The Hjulsta bridge

Prosecutor mulls manslaughter charge for police

Swedish police opened up a bridge in order to chase two suspected petrol thieves, leading to the two men dying when their car went into the icy water.

Now the police department inolved will be investigated for manslaughter.

Around midnight on monday two men drove away from a petrol station in Uppsala without paying. A police patrol car was alerted and gave chase, past Enköping and out onto Highway 55 towards the Hjulsta bridge.

Police say that the suspects were driving fast and recklessly. The commander that night in Uppsala police station decided to get in touch with the people controlling the Hjulsta bridge up ahead. The barriers were lowered and the bridge was opened up, with the two halves swinging away from each other. The road now ended in a dead end, over the icy water.

The two suspects, both in their twenties, drove straight through the barrier, and into lake Mälaren. The car was pulled out the next day, with the two men dead, still trapped in the car.

Now the Uppsala police department will have to face a manslaughter investigation.

Their press spokeswoman says that, to her knowledge, opening the bridge like this not a normal police tactic, and is "not an acceptable way to act".

At the Uppsala traffic department Mikael Gustafsson says that he thinks it is reasonable to investigate whether the commander that night made the right decision. He adds that police work of this kind can involve making very fast choices, which then need to be looked after in hindsight.

Prosecutor Håkan Roswall works at the police investigations unit. He will now have to prepare a case, together with the police internal affairs department, and look into whether the police broke the law. The prosecutor tells Swedish Radio News that the current crimes being considered are professional misconduct and manslaughter, and the main suspect is the officer in charge of the Uppsala police that fateful night.

Researcher Jörgen Lundälv, at Umeå University says that police actions have to be in proportion to the crime being committed, and that leaving a petrol station without paying does not justify a police action that put people's lives in danger. "I am shocked" he says. "I see the bridge opening as a kind of death trap".

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