The man who pretended to be a serial killer

Thomas Quick

The Swedish man, whose real name is Sture Bergwall, called himself Thomas Quick and confessed to 30 murders, some which involved rape and cannibalism. Despite the lack of physical evidence, he was tried and convicted of eight killings.

Then he said he made it all up, and his confessions were false.

If that's true, why did he pretend, and how did he convince an army of smart people that he was a notorious killer?
Bergwall had always wanted to meld in. He was a teenage misfit. He grew up in a small town in rural Sweden, one of seven siblings raised according to strict Pentecostal beliefs. He describes himself as a "creative and ambitious" child, interested in theatre and writing. At 14, he realised he was gay. Ashamed by his sexuality, he hid it from his deeply religious parents. He started experimenting with drugs – amphetamine was his favourite – and, at the age of 19, was accused of molesting adolescent boys. Later, he tried to stab a former lover. In 1990, he robbed a local bank dressed in a Santa Claus outfit to feed his addiction. The clerk recognised him. He was incarcerated in Säter hospital for psychiatric treatment. Not a stable individual, then, but not a serial killer – at least, not yet.

As a young man, Bergwall had always hankered after being taken seriously and treated as an intelligent person. For a while, he wanted to be a doctor and read up on psychoanalysis. In Säter, he began to realise he could use this knowledge to get the attention and acceptance he craved. "What would you say," he asked his therapist one day in 1992, "if I had done something really bad?"

"That created a reaction, an interest," Bergwall says now. "I said: 'Maybe I murdered someone' and once I'd said that, there was no going back."

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