Transcript: 200. The Unexplained Disappearance of Johan Asplund | Sweden

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When nurse Anna-Clara Asplund arrived home after working the morning shift, nothing seemed out of place. Her son was at school and her ex-husband would pick him up later in the afternoon to spend Father’s Day weekend with him, his wife and two daughters.

Anna-Clara and Björn had an amicable relationship and managed well as co-parents. When Björn arrived that afternoon, he was somewhat surprised that Johan wasn’t ready and waiting. Anna-Clara reckoned he was still making his way home from school and they waited together for a while.

But when a friend of Johan’s showed up and asked why he had not been at school, alarm bells rang. They called the school and confirmed that the 11-year-old had been marked absent that day.

Shocked and uncertain of what to do next, they called the police and reported Johan missing. Anna-Clara, Björn, neighbours and friends searched the apartment building and the surrounding snow-covered streets, but there was no sign of the boy.

The disappearance of Johan Asplund is a case with so many twists and turns, it’s hard to separate fiction from reality. Forty years after he went missing, his parents feel they know what happened to him. But will justice ever be served?

>> Intro Music

Björn and Anna-Clara Asplund married when they were young and had their baby boy when Anna-Clara was only 22. Johan Olof Adamas Asplund was born on August 3 1969 in Stockholm, Sweden – and he was the apple of both his parents’ eyes.

Unfortunately the Asplunds’ marriage didn’t last and the couple divorced in 1972 when Johan was three. The split between Anna-Clara and Björn had been amicable and they remained friends who always put Johan’s interests first. Björn moved back north to Sollefteå, where he was originally from, but despite the distance, he always tried to remain a part of his son’s life. Björn eventually remarried and had two daughters and Johan was fond of his stepmother and half-siblings.

Anna-Clara, a nurse, met a man whose name has not been made public. For the purposes of this episode, we shall call him Adam. Adam worked with Anna-Clara as a nurse and their relationship soon grew serious and they moved in together. When Adam received a job offer in Sundsvall, Västernorrland, it didn’t take much to convince Anna-Clara to move there with him. Sundsvall was closer to Sollefteå where Johan’s father lived and it all made good, practical sense. They settled in a nice neighbourhood, Bosvedjan, north of the city.

However, once they had settled into their new life, cracks in the relationship began to show up. Adam was controlling of Anna-Clara and despised it when she talked to other men. This made her nursing job near impossible, trying to converse with patients while her jealous boyfriend kept intervening.

As time went on, Adam’s possessive behaviour turned even darker. When he got angry, he would threaten Anna-Clara, saying that he would get back at her by harming Johan. It all became too much for her and after five years together, she ended things early in 1979. Adam moved out, and even though they did not have much contact, he kept a keen eye on Anna-Clara. Neighbours later reported often seeing him in Bosvedjan, near his ex’s apartment, at all hours of the day and night. He continued calling her, even though she made it very clear that she didn’t want him to be a part of her life anymore – not even as a friend. Anna-Clara knew that he was stalking her and hoped that if she ignored him, he would get the message and stop.

After the break-up, it was just Anna-Clara and Johan. She doted on her only child and that was enough for her. She was not eager to get involved in another romantic relationship. She dated occasionally, mainly when Johan was spending time with his dad’s family and she was alone.  

In November 1980, Father’s Day was coming up and Johan was beyond excited. He had invited his friend Stephan along to join him to spend the weekend with his father’s family. It was the first time Johan ever took a friend with him and the trip was all he talked about that week.

The morning of November 7 was the same as any other in Anna-Clara and Johan’s home. It was cold outside, windy with the first signs of winter and light snowfall. Anna-Clara had a cold but decided to soldier on and go to work. She woke up her son with breakfast in bed – sandwiches and hot chocolate. This was their morning routine since she could remember.

Anna-Clara had laid out some clothes for Johan, seeing as he was being picked up by his dad later, and she wanted him to look his best. They talked about the plans for the weekend for a short while, then she kissed his forehead before and left for work at 7:45. Johan was supposed to get himself ready and leave for school shortly after.

