Transcript: 1. Sweden - The Tent Killings at Lake Appojaure

This is The Evidence Locker.


Our cases have been researched using open source and archive materials. It deals with true crimes and real people. Each episode is produced with the utmost respect to the victims, their families and loved ones. 


It was after 9pm on Friday night the 13th of July 1984. A family of three from Gothenburg were travelling in the scenic Lapland mountains in the north of Sweden. In the arctic circle, July is the time for The Midnight Sun, which means the sun doesn’t set at all. It is bright and light for 24 hours a day. It was late summer, and it had been raining for a couple of days. 


When they drove down a side road off the Porjus Road to take in the scenery of Lake Appojaure, they could never have imagined what awaited them. A grisly discovery was about to change their holiday into a nightmare.


50 metres from the main road, they saw a Toyota Corina with foreign number plates at a camp site. There was a collapsed tent with something bulging underneath the canvas. They thought someone, a poacher, had hidden a dead reindeer inside the tent and left. But when they saw a lifeless human hand sticking out of the tent, they realised that something horrible must have taken place at this peaceful camping spot.


The remains were those of Janny and Marinus Stegehuis, a Dutch couple in their 30s who were vacationing in Sweden. 


One of Sweden’s most extensive investigations followed, spanning over more than three decades. 


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Marinus and Janny Stegehuis came from Almelo, an industrial town of about 70 000 people in the Netherlands. In 1984, they had been married for 13 years and had not children. Janny was a clerk at a recreation center and Marinus was a factory worker at Philips. 


For three years the couple saved up to go on their dream vacation: a trip to Norway, Sweden and Finland. They loved nature and both of them were keen photographers. Visiting this part of the world was exactly their cup of tea: unspoilt natural beauty and a sun that never sets.


They left Almelo at the beginning of July and travelled in their own car, a green Toyota Carina, through West Germany and Denmark to reach their first destination: Ödeshög in the South of Sweden where they stayed with relatives. This area is known for its natural beauty and breath-taking views of Lake Vättern. It has a rich bird life and nature enthusiasts like Marinus and Janny would find it hard to leave such an idyllic spot. 


But they did move on. Marinus and Janny, got into their car and carried on the trip of a lifetime. Their next stop was Finland, where visited some friends in the West coast city of Vaasa. Vaasa has a rich history and tourist sites include an Iron Age burial ground and walking trails. These are sights that the Dutch couple, being nature enthusiasts, would have visited. After saying farewell to their friends in Vaasa, they drove up to the North Cape, the Northernmost point of Europe, where the Atlantic meets the Arctic Ocean, before they started winding their way down south through Sweden.


  • - To have a better understanding of their trip, do have a look in the show notes for a map of their itinerary. It was a huge, anti-clockwise loop, covering many, many miles.


Marinus and Janny were a quiet couple who enjoyed the freedom of travelling and stopping as they pleased. They enjoyed the peace and mostly kept to themselves during their trip.  They would often stop to appreciate the scenery and take photos for about 15 minutes at a time. If they’d had enough driving for one day, they’d pitch their tent, spend the night and carry on with their road trip the following day.


But this dream holiday would be the last holiday they’d ever take.


Janny kept a diary of their travels and recorded the movements of their last days. As planned, they entered Sweden from Finland in the North, starting their southward journey back home to the Netherlands. But after many miles, their car was starting to give them some trouble. It wasn’t always starting and was running a bit rough. They couldn’t take the risk of getting stuck next to the road and decided to find a mechanic.


Soon after crossing the border from the North into Sweden, they arrive in the town of Kiruna. A mechanic was able to help them to repair the ailing car. It turned out to be the condenser, so they spent the night in the nearby town of Vittangi while the Toyota was being repaired. 


On the morning of Thursday July 12th, they refuelled at the Shell service station in Skaulo, halfway between Kiruna and their destination of Lake Appojaure. This would be the last time anyone would see them alive.


After refuelling they drove for about an hour, then found an idyllic spot next to Lake Appojaure. Not wanting to push the luck with their newly repaired car, they decided to stop. The camping site is on Lake Appojaure, nestled in the Lapland mountains, conveniently close to the towns of Gällivare and Jokkmokk.


The scenery is spectacular, with lakes, mountains and what seems to be an endless sky. In summer forests are green and birds are everywhere. Winding through untouched natural beauty with reindeer prancing and birds swooping – some might say this is as close to heaven as you’ll get.


