Yesterday, a Swedish judge dismissed murder charges against Thomas Quick aka Sture Bergwall. This is the eighth murder conviction that has been overturned against Quick/Bergwall, who has been incarcerated since 1994 when he confessed to a number of crimes. Now he is petitioning for release from the psychiatric facility where he has been held.
But even if Quick did not commit all or any of these murders, he is a pedophile, bank robber, and once stabbed a man and left him for dead.
Thomas Quick was born Sture Bergwall in 1950 in Korsnäs, Sweden. He and his twin sister were the fifth and sixth of seven children in the family. Quick says his earliest memory, at the age of four, was his father fellating him. His pregnant mother walked in on the pair and collapsed. She suffered a miscarriage. Later Quick and his father bicycled to nearby Lake Runn where, Quick says, his father disposed of the stillborn infant’s remains at a place called Främby Point. Quick says that his mother grew to hate him and, a year or so after her miscarriage, tried to drown him in Lake Runn. Years later, Quick said that he buried a body nearby. Police have thoroughly searched Främby Point and found no sign of a body, infant or otherwise. Nor is there any record of Quick’s mother being pregnant in 1954, nor of a miscarriage.
When Quick was fourteen, he discovered that he was gay. He was ashamed and afraid to tell his parents. His first victim was killed at this time, he claims. Quick killed him in a shed, leaving his face bloody and his clothes ripped. But witnesses say that Quick was at Communion with his sister when the crime took place four hundred kilometers away. Photographs bear out the witness statements. Next, Quick said he killed another boy in a distant town in 1967. Quick’s sister said that he was nowhere near the town where the murder occurred, also distant from their home. By the time Quick confessed, the statute of limitations had run out on the crimes and, anyway, he was a juvenile at the time of the alleged killings. The first victim’s name was Thomas and was combined with Ms. Bergwall’s maiden name of Quick to create the pseudonym by which he wanted to be known. It was in his teens that Quick began using drugs, mainly amphetamines.
When Thomas Quick was nineteen, he claimed to have met the only love of his life, an older man named Tom (!). After Tom committed suicide, Quick says that he became deranged. He sexually assaulted an eleven-year-old boy. Two more such incidents followed, then Quick assaulted a nine-year-old patient at the hospital where he worked. He held his hand over the boy’s face to quiet his screams. When he took his hand away, he saw blood and thought he had killed the boy. Quick was apprehended and the witness/victim statements are enough to show that these attacks were no fantasy. Quick was committed to a mental hospital, received residential treatment, and went in for a stay at the Säter mental institution, where he is incarcerated today.
Released from care, Quick was twenty-three when he picked up another man at a gay bar in Uppsala. There was an argument in the man’s apartment and Quick wound up stabbing him. Quick says that he had been sniffing trichloroethelyne which sometimes produces hallucinations. He hallucinated that the man was a monster and so, he had to defend himself. The victim, alive today, disputes this version. He says that they were talking and drinking, maybe fooling around a little when Quick suddenly attacked him. He remembers Quick calmly cleaning his fingerprints off the knife, then walking out to leave his victim — stabbed twelve times in the liver, guts, and lungs — to bleed to death. When he was arrested, Quick claimed innocence for a while, then switched stories and said that he had become enraged when a third man left the apartment. The victim says that there was no third man. Quick was sent back to Säter where he remained until 1977.
Once released, Quick went back using amphetamines. He was involved in some petty crimes — a fake hold-up, an arson attempt — then, in 1990, he and an eighteen-year-old companion, wearing Santa Claus masks, broke into the home of a bank manager. The pair was armed. Quick raged about the house, stabbing the walls, claiming that he had AIDS and would infect the bank manager’s wife and ten-year-old son unless the man cooperated. The manager and Quick’s companion then went to the bank to get money, leaving Quick with the terrified woman and child. Later that afternoon, Quick was apprehended and once again sent to Säter.
Over the next year or two Quick began seeing psychiatrists and found that he was an uninteresting patient — until, that is, he told about being sexually abused by his father. That made the doctor sit up and take notice. After a time, he confessed to a murder, though his account was too confused for anyone to take seriously. Every now and again, Quick was allowed a day trip to the library where he began researching murders, including that of the boy named Thomas. Then he would come back to the hospital with grisly new details to give his interviewers. During this period Quick was being administered drugs, a lot of drugs: Xanax, Halcion, Treo, Rohypnol, Panacod, and heroic amounts of Valium. Quick discovered that confessing to murder got him more drugs, so he began confessing to more murders.