On a typical morning, Anna-Clara would call as soon as she had clocked in for her shift at the hospital, to check that he was up and dressed on time, but this morning she got distracted and never called.

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When Anna-Clara came home after work at 12:30, Johan had not returned. It was still early, so she was not concerned and assumed he was still at school. As she made her way through the apartment, she noticed that Johan had only had a couple of bites of his breakfast and his cup of hot chocolate was still half full. The shirt she had taken out for him to wear was still laid out on his bed and it looked like he left in a hurry. His shoes and school bag were gone, and apart from a wet towel on the floor that had dropped from his sports bag, nothing was out of the ordinary. Anna-Clara smiled. Johan was just a boy and did not like to wear button shirts, she thought he had opted for a T-shirt in the end.

The home phone rang, and it was Johan’s friend Stefan, calling from a pay phone at school. He asked if the plans for the weekend had changed, seeing as Johan was not at school. Anna-Clara thought there must have been a misunderstanding. Stefan and Johan were not in the same class, perhaps Stefan had missed him somehow.

Björn arrived at 2:30 and Anna-Clara made him some coffee while they waited for their son to come home. Then Stefan showed up, bags packed and ready, hoping to find Johan at home. At this point, Anna-Clara felt alarmed that something had happened to her son – had he been in an accident of some kind? She immediately called the school, who confirmed that Johan did in fact NOT show up for class that day. Remember, it was 1980, schools weren’t quick to call if a child was absent. Also, everyone knew Johan had plans to visit his father – it was all he had been talking about – and they probably assumed that he had gone earlier than planned.

As soon as Anna-Clara and Björn learnt that Johan was unaccounted for, they rushed outside, walking the route Johan would have taken to school, but there was no sign of him. The frantic parents called Sundsvall police at 3:40pm to report their son missing. They also contacted a local radio station to broadcast information about Johan’s disappearance: an 11-year-old boy, 150cm tall with medium-length light brown hair disappeared on his way to school. He was wearing jeans, a blue jacket, snow boots and he had a red school bag with him.

A search party was organised at Johan’s school, meeting in his classroom, 5A. Everyone who knew Johan agreed that he would not have left of his own accord – someone must have taken him. Anna-Clara and Johan were very close, and he would not have run away from home. He was also acutely aware of stranger danger and there was no way he would have left with someone he didn’t know. Anna-Clara knew if someone had taken him, it must have been someone he knew and trusted.

Police, along with Johan’s parents, friends and neighbours searched the immediate area surrounding the apartment building but could not find Johan or any trace of him. Police helicopters were brought in to search the neighbourhood and surrounding areas, but still, nothing came up. Anna-Clara instinctively knew that her son was no longer alive. The thought choked her up, but she knew she had to keep on going, to find him, regardless.

Police questioned all neighbours living in the same apartment block and a classmate recalled seeing Johan in the doorway of his apartment that morning. The door was open and he was looking inside, like he was waiting for someone. The friend walked by at five-to-eight, greeted him, simply saying ‘hi’. He said that Johan, dressed and ready for school, said hello, but looked a bit distracted, confused even. Moments later, two girls who lived next door and had found Johan’s cat and wanted to return showed up and knocked on the door, but there was no answer. They called out for Johan, but no one opened the door. Another friend who usually walked to school with Johan said he waited outside for him, at their usual meeting spot, and when he didn’t show up, he went ahead without him.

Police needed as much information from Johan’s parents as possible. They wanted to know if there had been any problems with Johan, was he a troubled child? His parents assured investigators that Johan was a happy-go-lucky 11-year-old boy who got on with everyone. Anna-Clara had a nagging feeling that she had to voice. She told police about her break-up with 41-year-old Adam the previous year and raised her concerns about him.