The Stegehuis couple found a quiet spot with a panoramic view of Lake Appojaure and decided to set up camp for the night. There were wooden logs used for benches and a fire pit. At around 4:30 in the afternoon, after they had pitched their tent, they drove to the Great Falls National Park for some sightseeing. They returned at 7pm they returned, ate a simple meal of green beans and sausages, and hoped that the weather would turn so that they could make the most of the last leg of their trip. 


In Janny’s diary, she starts off by mentioning the car trouble:


“Condenser broken. Drove to Great Falls National Park. Beautiful Surroundings. Took pictures. Filmed reindeer and saw a stoat behind the car. Pitched the tent at 4:30 in the forest. Mosquitoes continue to torment us. It drizzled all 150km from Kiruna. It cleared up later. Now it’s raining. Here’s to our car being back on track!”


Marinus and Janny went to bed in their brown, two person-tent. Snuggled up into their own sleeping bags, they said goodnight to each other for what would be the last time. 


The idyllic scene from a couple of hours before turned into a haunting bloodbath of violence and murder. As they were sleeping, they were stabbed through the canvas of their tent by an unknown assailant and left for dead.


Janny died, lying on her right side with her head close to Marinus’ body. The rain fell as the souls of Marinus and Janny left their bodies. The rain Janny mentioned in her diary was more than a vacation spoiler, it also washed away crucial evidence after the perpetration of the crime. Water washed away footprints and a puddle formed around a bloodied knife, left behind by the killer. The same knife that the vacationing couple had used to prepare their last dinner on the night of the 12th of July.


Murder is not a common occurrence in the far-North part of Sweden. In fact, this was the first case on record where tourists had been murdered in the area.


Officer Harry Brännstörm was spending his Friday night at home, in the sauna, when he received the call at 10pm, summoning him to the crime scene. Together with his colleague, Enar Jakobsson, they took the 6-mile drive from Gällivare to Lake Appojaure. They speculated as they were driving and concluded that it had to be a suicide. Murder wasn’t something that happened here.


It was 11:30pm when police officers Brännstörm and Jakobsson initiated the crime scene investigation at the camping site. As the midnight sun was out, they could start the investigation with the advantage of daylight.

Noticing the car had Dutch number plates, investigators could quickly determine that the couple were not local to the area.


The tent had a brown outer canvas and a yellow inner-canvas with an insect-net on the inside. When police reached the scene, it had collapsed with all ten pegs had been pulled out of the ground. 


Sometime during the nightless night, while they were fast asleep, someone launched an attack on the pair. The assailant hacked through the canvas of the tent with knives. The Stegehuises had no chance, there was no way they could have defended themselves against this sudden, brutal attack.


Harry Brännstörm remembered lifting the tent covers for the first glance. Nothing could prepare him for the macabre sight on the inside: “It was like a slaughterhouse”.


From the entrance of the tent, Marinus was to the left and Janny to the right. Both were in their sleeping bags. Marinus had a slight build, was 167cm tall with short, dark blonde hair. 

Janny was a bit shorter than Marinus and had short, greying brown hair. 


The cuts on Janny’s body totalled 20. When police found her, Janny’s clothes were very bloody, she had deep stab wounds between her shoulders and was bleeding heavily from her mouth. She was also cut on the front of her torso. Her injuries show that she had moved more than Marinus during the attack, indicating that Marinus was probably attacked first, which startled Janny, but before she could react or flee, she was attacked. 


In total, technicians found 25 cuts on Marinus’ body, mainly on his shoulders, neck and arms. There was also evidence that he was struck in the face with a blunt object, that cracked his upper jaw. Marinus had wounds on his right forearm and his left hand, indicating that he tried to defend himself.


The wounds tell the tale of their tragic last moments: Marinus, waking up in confusion as someone stabbed him through the canvas of the tent. He tried to fend off the attack. Janny sat up, tried to help Marinus of even perhaps get out of the tent. But the force of the attack was simply too strong. They woke up to their worst nightmare, there was no way they could fend off the killer.


Looking at the tent after the killing, there were several slashes that cut through both the inner and outer canvasses. Evidence shows that the knife also pierced the ground. The majority of the cuts were made a filleting knife, which was found at the scene. It was the couple’s own black handled filleting knife and it was probably found in an outside pocket of the tent. The tip of the knife broke off during the relentless onslaught of stabs and was found inside the tent.


Due to the sheer volume of cuts: piercing the canvas and the couple’s sleeping bags, investigators believed that more than one knife was used. Marinus and Janny were victims of what seemed to be a frenzied attack.


Investigation

Back in the Dutch town of Almelo, detective Frans Wittenhaar was tasked with the unpleasant chore of informing the couple’s families about their murder before he too went to Gällivare to assist with the investigation.


