The da Costa case: Feminist media court deciding fate of two doctors.
Published by Dispatch International March 21, 2013. Second part in a series.
After a scandalously poor police investigation and six months of solitary confinement, it was time for the two doctors Teet Härm and Thomas Allgén to face justice in the District Court of Stockholm. But there was not to be any justice in the Catrine da Costa case, merely two show trials with false witnesses, changing information and a prosecutor who was not even convinced of his own indictment. Dispatch International continues the story of a legal process controlled by an ultra-feminist mob and the media.
When the two doctors were led from the jail to the courtroom on January 22nd 1988, they attempted to conceal their faces from the press photographers and journalists who tried to catch a glimpses of the two monstrous dismembering killers. For that was how they had been described in enormous headlines on the newspaper placards.
They had simply been convicted in advance. The responsibility for that rested heavily on the ultra-feminist mob which for many months had conducted a campaign against the woman-hating monsters, the killers, the rapists and the body dismemberers.
Evening newspapers joined the fray to an unprecedented extent. When the news Director at public broadcaster Sveriges Radio, Erik Fichtelius, decided to publish the names of the two doctors, Everyone else was free to do the same. The decision by Fichtelius gave each of the two men their mark of Cain. It became a first in Swedish legal history that the media along with an external group managed to control a legal process.
The entire first trial became a race between media and the court, where the media won each round. Witnesses appeared in newspapers before they were interrogated in court, or the media speculated extensively in what they would say, to such an extent that it could hardly be missed by members of the court.
Outside the courtroom, the curious and the feminists would line up for hours seeking to get one of the few seats available to the public. The entire process was initiated by the public prosecutor, Anders Helin, who in front of the sitting court was forced to change the date that the murder was supposed to have been committed – because Allgén had an alibi for the original date. So the prosecutor simply pushed the murder date one day ahead in time.
The prosecutorial tactic was to prove that the two had dismembered the body of Catrine da Costas, and that this constituted evidence that they had also committed the murder during barbaric and grotesque sex play at the medical investigators’ center, in the presence of the 18-month-old daughter of Thomas Allgén.
Over the course of two hours, the doctors were supposed to have had time to pick up da Costa, take her to the medical center, have sex with her, murder her, dismember the body, clean up the autopsy room, remove the body bags, and make it back home again. A scenario with impossible timing.
For that reason, the autopsy report of the medical investigator Jovan Rajs became vital for the prosecution. He was also Teet Härm’s boss and four years before the trial had already pointed out his apprentice Teet Härm in a letter to the criminal police. That such claims did not fit to his role as an expert witness was of no concern to the police. Eventually, Rajs said in his testimony that it was not possible to ascertain the cause of death, a severe blow to the whole chain of evidence. His statement was later torn to shreds by the legal council of the Swedish social authorities.
A couple who owned a photography shop testified that Thomas Allgén had submitted a film with images of a dismembered body. But their identification of Allgén was of significantly worse quality than the rejected identification that Lisbet Palme had made of Christer Pettersson.
Christina, Allgén’s ex-wife, testified what their daughter Karin was said to have told her. That ”the lady head ended up in a trashcan” and ”one can cut up ladies like the garden and daddy”, or that ”they grilled eyes and drank blood”. A police officer claimed to have seen Härm and da Costa in the subway, and one woman erroneously claimed to have seen the two doctors outside the medical investigation clinic on the day in question. All of these witnesses had contacted the investigators only years after the death of da Costa.
Towards the end of the trial, the media changed tack in their extensive speculations. They now believed in an acquittal, after stubbornly having said the opposite earlier. But the verdict was a conviction, published on the international women’s day March 8th, along with a decision for a forensic psychiatric investigation.
Then came the turnaround. The daily Aftonbladet had managed to interview the jurymen while anticipating the final verdict. Their chatter triggered a legal avalanche. The jury members and the judge jumped the gun. The lawyers appealed the decision and continued the case at the high court. Nineteen days later, Thomas Allgén and Teet Härm were set free after a decision at the Svea high court, which also wrote that procedural errors had been committed, and that if the case was taken to the high court, the two were likely to be acquitted.
But there was a political undercurrent around the case, led by a former investigator of prostitution in Sweden, the ultra-feminist Hanna Olsson. She had followed the case closely and written several articles about it. Olsson contacted the prosecutor, which became her starting point for obtaining a retrial.
From out of nowhere suddenly appeared a prostitute with a diary. The woman claimed that da Costa knew the two perverse doctors, and that one of them had a small daughter. The prosecutor Helin decided to take the woman in for an interrogation, while at the same time declaring that he had no intentions of bringing fresh charges.
But he wanted that decision anchored by the National Prosecutor Magnus Sjöberg. On the same day as that meeting took place, on March 29th 1988, the cultural pages of the newspaper Dagens Nyheter published a major article by Hanna Olsson, who with strong moralistic and feminist indignation criticized the prosecutor for not letting prostitutes be witnesses in court. She also claimed that the doctors had sadistic and necrophiliac tendencies. The case had to be taken up again, she wrote.
On the same day, Hanna Olsson also provided Sveriges Radio with a new testimony from a prostitute who claimed that Teet Härm had been a customer of da Costa. Also on the same day, Anders Helin received an express letter from an anonymous woman, claiming that Härm in tears had admitted his guilt to her. The sender of the letter was never found.
A mere two days later, prosecutor Anders Helin decided that there was to be a retrial. It took only a one-day media campaign by Hanna Olsson, and one anonymous letter, for Helin to change his mind and decide for a new prosecution. As of today, it is unknown which role the National Prosecutor played in the spectacle.
In the next installment, we will explain the verdict that acquitted the doctors of murder, but forever marked them as corpse desecrators.
Link to Dispatch International: http://www.d-intl.com/
By Anders Carlgren