Police interviewed Adam at his apartment hours after Johan was discovered to be missing. When he opened the door, it looked like he had just woken up, but he also appeared to be depressed, perhaps because he was aware of the situation. He was interviewed three times in the two days that followed. He was very reserved and calculating in his response, and sometimes he refused to answer questions altogether.

Several witnesses told police that they saw Adam’s white Volvo Amazon in Bosvedjan on the morning of the 7. He insisted that it wasn’t his car, but still could not offer an alibi. Remember, Adam used to live in the building with Anna-Clara and Johan, and people knew him. A neighbour recalled seeing him. She had good news, finally being pregnant after trying for ages. Adam, as a nurse, knew about her struggle, and she was eager to tell him. Yet, he didn’t seem to notice her, or perhaps – she thought – he ignored her. Either way, she found his behaviour strange.

Police thought he was a feasible suspect, bet there was only circumstantial evidence linking him to the case, and it wasn’t enough to obtain a warrant for arrest. The press learnt about the suspicion on Adam during the early days of the investigation, and respecting privacy laws, dubbed him ‘Johanmannen’ (or ‘The Johan-Man’).

And Adam’s peculiar behaviour continued. People who knew him and his connection to the Asplund family were surprised by his passive approach to the crisis. He also did not attend a vigil for Johan, and his absence was noticed – he had been like a stepfather to Johan, and by all accounts they had a good relationship, despite the issues between Anna-Clara and Adam. Adam reportedly told a friend that there was no point looking for Johan. Was this because he knew the boy was no longer alive?

With no sign of Johan anywhere, Anna-Clara and Björn were living any parent’s worst nightmare. In the days after the disappearance, Anna-Clara had a recurring dream. She later recalled:

“It was a dream where I was looking for Johan and was close to finding him. But I never quite got there and when I woke up, I was completely in a cold sweat. The first time was terrible and all my strength went into survival. The worst part wasn't falling asleep because I did that out of sheer exhaustion. It was much worse to wake up and be forced to confront reality.”

After a couple of weeks Anna-Clara had no other choice but to return to work. She still spent every spare moment trying to find out what happened to her son, but there did not seem to be any answers. One night, an exhausted Anna-Clara woke up in the middle of the night and felt something wasn’t quite right. She turned on the light and saw Johan’s toy soldiers arranged on her bedside table, with their weapons pointed at her. She jumped out of bed and searched the apartment, but no one was there. When she called the police, they didn’t think it was serious, and tried to pacify her. They knew she had been under a lot of stress and thought she had forgotten placing the toy soldiers there herself. But Anna-Clara knew someone had been in her apartment and felt it could only have been Adam.

With help from their lawyer, Pelle Svensson, Björn and Anna-Clara were able to have Adam charged with the kidnapping of Johan. In Sweden, one can conduct an individual prosecution, in this case meaning Johan’s parents could sue Adam personally. However, if they were to lose, they would have to cover all legal fees. Neither Björn, nor Anna-Clara were wealthy, but to them, pushing for justice for their son took precedence over the chance of financial ruin.

Svensson tracked down a priest called Gunnar Oreland who stated that Adam had confessed about the murder in a phone conversation to him. But because of confidentially between priest and parishioner, Oreland was not called to testify in court.

In 1985, the dissenting district court ruled that Adam did, in fact, take Johan that morning, but not with the intention of killing him. He was handed a two-year prison sentence for unlawful deprivation of liberty – the harshest sentence ever given at an individual prosecution in Sweden. Svensson appealed this conviction and insisted that Adam was also found guilty of Johan’s murder.

But the opposite occurred. On April 9 1986, after serving only one year in prison, Adam was acquitted of all charges, citing a lack of evidence. Johan’s parents were ordered to pay more than half a million kroner in legal fees. After a public uproar and application from Björn and Anna-Clara to waive the costs, the court agreed and, in the end, ruled that they did not have to pay.