Police found it hard to determine a motive for this senseless slaying and police could not approach this like a usual investigation. The couple were only passing through the area, they didn’t know anybody. It could not be a personal revenge-killing.


The motive was also not sexual as Janny was not raped and there were no other signs of sexual interference.


Could it perhaps be robbery? With help from the Dutch police who liaised with the victims’ families, investigators from Gällivare could find out if any of Marinus and Janny’s belongings had been stolen. 


Not much seemed to have been taken. Their passports and money were untouched. But it turned out Janny’s handbag and a portable cassette player were missing. Also, only one camera was found, and the Dutch couple had two cameras with them on their trip.


But retrieving these items would raise more questions than answers. Ten days after the killing, Janny’s handbag was found near the village center in Renhagen, about 11 miles (or 18 kilometres) south of the murder scene. It was found inside another bag, which did not belong to the murdered couple, it must have been placed there by the murderer. It was also found quite close to the road, like it was thrown from a moving vehicle.


Almost a year later on 27 May 1985 the Stegehuises portable cassette player – a real 80’s boom box - was found near Vittangi, 10 miles (or 16 kilometres) north of the crime scene. This was where the couple spent the night before setting off to Lake Appojaure. Could it be that someone had stolen it while they were in Vittangi, or perhaps they simply left it behind? Scientific evidence could not prove that it was put out before the winter, it was pretty much undamaged. Which brought the question: did someone plant it there shortly before it was found? This could mean that the perpetrator was someone local to the wider Norrland area. 


Fingerprints, not belonging to Marinus or Janny were found on both the cassette player and Janny’s handbag. It was the first solid evidence they had.

 

The story of the slaughtered couple made news headlines, not only in Sweden and the Netherlands, but across Europe. Swedish Lapland had always been known to be a safe place to travel, this murder was completely unprecedented – it was an outrage.


Police had to follow the couple’s last movements, a task made easier thanks to Janny’s diary. They were able to have the entries translated from Dutch to Swedish and learnt about the car repair in Kiruna. Eyewitnesses came forward and said they had seen the couple refuel their car in Skaulo on Thursday afternoon the 12th of July, which would be the last time anyone saw them alive.


That night ended in a brutal nightmare that would haunt the Swedish nation for decades to come.


When talking about the tent-murders at Lake Appojaure in Swedish Lapland, it is impossible to ignore a similar case that happened in the neighbouring country of Finland two decades before.


Four teenagers from Helsinki went camping on the shores of Lake Bodom in the summer of 1960, with a tragic ending. The two young couples between the ages of 15 and 18 pitched their tent on the Southern peninsula of Lake Bodom, about 12 miles (or 20 kilometres) from Helsinki.


Anja Mäki’s new boyfriend was Seppo Boisman. Maila Björklund and Nils Gustafsson had only been dating for a couple of weeks, but this weekend would bind their names together forever. The Saturday night of June the 4th, the foursome suffered a brutal attack. The two girls and Seppo died in the tent – Nils, who was badly injured, was the only one to survive. 


Nils was under a lot of pressure to remember every last detail of his friends’ last night alive. He told police that the spent the night drinking and chatting about their plans for the summer holidays. When the sun set around 10:30 they went to sleep. Nils remembers waking up sometime in the night, roused by the sounds of Seppo gathering up his fishing gear. They left the girls and went fishing in the lake, a couple of yards away. When the fish weren’t biting, Seppo decided to go further down along the shore, and Nils returned to the tent where the girls were awake again.


The three sat up, waiting for Seppo to return. When he did, they went back to sleep. Nils remembers falling asleep, holding Maila at the entrance of the tent, with Seppo and Anja on the inside. When he woke up in hospital he had no idea what had happened.


At 6am eyewitnesses saw a blonde man walking away from the collapsed tent and a foot sticking out of it. They didn’t think much of it and didn’t report it. Two boys who came across the fallen tent later in the morning raised the alarm. Maila, Seppo, Anja and Nils had been bludgeoned with a large, blunt object.


Maila had suffered the worst of the attack, also being stabbed 15 times in the neck. Anja had two massive blows to the head, severe enough to end her life. Seppo was struck on the head three times and he was also stabbed in the neck. Nils, the only survivor was stabbed ten times, had a broken jaw and concussion. It took him weeks to recover from his injuries.


There were several suspects: a local shop owner who hated tourists, a German-born KGB spy who lived in the area, but they could never build cases strong enough to stick. 


Eventually, more than forty years after the crime, police arrested and charged the sole survivor, Nils Gustafsson. His shoes were found over 500 yards from the scene, covered in blood from the crime scene. 


