Sture Bergwall  said he confessed to the killings as part of a cry for help (STV)
Sture Bergwall said he confessed to the killings as part of a cry for help (STV)

A man dubbed 'Sweden's Hannibal Lecter' has had all murder charges against him dropped after he admitted he made up his confessions.

Sture Bergwall was convicted of murdering eight people, including three children, between 1976 and 1988 after he told police about how he raped, mutilated and ate his victims.

After more than two decades locked up indefinitely in an institution for the criminally insane, Bergwell told investigators his confessions were false and he had in fact never killed anyone.

Bergwall said he had lied to investigators because he craved attention and was under heavy medication.

Without the confessions of Bergwall - previously known by the name of his serial killer alter ego, Thomas Quick - the case against him fell apart as there was no other evidence.

The final case against Bergwall - the murder of a 15-year-old who disappeared in northern Sweden in 1976 - has now been withdrawn.

Attorney general Anders Perklev said: "That a person has been convicted of eight murders and later been declared innocent, that is unique in Swedish legal history.

"It has to be considered as a big failure for the justice system."

The case raised initial questions about how a man could be convicted of murders without any corroborating evidence, witness statements or forensic evidence.

When the remains of the 15-year-old Charles Zelmanovits were found in 1993, forensic evidence could not establish a cause of death or even if he had been murdered at all.

Bergwall, a convicted sex offender and bank robber, had already been detained in a secure psychiatric unit for three years when he began confessing to the murders.

'I wanted to be interesting'

Bergwall told a Swedish TV documentary he had fabricated the story of Thomas Quick the serial killer as part of a cry for attention, fuelled by heavy drug use.

"If I hadn't accepted therapy and benzodiazepines, no Thomas Quick would have been created," he said.

"In that lies the guilt that I must carry to my grave with respect to the relatives of the victims, their suffering during the Thomas Quick years."

In an interview with GQ magazine, Bergwall said that after he was convicted of a bank robbery in 1991, he began to drift into fantasy while incarcerated.

"I had burned so many bridges, and I was plunged into this profound loneliness," he said. "I wanted to be this interesting person. I didn't want to be this grey bad person. I wanted to be something else."

The first murder Bergwall said he was responsible for was the killing of 11-year-old Johan Asplund, who he said he raped then dismembered after the boy's disappearance in 1980.

After all cases against Bergwall were dropped, the 11-year-old's father Bjorn Asplund said: "This is what we have struggled with ever since the first day Thomas Quick entered the scene - I never believed he was responsible for my boy's death or any of the murders.

"The real killers are roaming free in our society because of the travelling circus surrounding Thomas Quick."

No one will now be convicted of the boy's murder as the statute of limitations on his case has expired.

It is unclear if Bergwall will remain at the Saeter psychiatric clinic, where he has been a patient since 1991 after being convicted of armed robbery, three years before his first false confession.