Sweden drops final charge against 'serial killer'

STOCKHOLM Wed Jul 31, 2013 9:55am EDT

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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Prosecutors on Wednesday dropped the eighth and final murder charge against a man who for two decades was thought to be one of Sweden's worst serial killers until it emerged that all his confessions were false.

In the early 1990s, Sture Bergwall, a patient at a mental institution, confessed to murdering more than 30 people found dead in Sweden in preceding years.

In a series of trials between 1994 and 2001, Bergwall was convicted of eight murders, despite there being no forensic evidence or witness statements.

But Bergwall, 63, later recanted his confessions, saying he made them to get attention and drugs, and was granted retrials.

Prosecutor-General Anders Perklev told a news conference that the confessions had not been sufficient for the convictions and that Bergwall was to be considered exonerated of the crimes.

Perklev said almost all the murder cases were handled by the same "narrow circle" of police and prosecutor.

"There is a lot to indicate that those in charge of the probes had become fully convinced Sture Bergwall's confessions were correct. This may have meant that circumstances pointing in the other direction were not sufficiently considered," he said.

The case dropped by prosecutors on Wednesday regarded the death of a 15-year-old boy who disappeared in 1976 and whose remains were found in 1993. The decision paves the way for a formal court ruling to wipe the last of the murders from Bergwall's record.

Bergwall and his lawyer, as well as some Swedish politicians, have called for a public inquiry into possible shortfalls in the legal system that may have resulted in Bergwall's convictions.

Bergwall is still being held in a mental institution.

(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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