The theory was that he was drunk and had had a fight with his friends, accusing Seppo and Maila of being too cosy with each other. The fight turned physical, which explains Nils’ injuries. His friends proceeded to shut him out of the tent. This aggravated him and caused him to attack and kill all of them. 


But Nils maintained his innocence and the evidence against him did not stack up in court. There was no way he could have attacked his friends with his extensive injuries. He was acquitted and was compensated over 40 000 Euros by the State of Finland for suffering caused by legal procedures against him.


The case remains unsolved to this day and has inspired many urban legends and even a Finnish film.  


There were 24 years between the Lake Bodom murders in Finland and the Lake Appojaure murders in Sweden, but the random nature of the crimes and the scale of brutality are eerily familiar.


Back in Gällivare in 1984, there were more questions than answers regarding the slaying of Marinus and Janny Stegehuis at Lake Appojaure. Police appealed to the public to report any suspicious persons or suspicious behaviour by familiar persons. Police warned tourists not to camp in isolated spots. 


In a small town like Gällivare, putting your ear against the wall and listening to local speculation and rumours could possibly pay off. Locals refused to believe the perpetrator could be one of their own.


Some locals had issues with foreign tourists and wanted to protect the area from mass tourism and commercialisation. But police had no reason to believe that the Dutch couple were murdered because of this. They hardly came into contact with anyone during their stay in the area, let alone caused a conflict so strong that someone wanted them dead.


They had a huge task to pin down all of the people who were in the area surrounding the murder scene at the time of the crime. There were tourists who drove through by car, only slept for one night and moved on, like the Stegehuis couple. Others arrived by bus and stayed for a couple of days. It was also popular with cyclists who cycled through the area, camping as they went. It was near impossible to determine exactly who was in the proximity of the crime scene on that night. They had no suspects to tie to the crime.


So, police tried to establish a motive: could this killing have something to do with revenge? Were the victims involved in something they shouldn’t have been? The deeper they delved into the Dutch couple’s past, the more they realised that this had to be a random crime. The victims were found to be squeaky clean: there was no indication of illegal activity on their part. They were simply tourists on a road trip who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.


During a road block on the 16th of July, police stopped a 33-year old West German boxer who was cycling through the area. He was cycling to Gällivare on the Porjus Road (to the South of the campsite. He had a dodgy past and was known to West German police. His dishevelled appearance and lack of identification documents alerted police. It was not impossible that he pinched food or belongings from other campers to keep going, seeing as he appeared to have had no means to support himself on his cycling journey. Police interviewed him, but witnesses placed him at another location at the time of the murders. It wasn’t him. He was cleared of suspicion after five days.


Eyewitnesses also saw a middle-aged couple in a Volkswagen minibus parked about 200 yards from the Stegehuis’ camping spot on the night of the murder. Police appealed to the public for assistance in identifying the couple who could possibly have vital information. But no leads came in.


More tips flooded in and police followed up on every lead, but it took them nowhere. 


Another person of interest was a 28-year-old nicknamed ‘The Bodybuilder’ and had a violent temper due to his excessive use of alcohol, drugs and anabolic steroids. He was no stranger to police as he had been convicted for fraud, illegal possession of firearms, maltreatment, corruption and larceny. 


A couple days after the killing, two independent tips came into police. The Bodybuilder, a woman and two friends set up camp for the night at a resting place near Lake Appojaure. There was a heated argument and the Bodybuilder stormed off. When he returned he had blood on his clothes and he had a bloody knife. He said that he had killed a reindeer and his friends were too scared to push for more information.


Eight years later, during a prison stint, The Bodybuilder’s cell mate came forward and said that he had confessed to killing the Dutch couple. The Bodybuilder, after storming off, returned to the tent to kill his friends, but it was the wrong tent, instead he killed the Stegehuis couple. 


Was it a case of mistaken identity? Did he mean to kill his camping buddies and not the Stegehuises? Police could find no evidence to substantiate this accusation and found that the cell mate did not have the information he claimed he did. 


The bodybuilder denied killing the Stegehuis couple. He also felt that police and witnesses exaggerated his temper and previous run-ins with the law.


He remained on law enforcement’s radar in the decade after the double murder and was taken in for questioning on several occasions.  


In the fall of 1996 he committed suicide by chopping off his forearm with an axe. He bled to death. A friend said it was the constant suspicion cast over him in this case, that pushed him over the edge and caused him to end his own life.


With the Bodybuilder dead or alive, police still had to solve the case of the tent murders. They decided it was time to go back to the drawing boards and let the crime scene unearth forensic facts.