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For several years, there was no movement in the investigation. That is, until 1993, when a 42-year-old patient at the Säter Institution for the Criminally Insane confessed to abducting and murdering Johan. Sture Bergwall was sent to Säter in 1991, after a home invasion during which he held a bank manager’s wife and son hostage. During his stay at the institution, he had changed his name from Sture Bergwall to Thomas Quick. It was two years into his therapy, when he started to confess to sexually assaulting men, women and children throughout Scandinavia. Quick claimed his alter-ego, called Ellington, was driven by rage and the desire to murder and urged him to commit some of Scandinavia’s most horrendous crimes. He killed, dismembered and even ate the flesh of some of his victims, which earned him the nickname of ‘Sweden’s Hannibal Lecter’.

The entire country held their collective breath, fearing the worst in the Johan Asplund case. Was the monster Thomas Quick responsible for him going missing, and most likely for him being abused and killed?

Quick had many versions of what took place on that fateful November day in 1980, but it basically came down to this: according to Quick, he drove to Sundsvall in a Volvo he had borrowed from an acquaintance, hoping to find a young boy. He spotted a dark-haired kid but could not get to him. That is when Johan had the misfortune of walking passed. Quick told him he had a cat in his car, and he needed help. When Johan reached the vehicle he slammed the boy’s head into the car and pulled him inside.

This is where the confession grew very dark, as he spelled out in detail what happened next… Quick said that after he had taken Johan, they drove to Norra Stadsberget where he abused and strangled him. Once the 11-year-old was no longer alive, Quick dismembered his body and wrapped the torso in a tarpaulin which he tied up with string.

Quick’s memory about how he disposed of Johan’s body was a bit blurry, however. At first, he said that he left it where he killed him in the woods at Norra Stadsberget. But later, he recalled that he disposed of smaller parts, like Johan’s hands at various locations as he drove around the countryside. At one point Quick claimed he had kept the boy’s legs in his attic. He also said that he ate some body parts, others he placed on the road and drove over it, hoping to destroy it.

When Quick agreed to show police where he had disposed of his victim’s remains, Prosecutor Christer van der Kwast excitedly announced at a press conference that he expected the case to be wrapped up in a week.

A group of police officers drove to Sundsvall, guided by Thomas Quick, hoping to find the remains of Johan Asplund. On the way, Quick suffered a series of anxiety attacks, telling officers that he was dreading what laid ahead.

In Criminal Inspector Seppo Penttinen’s report, he noted:

“After a few moments of concentration, Quick says that he is prepared to show us the place where he killed Johan Asplund. Escorted by his doctors who support him by holding his arms, Quick walks short stretches along the path. He has visible anxiety attacks intermittently… After walking about 100 metres he signals with his hand his intention to turn towards the right, where there is a small hill. As he gets closer to it, his anxiety increases and one can observe him leaning heavily on the arms of the accompanying doctors. When they speak to him he says that he wants to carry on regardless, but that he needs help.”

He pointed to a location where he claimed he had buried the boy’s clothing and footwear.

At this point, the doctors believed that Quick was reliving the crime, which caused the increased anxiety, to the point of hyperventilation. He then calmed down somewhat and said that he would take them to where he had left Johan’s head. After driving for a while, he noticed a heap of rocks, and pointed at it. He was never able to say what instrument or weapon he used to remove the young victim’s head from his body, however.

It took multiple interviews for Quick to reveal what he had done with the rest of Johan’s remains. He said that he drove up a hill, about 15km south of Sundsvall. He had decided to throw the body off a cliff, and was of the resolve to jump after it, ending his own life. But once he had thrown the body down, he had second thoughts about his intended suicide and returned to the car and drove off.

It is significant to mention that Quick was always very vague in describing Johan’s clothing. His first information was that Johan was wearing a blue jacket, which was unzipped. He also was not quite sure about the shoes and could not recall if Johan was wearing sneakers or boots, which is why he only ever used the word ‘footwear’. Anna-Clara confirmed that the only shoes missing from their home was Johan’s brown boots. Quick was also never able to give a description of the boy’s schoolbag.