Psychology professor Sven Christianson now took an interest in Quick and began lengthy interviews with him. Christianson had police connections and told them he had located a man who could clear many unsolved murders. The police were delighted. They took Quick to the areas where murders were supposed to have occurred and Quick re-enacted them. Christianson helped in this process. One officer, Jan Olsson, was involved in two later reconstructions and was dismayed by the procedures. Crime scenes were already set up before Quick got there, rather than having him tell the investigators where things happened. It seemed to Olsson that Quick was being coached, too. No one listened to Olsson and he quit the investigation. By the way, before these re-enactments, Quick was allowed doses of Xanax.
In 1993, police informed the parents of Johan Asplund, who had gone missing at the age of eleven in 1980, that a mental patient had confessed to killing their son. The parents, who had divorced when Johan was three, did not believe it. They thought they knew who had abducted their son and told the police: a man who Johan’s mother had broken up with was their suspect. The police were convinced otherwise. The Asplund parents became convinced that the police were feeding evidence to Quick and were careful what they told them. For instance, they didn’t mention a birthmark on Johan’s backside until pressured by the police. A few days later, the birthmark appeared in Quick’s testimony.
Quick piled on the confessions. The same psychologist interviewed him,the same police officers investigated, the same police sniffer dog was sent out to search for remains. No remains were found, although the sniffer dog did give positive responses at several locations. Then a single piece of charred bone that had been cut by an edged tool was identified by one forensic expert at a place where Quick said that he had burned a chopped-up body. Although he is homosexual, Quick claimed that he had raped one of two women he claimed to have murdered and semen was found in her body. Eventually the police began charging Quick with murders, eight altogether. Prosecutions proceeded and Quick was found guilty eight times between 1994 and 2001.
In 1998, Quick wrote his life story including the tales of abuse, miscarriage, and secret burial. Quick’s older brother, Sten-Ove Bergwall, had also written a book, My Brother, Thomas Quick, in which he refuted these tales. Quick began sending him hate mail. He wrote one letter to Sten-Ove’s wife accusing her new husband of child abuse. Just in case Sten-Ove was destroying the letters unopened, Quick began writing his messages on the outside of the envelope. When Sten-Ove was in hospital awaiting cardiac surgery, Quick called him and said, “I hope your heart explodes.”
By 2001, Quick had confessed to thirty or so killings and might have admitted more except that a new psychiatrist at Säter, appalled by Quick’s drug intake, cut down his supply. Coincidentally, perhaps, Quick stopped confessing.
Everyone knew that some of the thirty killings had never happened because the victims turned up alive. But Psychologists, police, judges, and Quick’s own lawyer were unwilling to give up on the eight prosecutions, two of them without bodies. Still, many people had questions. One author identified Quick as a serial hoaxer. The Asplunds sued the man who they believed had taken their son and won, although the decision was later overturned. The semen in the dead woman was found not to be Quick’s but he was convicted anyway. The charred bone turned out to be a piece of wood. The Chancellor of Justice reviewed the trials in 2006 and decided that the convictions would stand.
Then, in 2008, film-maker Hannes Råstam, looked at the police re-enactments and noticed that Quick seemed to be dazed or stoned. He began interviewing Quick and, after three months, Quick admitted that he had never killed anyone. Råstam made a television documentary that, on top of efforts made by many other people, caused re-examination of the murders. Quick’s new lawyer pressed to have the convictions overturned and, one by one, they have been.
The Ministry of Justice has ordered a review of the entire Quick matter. There are a great many people facing humiliation. As might be expected, many of them are convinced that Quick really did kill those people, or some of them anyway. The police investigators are the ones going to get the really tough questions, including the handler of the sniffer dog. The prosecutor of six of the Quick murders is still convinced of his guilt and even claims that the fragment of wood is bone, after all. Sven Christianson, the psychologist who first got the case going, is also convinced that Quick is a violent sex criminal. He points out that he is still regarded by the police and the courts as an expert in these matters. Quick greatly enjoyed his attention — a real professor coming to interview him! And he also enjoyed having a famous attorney, Claes Borgström, who was a political star and was, for a time, Sweden’s Ombudsman in charge of gender equality. Borgström is under investigation by the Swedish Attorney’s Union for what one lawyer has described as “the worst defense counsel job in modern Swedish history”. He is also counsel for the two women accusing Julian Assange of rape.
So, probably, the man who now calls himself by his birth name, Sture Bergwall, will soon walk the streets. For a while he will be famous and important but, as this matter winds down, as eventually it will, fewer people will care about him. And my question is, what will Thomas Quick do then to re-assert his importance?
Much of the above, including info about Sten-Ove Bergwall, is from this article by Chris Heath.
Some points were gotten from an article for The Observer by Elizabeth Day.
Sture Berwall/Thomas Quick has a blog; it’s in Swedish but translation devices abound. Here is a 2012 post on his lawyer Claes Borgström.
Hannes Råstam’s book, Thomas Quick: The Making of a Serial Killer, was published posthumously last year.