Bank Robbery Employess Victims of 'Stockholm Syndrome'
The Norrmalmstorg robbery was a bank robbery best known as the
origin of the term Stockholm
syndrome. It occurred in Stockholm, Sweden between August 23 and 28 of
Sequential Run-Down of the Events
On August 23, 1973, Jan Erik "Janne" Olsson, on leave from
prison, walked into Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstorg, central Stockholm.
Police were called in immediately, two of them went inside, and Olsson
opened fire, injuring one policeman. The other was ordered to sit in a
chair and "sing something". He started singing "Lonesome
Cowboy". Olsson then took 4 people as hostages. (See picture.) He
demanded his friend Clark Olofsson to be brought there, along with 3
million Swedish Kronor ($360,000 US 2003 value), two guns, bullet-proof
vests, helmets and a fast car.
Olofsson was brought in by permission of the government and established
a communication link with the police negotiators. One of the hostages,
Kristin Ehnemark (not present on the photo), said she was confident with
the robbers but feared the police might cause trouble by violent methods
(this was the beginning of the Stockholm syndrome). The robbers barricaded
the inner main vault together with the hostages. The doors to the vault
were closed. The robbers were permitted to have a car to escape but were
not allowed to take the hostages with them, if they were to leave.
The robber, Olofsson, called up the Prime Minister Olof Palme and said
he would kill the hostages, and took a stranglehold on Elisabeth; she was
heard screaming as he hung up.
The next day Olof Palme received another call. This time it was Kristin
Ehnmark who said she was very displeased with his attitude, asking him to
let the robbers and the hostages leave.
Olofsson walked around in the vault singing Roberta
Flack's "Killing me softly".
The drama went on. On August 26, the police drilled a hole into the
main vault from the apartment above. This was the hole from which the
picture of the hostages and Olofsson was taken. Olsson opened fire and
threatened to kill the hostages if any gas attack was attempted. He
attached small snare traps to the necks of the hostages which would cause
them to strangle themselves in the event of a gas attack. These can be
seen on the deposit boxes on the left.
On August 28 the gas was used anyway, and after half an hour the
robbers gave up. Nobody was injured physically.
Both Olsson and Olofsson were charged and sentenced to extended
imprisonment for the robbery. However Olofsson claimed he didn't help
Olsson and was only trying to save the hostages by keeping the situation
calm, and at the court of appeals he was freed of any charges. He was
later to become a friend with one of the hostages, Kristin Ehnemark, and
they meet sometimes, their families becoming friends. Olsson was sentenced
to 10 years of prison and has not committed a criminal act since he was
released. He got many admiring letters from women who found him
attractive. He later got engaged to one of them (not one of the hostages,
however, as some state).
The hostages still repeatedly claim they were more frightened of the
police than the robbers during their six days of confinement. They clearly
identify with their unlawful guardians. This leads to academic interest in
the matter. The term "Stockholm
syndrome" was coined by criminologist Nils Bejerot.
Clark Olofsson has repeatedly committed armed robberies and acts of
violence, both before and after the events in 1973, all since he was 16
years old. He was finally released from prison in 1991, but in 1999 he was
arrested in Denmark and was sentenced to another 14 years of prison. He
has spent some 24 years in prison.
Myths of the Norrmalmstorg Robbery
The most widely publicized myth about the robbery, or rather about the
Stockholm syndrome, was that one or both robbers became engaged to their
captives. This is simply not true, and may stem from the language barrier:
the phrase "engagera sig i någon" in Swedish, does not
mean "to become engaged to someone", but rather "to care
deeply about someone" (this sort of resemblance between two words in
different languages that are not synonyms is known as a false friend).
As stated above, Kristin Ehnemark and Clark Olofsson became friends,
and Jan Olsson married one of his female admirers, but there were no
engagements between anyone present during the events.