The Knutby Murder: What Happened To Sara Svennson?

The homicide rate in Sweden is known for being low – per Knoema, the rate is just 1.1 cases per 100,000 people, with a total of 108 homicides in 2018. The rarity of the crime means just about any Swedish murder is going to be noteworthy in and of itself, which makes the bizarre Knutby murder case all the more fascinating.

As reported by Slanted, Knutby is a small, remote Swedish village, home to a Pentecostal religious sect. On January 10, 2004, Alexandra Fossmo, wife of the sect's pastor, Helge Fossmo, was found murdered in her bed. According to The Local, the Fossmos' neighbor, Daniel Linde, was shot multiple times and seriously injured. As an investigation got underway, it came to light that Helge Fossmo was having an affair with both his children's nanny, Sara Svensson, and Daniel Linde's wife. Svensson confessed to the murders within days; per Slanted, she claimed "she was told to commit the acts of violence through a series of text messages from God."

Why did Sara Svennson go free?

After Svensson's arrest, reports Slanted, "what soon emerged ... was a tale of a scandalous love triangle and details of another suspicious death that had occurred years before." Helge Fossmo's first wife, Héléne Fossmo, was found dead in a bathtub in 1999; Fossmo wasn't charged with her death until 2004. By July of 2004, Helge Fossmo had been acquitted of the charges related to the death of his first wife, but was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder in the case of Svensson's murder of his second wife, Alexandra. 

Svensson, per The Local, was ordered to enter a psychiatric institution. At some point she began living on her own "under restricted conditions" and in 2011, she was ordered released from the institution. Neither the prosecutor who argued the case nor the psychiatrist who served as an expert witness during the trial had any objections to Svensson going free. The judge who ruled on the case told reporters, "The criteria are simple. There is no risk for a relapse and institutional care isn't required because of her personal and psychological condition." 

HBO and HBO Max will premier a five-part docuseries on the Knutby murder, titled "Pray, Obey, Kill," on April 12.