It’s one of the strangest features of human nature – when hostages begin to side with their captors, defend their actions and even develop feelings for them.
Called Stockholm Syndrome, it gets its name from a strange bank robbery in the Swedish capital nearly 50 years ago, when a group organized for six days became close to two men responsible. and sympathize with them.
During the siege, one hostage even phoned the Prime Minister of Sweden from inside the bank to complain about his attitude towards her captors.
The story will now be featured in Netflix’s six-part drama series Clark, which explores the wild biography of one of the two hostage-takers, Swedish gangster Clark Olofsson.
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Eric Broms / Netflix)
The comedy stars fellow countryman Bill Skarsgård – Pennywise the Clown in Stephen King’s supernatural chilling hit It.
Olofsson, 75, is considered Sweden’s most notorious criminal and has spent half his life behind bars on charges ranging from robbery to attempted murder. He was only freed from his latest offense – for drug smuggling – in 2018.
But the robber most notorious for the August 1973 hostage crisis coined the term Stockholm Syndrome.
Olofsson was working when his close friend JanErik Olsson – better known as Janne – walked into a bank, disguised in a woman’s wig, makeup and sunglasses… and carrying a submachine gun. .
He shot to the ceiling, shouting in English: “The party begins!”
Taking three hostages, he demanded three million Swedish krona – worth around £3 million today – and for his friend Olofsson to be taken to the bank from prison.
Police complied with his request, bringing Olofsson to the scene as crews live-televisioned the standoff around the world.
David King, who wrote a book on the case called Six Days in August, explains: “In the past, while in prison together, Clark and Janne talked about the many conspiracies and schemes that could be worked out. presently.
“But on the morning of August 23, 1973, when he learned of the situation in Stockholm, I believe Clark was really surprised.”
He said giving in to Olsson’s demands was “a very questionable decision”, adding: “Clark did the negotiations on behalf of the gunman.
“He helped break the open cash register. He destroyed the security camera footage. He phoned his media contacts and captivated them with exclusive interviews in the midst of the crisis. And so on. ”
The hostages Birgitta Lundblad, 31, Elisabeth Oldgren, 21, and Kristin Enmark, 23, had their wrists and ankles tied with ropes. The fourth hostage, 25-year-old Sven Säfström, was taken after Olofsson’s arrival.
A quick car was even brought to the bank – but the snipers were ordered not to allow the hostage-takers to leave.
For six days, the gunmen and their detainees were locked together inside the bank vault, a tense atmosphere in which feelings began to develop between them.
Elisabeth later told police that Olsson, 32, had wrapped a gray wool coat around her when he noticed she shivered.
Eric Broms / Netflix)
When she felt suffocated, he tied a rope around her and let her leave the cellar for a walk. She later said: “I was tied, but I felt free. I remember thinking he was kind enough to let me leave the vault.”
Instead of fearing their captors, the hostages began to fear the police – worried that the authorities might bring about a violent end to the siege.
Kristin even spoke by phone with Prime Minister Olof Palme to ask him to let the captives go with the robbers when they left.
In a police call recording, she told Palme: “I think you’re sitting there playing checkers with our lives. I completely trust Clark and the bandit.
“I am not desperate. They did nothing to us… they were very good. But you know, Olof, what I’m afraid of is the police going to attack and kill us.”
Meanwhile, the public offered a series of solutions, to the press and the police directly, to end the deadlock.
Send a hypnotist. Use poison darts. Put the dried yellow beans into the stew. Some even suggested sending wasps or skunks to scare off the gunmen.
On the fourth day, police drilled through the ceiling of the cellar and captured a photo of Olofsson and the detainees together.
Eric Broms / Netflix)
Olsson fired a bullet through the hole, wounding an officer, and threatened to kill the hostages if police tried to overpower them. But in the end, two days later, they did it – pumping tear gas into the bunker.
The pair quickly surrendered and officers ordered the release of the four arrested. But to the surprise of the authorities, the hostages insisted that Olofsson and Olsson be allowed out first, fearing for the safety of their captors if they were released before the victims.
The group even hugged and kissed the gunmen before they all finally left the bunker. But the hostages’ high respect for their detainees confounds doctors and psychologists.
Kristin herself even asked a psychiatrist: “Is something wrong with me? Why don’t I hate them? ”
The academic critic Nils Bejerot coined the term Norrmalmstorg Syndrome, named after the square where the robbery took place, to describe the phenomenon that detainees resemble their captors.
Outside of Sweden, it is known as Stockholm Syndrome. But it remains a subject of controversy, with some critics calling it a form of victim blaming.
Hostage Kristin criticized Bejerot’s analysis, saying she only established the relationship as a survival strategy.
Dr. James Alvarez, 58, is a hostage negotiator and clinical psychologist. Originally from New Jersey, he now lives in London and says he is the only consultant employed by both the NYPD and Scotland Yard. He thinks the Stockholm Syndrome is a fascinating idea – but very rare in real-world hostage situations.
Dr Alvarez said: “I have never seen it directly in the field. Mostly, the old hostages want to kill the mother.
“But it has a visual appeal that the public and the media enjoy. I’m not ruling that out – I can see the development of hostage identification with kidnappers, especially under specific conditions. ”
Dr. Frank Ochberg, a psychiatrist who consulted for the FBI and came up with one of the earliest definitions of Stockholm Syndrome, says the concept has merit. He believes that certain types of extreme politics and abusive relationships can also be considered the Stockholm Syndrome.
Speaking from Florida, the 82-year-old said: “Incidents like this can help us understand important things about our species, and how abused people entrench themselves with abusers. I think it’s helpful that it’s a phrase that has become part of everyday usage.
“Stockholm syndrome is one form of traumatic association, and there are many others.
“The irony is that in those cases, someone can be psychologically – and literally – tied up with a sadist, unscrupulous person.
“And then they risk making that mistake in another part of their life.”
A year after her ordeal, Kristin had a brief romantic relationship with Olofsson, and they still keep in touch.
While Olsson was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the robbery, Olofsson’s conviction was overturned by an appeals court. He returned to prison to complete his initial sentence – but went on to face a host of other high-profile crimes, including multiple prison breaks and the largest bank robbery in Swedish criminal history.
But his part in the Stockholm robbery, and the loyalty he inspired to his hostages, continues to be his most captivating crime. And it seems to be the one he looks back fondly on.
Author David King said: “When I asked him what he thought of Norrmalmstorg today, Clark laughed and said, ‘F**k, it’s fun’.”
■ Clark will premiere on Netflix on May 5
https://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/infamous-bank-robbery-gave-stockholm-26839711 The infamous bank robbery that made Stockholm Syndrome the new Netflix series