Another contentious issue was that of the blue Volvo Quick claimed to have borrowed. It started out as medium-blue, then he changed his mind, stating it was light blue. Investigators pointed out that the man he claimed had lent him the car never owned a blue Volvo. Five years (and many interrogations later) Quick’s story finally lined up with facts, claiming that the car was actually red. The owner of the car, named by Quick, denied ever lending his vehicle to the self-proclaimed killer. A thorough forensic examination of the car also did not turn up any blood evidence. If Quick had ever transported freshly severed limbs in the car, there would have been something, but this car was spotless, showing no signs of blood during forensic testing.

How Quick came to be in Sundsvall that day without a driver’s license or being able to drive was later deemed irrelevant by the court. His sister Eva told police that she also did not think he killed Johan. Mostly because he claimed to have borrowed a car and driven there, however, according to his sister, Quick could not drive. He only learnt how to operate a motor vehicle after Johan’s disappearance and obtained his license in 1987, seven years after Johan went missing.

Police teams dug up all the sites but found nothing whatsoever. So investigators continued interrogating Quick. He changed his story once more, claiming that he had an accomplice in killing Johan. Investigators did not know what to make of the new information. Quick continued, claiming that his brother had helped him in Sundsvall that day. However, as his trial date grew closer, he said that it wasn’t his brother after all, but rather one of his alter-ego’s named ‘Cliff’.

Despite the plethora of information provided by Quick, none of Johan’s belongings, nor his remains were ever found. The prosecutor believed it had been destroyed in the 13 years since the crime took place and continued on, charging Quick for Johan’s abduction and assumed murder.

Despite the lack of physical evidence, Thomas Quick’s trial commenced in March 2001. The case relied heavily on Quick’s confession, and the strongest part of it was that he was able to describe details of Johan’s body, like a scar he claimed he saw on Johan’s tummy. He described it as a 5cm surgical scar under his navel. However, Johan never had surgery that would leave such a scar.

On the 21st of June 2001, Quick was found guilty by the Sundsvall District Court and ordered to remain at the Säter Institute for the criminally insane. Johan’s parents were also awarded damages. Björn and Anna-Clara opposed the conviction, strong in their belief that Quick had made a false confession. Björn Asplund said this after the trial:

“We have not attended the same trial, the judge who sentenced Quick and me.”

The Asplunds felt that police and the prosecutor were feeding information to Quick, forcing his story to link up with Johan. Criminal Inspector Seppo Penttinen refuted the accusation, stating that there were ‘watertight seals’ between the investigation and Quick’s psychiatric treatment, and that no information was shared.

But Björk and Anna-Clara insisted that police provided Quick with clues. For instance, they never told police about the birthmark on Johan’s backside, above the right buttock. Anna-Clara claimed that she felt cornered by prosecutor Van Der Kwast to provide details about the mark, which was only a slight change of pigment of his skin. She was forced to draw a picture of its shape and Van Der Kwast took the sketch with him. A couple of days after disclosing this information, Quick mentioned the birthmark in one of his confessions. In later years a transcript of an interview between Seppo Penttinen and Quick showed how leading the line of questioning was. It begins with Quick talking about the scar on the boy’s belly. And this is what followed:

Penttinen: Is there any possibility that it’s on the other side of the body?

Quick: I always think that you should take into account that it can be a mirror, mirrored relationship.

Then he changes track, alluding to the scar being red with dry skin around it. On June 3, 1998, this is what was said during another interrogation about the scar-slash-birthmark:

Quick: I place it around the back, that is, at belly level.

Penttinen: ...right side at the back, just above the buttock?

Quick: Yes, yes, and that it is progressing.

Penttinen: And showing over the hip bone?

Quick: Yes, exactly.

At the trial, the judge did not see a problem with the evidence, in fact, ignoring Anna-Clara’s and Björn’s protests, he ruled that Quick’s evidence corresponded with the sketch Anna-Clara had provided. He did not consider that it was because of this sketch that Quick knew what to say.