In March 1994, almost ten years after the crime, the Regional Crime Squad in Luleå and the forensic department reconstructed the crime to determine what had happened. They had to get every last detail 100% to make some kind of sense of what took place on the night of the attack.


They set up a tent, similar to the Stegehuis tent at their facility in Luleå. Technicians felt that the outer canvas had to have been removed before the assailant struck though the inner-canvas. He then started the attack on Marinus who was on the left side (if you looked in from the doorway). Differing sizes of the cuts on the victims and piercings through the canvas, show that three different knives were used.


The report of the reconstruction concluded that Marinus was stabbed before he received a blow to the head – at this point, the tent had collapsed already.


Almost ten years after the murder, in 1993 this case would go as far South as Stockholm. An unnamed person from the underworld in Stockholm watched a television programme called ‘WANTED’. There was a segment appealing for information regarding the Dutch murder in Appojaure. This viewer contacted authorities and informed them that he had the couple’s camera bag in his possession. 


The bag was retrieved, had everything inside, including 20 exposed film rolls. The bag was labelled with the name ‘Stegehuis’ inside. Police were also able to trace the camera’s purchase to a shop in Almelo, confirming it was the right camera.  


The person who had the bag, said that he had bought it from someone on the street in the Fall of 1984 and was he was able to pick the seller out from a photo line-up. The police were cautiously optimistic: this could be the break they had been waiting for. The man who sold the bag was tracked down and interrogated. But he had no recollection where he found the bag, only that he had sold it. 


Police linked the witness to a local criminal called Jonny Farebrink. He was known to the police as a violent drug addict with a long criminal record. The guy who sold the Dutch couple’s camera bag had a connection to Farebrink: he had bought drugs from him in the past. But he maintained he did not get the camera bag off him. Because of his tendency to violence, and long rap sheet, police vaguely suspected him of killing the Stegehuis couple in 1984. 


But things were about to get interesting. In early 1994 police in Gällivare received another tip: Thomas Quick, a patient at the Säter Institution for the Criminally Insane confessed to killing Marinus and Janny. Police were sceptical. Thomas Quick’s usual victims were young boys who were alone. Which doesn’t make the attack on the Dutch couple very typical. 


They could not ignore the confession my any means. So, they needed some proof that Quick had more knowledge about the crime. He was asked to draw a sketch of the crime scene and his drawing was very accurate: firstly, the position of the campsite was correct, with roads indicating exactly where the Stegehuises had pitched their tent. The positions of the car and the tent and the car were spot on too. Police put their scepticism aside, concluding that the only way that Quick could know all of this is if he had been to the murder site. Homicide detectives breathed a sigh of relief that after ten years they could finally pin this senseless murder on someone.


But to do this, they had to take a closer look at Thomas Quick. Who was this man who confessed to the murders? 


Thomas Quick was born in 1950 in Korsnäs north of Stockholm. His name at birth was Sture Ragnar Bergwall and he was one of seven children. He was always yearning for attention and although his household was a busy one, he often felt very much alone.


In 1974, when he was 24, Quick met a man called Lennart Hoglund at a gay night club in Uppsala. When they arrived back at Lennart’s place, Bergwall took a hallucinogenic drug (trichloroethylene) and stabbed his one-night-stand 12 times, leaving him for dead. But Lennart survived to tell the story. Quick was sentenced to a psychiatric facility and was treated as an out-patient.


In 1991 he was taken to the Säter Institution for the Criminally Insane after a home invasion during which he held a bank manager’s wife and son hostage and threatened them for 2-3 hours. He was arrested, and institutionalization was found to be the best punishment for this troubled, violent man.


During his stay at Säter, he had changed his name from Sture Bergwall to Thomas Quick. 

Two years into his therapy, he started to confess to sexually assaulting men, women and children throughout Scandinavia. Experiencing emotional flashbacks, Quick said his alter-ego, called Ellington, was driven by rage and the desire to murder and urged him to commit some of Sweden’s most horrific crimes. He killed, dismembered and even ate the flesh of some of his victims. Police realised that they could be dealing with the worst serial killer in Sweden’s history. He was quickly named ‘Sweden’s Hannibal Lecter’ by the press and all eyes were on the man who called himself Thomas Quick.


He confessed to numerous murders of young boys all over Sweden dating back to 1964. All in all, he confessed to 39 murders.


