Stockholm police have arrested a woman suspected of keeping her 41-year-old son confined to their flat for almost three decades, police and local media have said.
Emma Olsson, a public prosecutor in charge of the preliminary investigation, said the 70-year-old woman, who denies any wrongdoing, was being held on suspicion of illegal detention and causing grievous bodily harm.
Her son was being treated in hospital for physical injuries he had when he was found, Ms Olsson said, but did not specify what they were. She said he appeared to have been kept confined to the apartment for “a very long time”.
According to the Expressen newspaper, the man was found by a relative who entered the unlocked flat, in Haninge municipality about 12 miles south of the Swedish capital, on Sunday evening after hearing that the mother had herself been admitted to hospital.
Barrier tape of the police is fixed on the door of the apartment in Haninge, south of Stockholm, where a man in his 40s, who was kept locked in by his mother, was found. Photograph: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP via Getty Images
The relative said she had told authorities 20 years ago that she suspected the woman was “totally controlling her son’s life”, but no official action had been taken and other family members had urged her not to cause trouble.
“But I understood he was in there and he must be afraid,” she told the paper. “I pushed the door and shouted hello. It stank of urine, dirt and dust. It smelled rotten. No one can have cleaned for many years.”
She pushed her way through piles of rubbish to the kitchen, where she found the man sitting in a corner. “I saw him in the light from a street lamp outside,” she said. “At first, I only saw his legs. They looked terrible. Everything up to the knees was just sores.”
The relative said the man could hardly stand, was missing most of his teeth, and his speech was slurred. “He spoke very fast and a little incoherently but he was not afraid of me,” she said. “I’m in shock, but I’m thankful he got help and will survive.”
The state broadcster SVT reported that the woman had lost an earlier child at a young age and given her new son the same name, subsequently becoming “over-protective”. Aftonbladet newspaper said she took the boy out of school when he was 12 or 13.
“She stole his life from him and manipulated the people around her in order to keep her secret – he has been badly let down by all of society,” the unnamed relative told Aftonbladet.
An unidentified neighbour who lived in the same building told the paper they had not seen the man for years. “They almost never went outside, and never even opened the windows for fresh air,” she said. “The apartment was sealed.”
Another neighbour told Aftonbladet she occasionally bumped into the mother. “We talked about small things, as you do,” she said. “Sometimes I asked about the boy, and she just said he was fine. She never really talked about him.”
Many neighbours found the situation strange, she said. “But what can you do? How do you know what’s going on behind closed doors?” – Guardian