In 2006, Pelle Svensson, still acting on behalf of Johan’s parents, presented a case to the Chancellor of Justice, in which he questions the validity of Thomas Quik’s confessions. An in-depth investigation into Sweden’s purported most-prolific serial killer was launched, and it was found that his mental health issues could have attributed to false confessions.

This might all sound rather familiar to you – if you ever listened to the very first episode of Evidence Locker – in another case that took place in Sweden: ‘The Tent Killings at Lake Appojaure’, we discuss the curious case of this serial-false confessor. He also claimed that he was responsible for brutally killing Dutch couple Janni and Martinus Stegehuis, while they were asleep in their tent, on the shores of Lake Appojaure. Again, with no actual evidence linking him to the crime.

By 2008, Thomas Quick had taken back his birthname, Sture Bergwall. He also took back his confession regarding Johan’s kidnap and murder. He was acquitted of all charges relating to the young Asplund’s abduction, as well as all the other cases he had wrongfully confessed to. These were eight confessions of murder for which that he had stood trial for and had been found guilty of. Altogether, his confessions involved more than 30 victims, which meant that more than 30 heartbroken families had been strung along, believing justice had been served. And then they found themselves back to square one again.

Quick would eventually go on blaming childhood trauma for his horrific confessions. All of the alleged disposal sites he had shown police in Johan Asplund’s case, were in some way connected to Bergwall’s childhood or his family. For instance, he recalled that together with his father, he buried the body of his unborn brother at Främby Point. He also claimed that his mother tried to drown him once, at the very same spot. And this is where he confusedly thought he had left some of Johan’s remains.

Police were criticised for appointing only one investigator, Seppo Penttinen, to conduct all of the interrogations. It is believed that Bergwall learnt how to read his interrogator and knew exactly what to say to pique his interest. An investigation also noted that Bergwall was usually drugged at the time of questioning.

And on a more basic level, it has been alleged that he made all the false confessions, because it gave him better lodging at Säter instititute – he was deemed very dangerous and was given private quarters. He was drugged to keep him calm, and the more he claimed he had to say, to more sessions there were, thus the more drugs he was given. Then he agreed to show them where he had left supposed remains of his victims, which meant he was taken out of the institution, on scenic trips all around Sweden. Sometimes it was an overnight trip and he dined with police officers and stayed in hotels. He was nothing more than an opportunist, milking the system to better his immediate circumstances.

Bergwall was interested in true crime and followed the news religiously. He had read about Johan’s disappearance and other cases in the newspaper and was familiar with the basic facts of the cases. To give an example about how it all worked together in the mind of Bergwall… On the 12of October 1992, 55-year-old Carl-Olof Nordh was driving along a dirt road in Åviken when he was hijacked and stabbed to death. The unknown assailant stole his Nissan Sunny and left him to die.

The random, yet brutal nature of the crime made headlines as police appealed to the public for information. Photos of Carl-Olof’s body wrapped in a tarpaulin was on TV-news, as well as on the front pages of various newspapers. Video footage shows his body being carried away on a stretcher, while the blood-stained gravel tells the tale of the horrific incident.

Then, less than six months later, Thomas Quick made his first confession, claiming that he killed Johan Asplund in a meadow beside a dirt road. He also described how he had wrapped the boy’s body in a tarpaulin and made mention of the blood permeating into the soil. As we’ve mentioned before, most locations he pointed out to police were either well-known landmarks or had a connection to Bergwall’s past or his family. Åviken does not fit into this pattern. But once you consider the other crime and the extensive news coverage, one can understand how this morphed into one of Bergwall’s confessions.

Three years before Bergwall retracted his confession, in 2005, 25 years after Johan vanished, the statute of limitations ran out on his case. The implication of the mythomaniac’s false confession was that Johan’s case was closed. If he had NOT come forward, the investigation would have remained open, and perhaps the real perpetrator could have been brought to justice. But by the time Bergwall admitted that he had lied, it was too late – even if they do one day find out what happened to the boy, prosecutors would never be able to charge anyone with the crime.

