According to tabloid Aftonbladet, the three daughters, who are now all adults, lived in Åre in northern Sweden for 10 years but never attended school there. According to Åre authorities, there are no records of them going to school in a different municipality either.
The mother and the daughters are thought to have moved several times over the past 20 years. In the early noughties, they moved to Åre but two of the children, who were then of school age, apparently never showed up at the local school at the start of the term.
Jonas Nordström, chief lawyer at the Swedish National Agency for Education, said that, if true, the case is highly unusual. “I have never heard of children being forgotten by the system in this way,” he told Aftonbladet.
The woman, 59, is suspected of keeping her three children locked up and hidden away from the world for several years. The children are now in their mid-twenties to early thirties. The two youngest have the same father and he claims he has been looking for them 17 years.
Police raided the family’s apartment in Bromölla on Wednesday evening after having received a call from a neighbor who said she had heard neighbours fighting in the stairwell of the apartment building. When she opened the door, one of the young women reportedly grabbed hold of her and shouted “Help, I’ve been locked up for 13 years.”
The apartment building is in a residential area of Bromölla, a town with a population of under 8,000 people. "The blinds were always pulled down there and we haven't heard any noise from the apartment," a neighbour told tabloid Expressen. Aftonbladet cited another eye witness as saying: "One of the young women who was led out of the apartment could barely walk by herself.”
On Thursday, the woman was arrested on suspicion of unlawful deprivation of liberty and was questioned by the police late into the night. A police spokeswoman told news agency TT that the prosecutor will decide Friday whether the woman should be detained.
Chief prosecutor Pär Andersson said all the facts of the case have to be established, for instance whether the children were held captive against their will or if there was a period when they agreed to stay locked up. “There could be many reasons behind this and that is what we are trying to investigate,” Andersson said on Thursday evening.
The mother’s attorney, Thomas Ljungdahl, told Aftonbladet that his client denies the accusations against her and that she in no way has restricted the complainants’ freedom of movement.
According to a relative, a custody battle is the reason why the family has been moving around for years but, the relative claimed, the children were never locked up.
The father of the two youngest daughters has told Swedish media that he and the mother got divorced in the late 1990s and that he has been trying to contact his children ever since. "I have been looking for my children for 17 years," he said.