösta, which follows a child psychologist who moves from Stockholm to a small rural town, had its premiere earlier this year, and a TV series based on bestselling Swedish author Fredrik Backman's novel Björnstad (Beartown in Swedish translation) is also in the works.

Rival streaming giant Netflix has also invested in Scandinavian original series, including Swedish-language crime drama Quicksand which was launched in April.

READ MORE: Swede acquitted of murder after 13 years in jail – thanks, in part, to a podcast

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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.