In 2014, a man (who has not been named in the media) informed police that he had recorded another man who confessed to killing Johan on his iPhone. In the video, he claimed, the man said that on the morning of Johan’s disappearance, he waited for Anna-Clara to leave, and then called the apartment. Johan was sleepy when he answered and the man convinced him to meet him downstairs, and that he would give him a lift to school.

On the way, the man made good on his promise to buy Johan a muffin and a soft drink at an ICA store in Skönsberg. After popping into the supermarket, Johan realised they were driving in the wrong direction – away from his school – and insisted the man took him back. Abductor then forced a cloth with chloroform onto the boy’s face and Johan lost consciousness. He then tucked him under a blanket and drove to an isolated cabin, deep into the woods.

When they arrived, he was unable to wake Johan and he realised that the boy was no longer alive. He panicked and wrapped his body in blankets, tied it up with rope and hid it in the woods. He returned to the cabin and removed all evidence of him ever being there. Then he set out to bury Johan’s body.

The man went back to Sundsvall, where he broke into the hospital and destroyed Johan’s belongings by burning it in an incinerator. According to the man, he never meant to kill Johan. In a cruel twist of fate, this turned out to be another false confession and the person has since been charged with defamation. The man who claimed to have filmed the video came clean and said that he had fabricated the entire account. Forensic examination of all the man’s devices also came up empty, there was no evidence of said video. He said he made it all up to clear up the mystery surrounding Johan’s disappearance.

In 2018, almost 40 years after they saw him last, Johan’s parents had the gut-wrenching task of legally declaring their son dead.

Although they knew the person guilty for their son’s murder would never be prosecuted, Anna-Clara and Björn never gave up in keeping Johan’s story alive. They still felt that it was Adam, but they wanted him to confess, and tell them what happened on that snowy morning. And also disclose to them where Johan’s body is, so they could finally lay him to rest.

As recent as March of this year, 2022, Adam was questioned again, after police received an anonymous, typed letter, naming him as the person who kidnapped and murdered Johan. According to the letter, Adam had confessed to the crime to relatives. During the new interrogation, he spoke more openly. He explained his strange behaviour in the days following Johan’s disappearance by saying that he kept his distance from the initial searches and investigation out of respect for Anna-Clara. He did not want to upset her and cause a scene. Ironically, Anna-Clara, desperate to find her son asked for his help, and specifically pleaded with him to help look for Johan. Still, Adam vehemently denies having taken Johan all those years ago.

Because the statute of limitations ran out on the criminal investigation, police keep Johan’s file open as a missing person’s case. If someone were to confess to the crime, there will not be any legal consequences. However, knowing what happened to Johan would give Johan’s parents the closure they so desperately need. As police investigator Jonas Holmström told the media:

“Simply put it's about solving the disappearance, that’s it.”

From the first day of the investigation, Anna-Clara and Björn felt that Adam had something to do with their son’s disappearance. They have come to the grim conclusion, not dissimilar to the false-video confession. They think that Adam waited for Anna-Clara to leave for work that morning, then lured Johan to meet him outside, by calling on the home phone. Making good on his threat to hurt Johan to get to Anna-Clara he then took the boy, killed him and disposed of his body in the toxic waste disposal unit of the hospital where he worked with Anna-Clara. It later came out that the lock to the outhouse where hospital waste was disposed of, had been broken ton the day Johan went missing. Adam’s Volvo was also seen outside the building, although he was not on duty that day. He had enrolled to write a test at the hospital, but never showed up.

40 years after kissing her son goodbye for the last time, all that was left for Anna-Clara are memories of him. Johan would have been in his fifties now, perhaps he would have had children of his own. But Anna-Clara and Björn never got to see him grow up and live his life. To them, he will be forever, 11 – a smiley, soft-hearted boy who loved his cat, even though he had asked for a dog. The boy who loved playing soccer and badminton and who was loved by everyone who knew him. And his killer, well, it would seem he got away with the most horrendous crime of all: the murder of a child.


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