His first confession was in 1993. It was about an 11-year-old boy, called Johan Asplund, who went missing from the Swedish east coast town of Sundsvall in 1980. It was an unsolved crime, one of the biggest mysteries in Sweden. Thomas Quick confessed to kidnapping, raping and then murdering the boy 13 years before. But in spite of taking a shaky Quick to the location where he claimed to have disposed of Johan’s body parts, nothing was ever recovered. Johan’s parents were also sceptical about Quick’s version of events and the still strongly suspected another man known to the family.


The next confession was the murder of Charles Zelmanovitz, who went missing in 1976 from the Northern Swedish town of Piteå. His body was found in 1993. Quick said he and another unnamed man had offered Charles a ride home one day. The two men then molested Charles. Charles allegedly taunted Quick by saying a boy Quick had murdered was still alive. This spun Quick into a psychotic trance and he killed Charles. It was quite an unsettling account, but police could never find any physical evidence linking him to Charles Zelmanovitz’s murder. But they did believe him. Who in their right mind would make up something like this? 


Quick’s third confession was that he was responsible for the deaths of Marinus and Janny Stegehuis. But the story didn’t quite add up. 


He claimed that on the 12th of July 1984 he was at a train station in Jokkmokk he stole a woman’s bicycle and started roving the area, looking for a young boy to be his next victim. He saw a boy, a foreign tourist and set his sights on him, but it didn’t work out as he had wished – the boy got away before Quick had a chance to approach him.


Janny and Marinus were the first people he came in contact with after the disappointment with the boy. He claimed to have met Marinus and Janny in the town of Jokkmokk and they told him where they were camping that night. Quick somehow thought that the couple were the foreign boy’s parents. When they said they had no son, he snapped and decided they had to die. However, Janny makes no mention of taking a 50 Mile (or 80 kilometre) journey to visit Jokkmokk in her diary. Instead it says they went to the Great Falls, which is near their campsite. And adding so many unnecessary miles to their car that was playing up does not make sense. 


Thomas Quick carried on, first saying that he cycled on the stolen women’s bike from Jokkmokk to Appojaure. This journey from Jokkmokk to the campsite would have taken close to four hours to one way. He would then have to commit a double murder and cycle the same distance back. It didn’t ring true. 


Although Police managed to find a report of a stolen ladies' bicycle on the 16th of July, they still lacked conclusive evidence that the bicycle had taken Quick to and from the murder scene. They pushed Quick for an explanation: there had to be another person involved, seeing as Quick could not drive in 1984. People who knew him in the early 1980’s confirmed that he did not know how to drive. He only learnt to drive in 1987 – three years after the double murder.


Quick then named an accomplice: Jonny Farebrink – remember: the guy police tried to connect to the Stegehuises camera bag found in Stockholm – that’s him. According to Quick he bumped into Farebrink in Jokkmokk but remembered him to be called Jonny Larsson. Police confirmed that Farebrink changed his last name from Larsson-Auna in 1968, so it was possible that some people still knew him as Jonny Larsson. 


Quick said Farebrink lured him into his VW pickup truck and they left to have a romantic encounter in a sauna. After the sauna, Quick put the stolen bicycle on the back of Farebrink’s pickup truck and they drove to Appojaure to where Janny and Marinus were camping. 


He described the couple’s tent, saying it was blueish grey or yellow, when in fact it was brown and yellow. He retracted this statement later on, stating that he could have been mistaken about the colour of the tent canvas. Perhaps there was a rain-cover over the tent that obscured the colour. 


Quick said that Farebrink had started the murderous rampage. It was Farebrink who lifted a heavy object and attacked the tent, while Quick went around the front and entered the tent to launch a knife attack. He confessed that he was in a drug-fuelled frenzy when he attacked the Dutch couple. Farebrink then removed the Stegehuises’ camera bag and took it to his pickup truck.


He started the attack on the right side of the tent (if looking from the opening), so on Janny’s side. This is contrary to the scientific findings that the attack started on Marinus’ side to the left. Quick was adamant that the man laid on the right side and the woman to the left – this is not what police found at the crime scene. And the bodies weren’t moved after they died.


His description of the victims was also wrong. He described Marinus as being dark and tall, about Quick’s own height of six feet two, making him much taller than he was in reality.

Quick said that Janny had long dark hair (not short, greying hair) and she was naked from the waist up, standing on her knees at the entrance of the tent, from where he attacked her. Later-on, Quick changed his mind and claimed Janny was fully clothed, which she was. He tells the story of how she tried to fight him off for about 10 minutes before succumbing to her injuries. When she was dead, he pushed her body back into the tent and continued slashing the canvas. So, all knife blows did not occur through the canvas, some of them where inflicted directly to the flesh of the victims. Yet all wounds on the victims forensically show that they were inflicted THROUGH the canvas. Janny had no defensive wounds that would confirm there was a 10-minute struggle to the death. Quick said he slashed the woman nine times and the man five times. Janny was stabbed 20 times, not nine and Marinus 25 times, not five.


