Knife terror attack was to 'hit back at the Swedish people'

TT/The Local
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Knife terror attack was to 'hit back at the Swedish people'
Court illustration from the trial of Theodor Engström. Illustration: Johan Hallnäs/TT

Theodor Engström, who fatally stabbed a psychiatrist at this summer's Almedalen political festival, told a court on Wednesday that he had wanted "to hit back at the Swedish people".


In a high and clear voice, the 33-year-old explained why he had fatally stabbed psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren, adding that he had also included Centre Party leader Annie Lööf and Hanna Stjärne, the CEO of Sweden’s state broadcaster SVT, among  "hundreds" of possible targets.

In the middle of the hearing, Engström began to feel so misunderstood and agitated that the court chairman ordered the court to take a break."Absolutely unbelievable!" Engström exclaimed as officers handcuffed him.

Engström, who is standing trial on both murder and terror charges, has suffered mental health issues for many years, with a forensic psychiatric investigation showing that he was suffering from a serious mental disorder both during the attack and during the investigation.

This also became more apparent during the latter part of Wednesday's court hearings, as the 33-year-old became more and more agitated by prosecutor Henrik Olin's questions, with his responses becoming more incoherent as time went on.

"That's when he froze up," defence lawyer Staffan Fredriksson later told the press.

As Olin attempted to get answers for concrete questions, Engström wanted to explain his thought process and "his reality". His agitation seemed to stem from the fact that he felt Olin's questions were irrelevant and that he was not allowed to defend himself.


After the court chairman called a break, Engström was less interested in answering questions from both the prosecutor and his own defence lawyer.

Prior to this, Engström discussed how he had been in a bad state for a long time, feeling lonely, rejected and betrayed by society and healthcare.

"I have spent my life in what I call a 'ghost cage', in the family home," he said, "with almost no contact with other human beings outside the family home."

During preliminary investigations, Engström also used this terminology, calling himself a spökpojke ('ghost boy'), who had "signalled" that something was up through a "ghost dance". 

He described the attack, which resulted in the death of Ing-Marie Wieselgren, psychiatrist and national coordinator for psychiatric issues in Sweden's Municipalities and Regions, as a "suicide bombing".

He stated that his attack was not targeted at her specifically, rather towards her profession and her role in society.

Engström had been aware of Wieselgren for some time and saw her as a representative of failed psychiatric care. Despite this, his plans to attack her were only formed upon arrival in Visby, as he checked the programme for the Almedalen week.

"It fell into place. I wanted to hit back at the Swedish people as much as I could," he said, explaining that he chose Almedalen due to the strong symbolic value the event holds in Swedish society.

This is one of the reasons why the prosecutor argues the acts should be seen as terror attacks, which is the case for attacks where Sweden could have been seriously harmed and where the perpetrator's intention was to instil serious fear into the Swedish population.


Engström was also asked if he regrets the murder.

"No," he answered quickly.

He had shown interest in Centre Party leader Annie Lööf for a number of years, but said this was not a fixation, and that he didn't go to Visby with a specific plan to attack her.

"She was a possible target along with many others, hundreds of other targets," he said.

His lawyer Staffan Fredriksson said that the defence believed the chance of him actually carrying out the plotted crime against Lööf was low. Fredriksson also likened the prosecution's proof that Engström had searched for and saved images of Lööf over the years as "picking raisins out of a cake", as it reflected only a few pieces of a fundamentally large collection of evidence.


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