Racist rumors may have affected how police handled Ikea stabbing case

2:09 min

Sweden was shaken this Monday by a double murder in Ikea's store in Västerås. A 55-year-old woman and her 27-year-old son got stabbed to death while shopping in the kitchen section.

The police arrested the same day two men who were living in the same asylum center in the nearby city of Arboga. The story got extensive media coverage in Sweden and abroad, politicians weighed in and some websites started publishing racist comments and rumors.

Criminology professor at Stockholm University Jerzy Sarnecki thinks the foreign background of the suspects could have encouraged police to reveal more information than usual, in an attempt to stop the racist rumors.

"Many of these rumors were directly related to racist opinions and it was disturbing both for society and for police work. And many of these rumors were obvious lies, so I think the police made the judgement that they needed to tell more about what happened than they usually do in this kind of cases," Sarnecki says.

The older suspect, aged 36, confessed to the crime yesterday after being questioned over the phone from hospital, where he is recovering from serious injuries he got in connection with the attack.

"It was a very quick hearing. It's not that surprising, given that my client has confessed to two murders. In this case, it was obvious that he'd be remanded into custody," Per-Ingvar Ekblad, the suspect's lawyer, tells Swedish Radio News.

The other suspect, aged 23, was released yesterday, as the court said there was not enough evidence against him. His lawyer, Maria Wilhelmsson, says her client needs protection, as he has received multiple threats.

"Yes, considering the threats and what is being written on several websites, I think he needs protection," Wilhelmsson says.

Police in Västmanland have confirmed that they have already set up a protection protocol for him, but declined to reveal any further details.