Quick claimed he had taken his own hunting knife to the crime scene and had left it there after the attack. Farebrink allegedly also had a knife and they used the couple’s knife which had a light wooden handle. But only one knife was found at the scene: the couple’s own filleting knife that had a black handle, not light wooden.


After Quick’s confession, police had more questions than answers. But they needed to follow up on what Quick had told them, working closely with his psychiatrists to sift through the information. Psychiatrists believed that Quick could likely have committed the crime – they were using childhood regression therapy and he could have mistaken the couple for his own parents, finally getting his revenge on them for abusing him as a child.


Police set out to verify his story. He was a feasible suspect: he had a violent past and he had a connection to the area. Quick went to elementary school in Jokkmokk and was familiar with the area, so it wouldn’t be too strange for him to find himself there on a random summer night. 


Then turning to concrete evidence, police took Quick and Farebrink’s fingerprints to compare against the fingerprints found on the Stegehuises Cassette Player and Janny’s handbag. Neither of them produced a match. 


At this point Farebrink was already incarcerated and co-operated with police. He denied being involved in the murders. In fact, he had never even met Quick, let alone have a homosexual tryst in a sauna in Lapland. Farebrink’s wife supported him, saying her husband could be many things, but he is very definitely not gay.


Farebrink had unique tattoos on his back and leg. If they were together in a sauna as Quick claimed, he must have seen them. Investigators asked him to describe Farebrink’s tattoos, but Quick failed to do so.   


There was also the fact that Farebrink had an alibi. His wife had a psychotic episode and he went with her to a clinic in Södersjukhuset in Stockholm in the early evening of 13 July, after they had spent the whole day together. He completed the paperwork when he checked her into the clinic. Handwriting experts confirmed that it was Farebrink’s handwriting.


In October 1995, police were sceptical of Farebrink’s involvement. Quick was taken to meet Jonny Farebrink face to face in prison. It was clear at this encounter that the pair had never met before. Police could also not prove that Farebrink ever drove or had stolen a VW pickup truck. Farebrink was not charged and the investigation focused on Thomas Quick alone. 


Police weren’t about to give up. They had to find concrete evidence to connect him to the crime. Police and Representatives of the Regional Crime Squad reconstructed the murder scene to put Quick’s confession to the test. On the July the 10th 1995, almost 11 years after the double murder to the day, police and psychiatrists took Thomas Quick back to the scene of the murder. The crime scene was reconstructed to look exactly like it did in 1984. The plan was for Quick to walk them through the attack to prove conclusively that he was the perpetrator. 


Quick co-operated and gave a detailed description of the attack. But from a forensic point of view it was puzzling.


In the tent, two mannequins were placed as the married couple were found, with Marinus to the right and Janny to the left. This is contrary to Quick’s original statement, but he didn’t seem to pick up on it. 


He started the reconstruction of the attack by demonstrating how he slashed the tent’s canvas to the right of the tent (as you’re looking at it from the tent’s entrance). Shortly after a couple of pretend-hacks, he dropped his knife and went around the front, unzipped the tent and went inside. During the reconstruction, as he acted out the attack inside the tent, his evil alter-ego, Ellington, surfaced, growling and breathing heavily and the reconstruction had to be halted.


From here a whole hour is missing on the video-edited version of the reconstruction.

When the video restarts an hour later, Quick says he had done the reconstruction wrong and wanted to do it again. This time a version much closer to what forensic evidence found, was played out:


Quick lifted the outside canvas and showed how he stabbed the couple through the inside-cover. He changed his story and claimed that he was hacking at Janny as she was sitting up, which would explain the wounds on her back. He also alluded to information that hadn’t been released to the public at that point, like the injuries on Marinus’ face. He claimed Farebrink bashed a rock into the tent while he wasn’t looking. It could have struck either Marinus or Janny. 


With the second version of the reconstruction caught on tape, police felt confident that Thomas Quick was – without a doubt – the assailant. He confessed that he was responsible for the crime, walked them through the actions (although it took him a while to get his story straight). 


