Evidence

Stolen Swedish Crown Jewels Turn Up During Suspect’s Trial

Två kungakronor och ett riksäpple stals.

The Swedish bureau is reporting that, in a remarkable coincidence—or was it?—the regalia stolen last year from Strängnäs Cathedral have suddenly turned up, just one day after I updated my post on the theft to note that the items had still not been recovered. See Speedboat Escape Is Exception That Proves the Rule” (Aug. 3, 2018; updated Feb. 4, 2019). Oh yes I did too, because I was motivated to check on it after mentioning the incident in Monday’s post on yet another failed attempt to escape by water. And not 24 hours later, or maybe less depending on what time zone Sweden is in and how long their hours are, police in Stockholm just happen to find the things sitting on a dumpster.

Some believe it may have had something to do with the fact that a suspect is currently on trial in the matter, but that is the rankest of speculation.

According to news reports, police found what they believe are “likely” to be all three of the missing 17th-century funeral regalia just sitting on top of a “rubbish bin” in the Åkersberga suburb of Stockholm. Forensic tests are currently underway to make sure the two crowns and an orb are the real thing, but it is hard to see why someone smart enough to make decent fakes would bother, knowing they would be closely scrutinized. The above terms are from Radio Sweden’s coverage in English, but I would also recommend Google’s translation of its coverage in Swedish: as usual, you get more details that way, and can also take childish pleasure in some of the wording:

Way funnier than “Åklagarmyndigheten: Hela bytet är återfunnet,” at least to an English-speaker

According to the latter account, the booty was found atop a garbage can in Åkersberga early on February 5, the same day the trial of a 22-year-old suspect was expected to conclude. Prosecutors reported the finding to Eskilstuna District Court at 9:00 a.m., and the court put the trial on hold. Prosecutor Reena Devgun said she thought the timing of the find was probably not a coincidence. “You must remember it was only yesterday that Mr. Underhill updated his post on this matter,” she unfortunately did not say, instead going with “You have to [consider] that today we would have finished the hearing, and today [the booty has] been found. More than that I do not want to comment.” Aftonbladet said (also via Google) that prosecutors had 99 percent security the items were real, but were waiting for confirmation.

It does seem unlikely to be a coincidence, but—assuming it has something to do with the trial—it’s not clear to me how this would affect it or who if anyone would benefit.

More than one person was involved in the heist, and police have at least one other person in custody. According to Aftonbladet, the 22-year-old says he doesn’t know anything about a robbery, but admits he “has helped to fix bikes and a boat, which the thieves are believed to have used in the theft.” The thieves definitely used bikes (which they left behind) and then a speedboat in the theft, so I’m guessing this means he claims he was just a mechanic and didn’t know what the transport was going to be used for. If that’s true, then maybe the real culprits are trying to frame him in some way, like maybe they got his fingerprints from the boat after he worked on it. (It could happen. Swedish booty thieves are craftier than you think, probably.)

Regardless, it seems unlikely that he was involved in the decision to give the items back. It’s hard to see how the recovery helps him avoid conviction, and so if he had been involved, he’d presumably have wanted to take credit in hopes of getting a reduced sentence. But he hasn’t. Yet it seems even more unlikely that, if he was involved in the theft, his cronies would try to double-cross him at this point, because then he’d have information and an incentive to give it to the police. I am open to other theories, of course.

One thing at least seems clear: somebody greatly overestimated the market for stolen 17th-century Swedish royal funeral regalia, because the stuff obviously didn’t make its way along some elaborate and untraceable chain of sellers to end up in the hands of a shadowy billionaire (*cough* Elon Musk) with a secret lair under an extinct volcano somewhere in which to lock it away. It was just in the trunk of somebody’s Volvo or something. So let that be a lesson to anyone thinking of getting into the regalia business.