The mystery started when local residents in Skellefteå – a municipality of around 72,000 people almost 800 kilometres north of Stockholm – spotted the scarf on the floor in one of the many pictures showing the debris left by a violent mob of Trump supporters who stormed the US Capitol during a joint session of Congress.
Skellefteå council officials confirmed to local newspaper Norran that it was one of around 1,000 scarfs they sent as Christmas gifts in 2017 to residents who had moved away from the area, an annual tradition.
“We've been doing it for at least five years. The gifts have varied, one year we sent out Pride mittens,” Skellefteå marketing director Helena Renström told Norran.
Swedish national daily Dagens Nyheter (DN) then managed to track down several pictures of a man wearing the scarf while taking part in the riot. He can be seen waving an American flag outside the Capitol, pushing against the police fences, as well as inside the building discussing the floor plan with other people, among other places.
— Chris Morris ??⚖⚡ (@cm_merlin) January 13, 2021
The man had as of noon on Thursday not been identified – and it is not known whether he is a Swedish national or not. DN has gone through a list of the 934 people who received the red scarfs in 2017. Out of those, only one lives in the US, a woman. She told DN that she received socks, not a scarf, and did not recognise the man.
Här är mannen som bar den svenska halsduken under stormningen av Kapitolium. Tidigare opublicerade bilder visar hur han deltar i mobben som trycker på mot kravallstaketen utanför kongressbyggnaden och hur han sedan bär en kravallhjälm från en polisman. https://t.co/cuJfbiuvI5
— Peter Wolodarski (@pwolodarski) January 12, 2021
The man has also been identified as a “person of interest in unrest-related offenses” by the Metropolitan Police in Washington DC, who are appealing for more information.
Meanwhile, he has been dubbed “the Skellefteå man” in some of Sweden's biggest newspapers, who are racing to unpick the mystery of the red scarf.
“You really want to know how the scarf made it to the US and how the man got hold of it. Nobody would have thought that such a small town in northern Sweden would play such a big part in such a mockery of democracy,” Skellefteå resident Johanna-Lovisa Vannebäck, the first person who spotted the scarf, told Aftonbladet.