Foreword to "Döden är
en man" (Death is a Man).
At the beginning of 1994 I
received a journalism grant from the
National Council for Crime Prevention. My intention was to carry
pilot project which at a future date could be expanded into a
based investigation of the way in which the news media handle
stories. The original issue was not particularly theoretical
character. I simply wanted to compare the news media's portrayal
crime that had attracted attention with the facts in the case.
extent did the general impression which journalists gave of,
example, the evidence in a case, actually correspond with what,
want of a better word, could be called "reality": i.e.
the various facts
which emerged in the preliminary investigation and the trial?
There were several reasons
which persuaded me to choose the case of
Catrine da Costa, the young prostitute whose dismembered body
found in black plastic sacks in Solna in the summer of 1984.
proceedings against the two doctors, who were prosecuted four
later for murdering her and cutting up her body, developed into
has sometimes been called the Swedish criminal case of the century.
The evidence in the case was disputed and the mass media's interest
in the whole business was almost overwhelming.
In addition, I was later to
become curious about this case for more
personal reasons. My wife worked for several years as a forensic
at the Department of Forensic Medicine in Solna after the so-called
Dissector was arrested by the police. I knew a little bit about
the working environment at the
department and I knew that some of the Dissector's former colleagues
highly critical of the legal proceedings. The feeling was that
had been influenced by the public mood, which had been shaped
publicity surrounding the case.
This was to become the other
issue examined in my project. Was there
anything in the material relating to the Catrine da Costa case
suggested that the courts had demonstrated sensitivity to expressions
public opinion? Were there any signs that the publicity surrounding
case had influenced the judicial process?
For various reasons this pilot
project ended up taking far more time than
I had ever imagined it would. In the archives of the courthouse
there are around four thousand pages of trial material. Add to
documents in the Administrative Court of Appeal and Court of
and the exhaustive and secrecy-shrouded police investigation
of the case,
which I was eventually allowed access to. The large numbers of
newspaper articles and radio and TV items about the case made
necessary to impose strict limitations on my choice of extracts
As the work progressed, the
two original questions came to merge into a
third question which was more acute and more alarming. Had the
doctors in fact been victims of a miscarriage of justice?
The reason is simple. The secrecy-shrouded
police investigation, which
I was allowed to study, not only showed very little correspondence
the mass media's description of the case. It also barely met
requirement of the individual's rights under the law, which one
to have been able to demand in the circumstances.
The reader must decide whether
or not the facts aired in the book
answer this overarching question.
It soon became obvious that
the trials of these two doctors are still
highly charged conversational topics for many people who came
contact with them in one way or another. In the course of the
about a hundred people were interviewed. Several of the most
important interviewees made it clear to me from the start that
no intention of repeating in public what they had told me behind
doors. The reason for this will hopefully emerge from the contents
The warm thanks which I wish
to direct to these people will therefore
have to find expression in another context. Here I would like
thank the National Council for Crime Prevention for the grant
enabled me to get the project under way.
The openness and unpretentiousness
on the part of the police with
regard to allowing me insights into the original preliminary
of the case lead me to hope for their understanding also when
to the criticism of the police investigation which is an important
the book's contents.
I am particularly grateful
to Professor Leif G.W. Persson, who, with
patience and great intellectual generosity, acted as facilitator
the project threatened to grind to a halt. Without his support
it would in
practice scarcely have been possible to carry out.
Many thanks also to omniscient
colleagues in the newspaper archives
of Aftonbladet, Dagens Nyheter, Expressen, Svenska Dagbladet
and their esteemed colleagues in The National Archive of Recorded
and Moving Images.
Stockholm, November 1998