It was time to take the case to trial. In court, only the second version of the reconstruction was presented, thus neatly corresponding with the facts. In January 1996 The Gällivare District Court sentenced Sture Bergwall aka Thomas Quick for murder and ruled that Sture Bergwall, aka Thomas Quick should remain in legal psychiatric careat Säter Institution for the Criminally Insane…


He continued confessing to another 15 murders in Scandinavia. He had 8 murder convictions, purely based on his confessions. No further investigation was done to confirm his stories. Mostly it went like this: he confessed, was given an ample dose of his favourite drug Benzodiazepine, then police interrogated him with leading questions. Most of the time he only nodded or said yes and very often his vague reference to details made it clear that he had no knowledge of the crimes he claimed to have committed. 


In 2001, still in Säter, a new psychiatrist to the clinic stopped Quick’s drug prescriptions. As Quick sobered up, he changed his name back to Sture Bergwall and stopped talking to police. He was silent for seven years before award winning investigative journalist Hannes Råstam looked into his case. After working through all transcriptions of court proceedings and Bergwall’s sessions with psychiatrists, he realised that there was not one shred of concrete evidence connecting Thomas Quick or Sture Bergwall to any of the crimes he had claimed he committed. 


In 2008, on a television interview, Thomas Quick, who had changed his name back to Sture Bergwall, made his last confession to journalist Hannes Råstam. Turns out all of his confessions were made up, it was all fabricated. He officially recanted his confessions. 


Later Bergwall said police investigator Seppo Penttinen and memory expert Sven-Åke Christianson had told him how the crime scene was laid out while they were driving to the reconstructed crime scene in 1995. Both professionals denied it. Bergwall also claims that he was fed information during questioning, leading him to make a false confession. Police interfered to made him look guilty.


But why would someone do this? Why confess to murders and heinous crimes you did not commit?


The reasons were simpler than one might think: he loved the attention he received from the psychiatrists, police and media. At Säter he also received special privileges because of his high profile: he had a big room and could move around freely. For a drug-addict like Bergwall, it was an added bonus that he was fed a constant supply of mind-numbing prescription drugs. After he confessed to Johan Asplund’s murder, he was taken to the crime scene to point out where the body was. Although they did not find any of the young boy’s remains, police and psychiatrists felt the day was successful. They went for a celebratory dinner and everybody, including Bergwall ate a feast and ended it off with a cigar. Being banished to Säter, he felt that he was onto something: the more he confessed, the more excursions he’d be taken on and the more rewards he would receive. 


But when he sobered up, he realised that he could not carry on the façade any longer. But if he had told the truth, who would have believed him?


So, the obvious question is: how could he have known the facts regarding the murders? Bergwall says he read a lot of newspaper articles about unsolved crimes. In fact, in the 1980’s, he was known to have researched unsolved murders in the Royal Library in Stockholm. A true crime enthusiast if you will. Even in Säter he had library access. He read Silence of the Lambs and American Psycho, which inspired many of his fabricated details.


If you only look at the evidence of this one case: the Appojaure Tent Killings, Bergwall’s initial confession hardly had one fact correct. His story did not match the evidence at all. Yet everybody around him was so excited that this prototype of serial killer was willing to open himself up to psychiatric experiments and co-operated, that they MADE his confession fit the crime. If anything: his initial confession and his first walk-through of the reconstructed crime scene should have shown them that he had no idea what happened to Janny and Marinus Stegehuis and that he had never been to the crime scene as he had claimed.


And when Farebrink was acquitted, surely that should have raised some questions about the integrity of the confession too?


Luckily for Sture Bergwall, people who believed in his innocence did not give up the fight. On 30 July 2013 he was acquitted of all eight murders he had confessed to. There was not a shred of physical or any other evidence linking Quick to any of the crimes. In March 2014, Sture Bergwall was released from Säter after 23 years. 


Yes, he did stab Lennart Hoglund in 1974, he did hold the bank manager’s family hostage in the 1990’s. But turns out he was never Sweden’s most prolific serial killer. He was a complete mythomaniac who thrived on attention given to him by psychiatrists, police and the media.


The public was outraged that the system could have been fooled by this man. And to make matters even worse: whoever killed Janny and Marinus and the rest of Quick’s supposed victims literally got away with murder. 


Swedish police did re-open the case into the murders of Marinus and Janny Stegehuis. It still remains open today. But the lack of motive keeps the investigators in the dark. It was a random, unprovoked attack in all probability committed by someone unknown to the victims.


Criminologists and experts feel that the perpetrator acted alone and was a local familiar to the area. Of all the suspects in this case, the man known as The Bodybuilder – or someone fitting his criminal profile – was most likely responsible for the double murder. 


This was The Evidence Locker. Thanks for listening!


If you’d like to read up more about this case, have a look at the resources used for this episode in the show notes. You might also find the documentary “The Confessions of Thomas Quick” interesting – you’ll find it on Netflix.