Would you protect the people sent to harm you?
Most have heard of Stockholm Syndrome. It’s a phrase bandied around and has even been used as song titles, but what is it, and where did it begin?
Snipers and police via Nobis Hotel
On the 23rd of August 1973, Jan-Erik Olsson fired a submachine gun at the ceiling of Sveriges Kreditbanken and announced, “The party has just begun!”
A bank employee triggered a silent alarm, and a policeman responded, but Jan shot him in the hand, and the hostage situation quickly began to take shape.
Jan-Erik Olsson via alchetron.com
The 32-year-old criminal was a safe cracker who was on leave from the prison for serving a three-year sentence for theft. As a furloughed prisoner, Jan was allowed to mingle in the community to help him adjust to life outside the facility’s walls. But, instead, Jan waived his mandatory return and donned a wig and sunglasses and headed to the bank. Years earlier, the robber had achieved fame in Sweden for helping a man he was robbing after he collapsed from a heart attack and then continued to rob his house.
He took three bank employees hostage and let everyone else leave. His demands were 3 million Swedish krona — around $700,000 — and other currencies, a bulletproof vest and a ‘fast car’ for his escape. He also wanted Clark Olofsson, an old friend and former cellmate, to be brought to the bank.
Clark Olofsson via peoplemagazine.co.za
26-year-old Clark was in prison for armed robbery in which a policeman had been killed. He’d become a celebrity in the criminal underworld for theft and escaping prison, and when the pair met at Kalmar correctional facility, he told Jan his tales of lawbreaking. Jan asked Clark how to rob banks and manoeuvre hostages, and Clark answered his questions, not realising that one day, his knowledge would be used.
“His plan was [to] get me to the bank then he can relax, I will fix it.” — Clark Olofsson on Criminal.
Clark had been in solitary confinement at Norrköping Prison when the call came in and was more than happy to help with the situation.
“The Minister of Justice called me in the prison. He said, ‘there is one man in Stockholm who demands you to be transported to him, what do you say?’ I said, ‘yes, of course, I’ll come immediately.’” — Clark Olofsson on Criminal.
While the police worked on getting Jan’s comrade to the bank, rumours had spread of the crisis unfolding in the capital. The media arrived, and the hostage situation was the first crime to be broadcast live on television. It was on every news channel in the usually quiet country, and the event was nicknamed ‘the bank drama’.
The public immediately began to call police stations with suggestions on how to help with the hostage situation, including making the floor slippery, so the thief was easy to capture, filling the bank with bees, and playing religious songs into the building.
Upon Clark’s arrival by police escort, the hostages were taken into the small bank vault to ensure they couldn’t escape. He then checked the bank to confirm no police had snuck inside, but instead, he found another bank employee, Sven Safstrom.
He quickly began to take control of the situation and told Jan to loosen the binds on the women. From there, the two robbers began to form a bond with the captives.
The robbers provided tampons for their female prisoners and sliced up pears provided by the negotiators outside, to ensure there was enough food to go around.
Clockwise: Birgitta, Kristin, Elisabeth and Sven via mirror.co.uk
The hostages asked to make phone calls to their loved ones, and when Birgitta Lundblad couldn’t get hold of her family, Jan told her to keep trying. Another hostage, Elisabeth Oldgren, suffered from Claustrophobia, and inside the small space, she began to suffer a panic attack. Jan took her outside and attached a long rope to her, so she could walk around and calm herself.
When interviewed later, Sven Safstrom told the media, “When he treated us well, we could think of him as an emergency God.”
The hostage situation lasted six days, and by the second day, the captives were on first name terms with Clark and Jan. 23-year-old Kristin Enmark was even given a bullet from one of the guns as a keepsake. She would later describe Clark as a mix between Che Guevara and Jesus.
When she spoke to the Swedish Prime Minister during her captivity, she asked to leave with the robbers in the car, saying, “I fully trust Clark and the robber. I am not desperate. They haven’t done a thing to us. On the contrary, they have been very nice. But, you know, Olof, what I am scared of is that the police will attack and cause us to die.”
They spoke to the Prime Minister for nearly an hour.
The hostages had begun to distrust the police more than the bank robbers, and when the police commissioner was allowed inside the bank to ensure the hostages were safe, he was met with resentment from the four bank employees instead of relief.
Despite being threatened with harm, the hostages still sided with their captors, with Sven Stafstrom applauding Jan for only wanting to shoot him in the leg. Luckily, no harm came to the four captives.
Throughout the six days, the hostages spoke to many media outlets on the telephone to tell them that they were safe and that the police needed to stay away. Clark also called multiple news stations to ensure that their side of the story was being told correctly.
“I cared about them and I was manipulating them very much, for the sake not just for fun, for the sake, and it should be much more safe if we were playing for the same team because then we don’t need to watch out, they were watching out for themselves.” — Clark Olofsson on Criminal.
On the third day, a policeman accessed the bank and shut the vault door, with the six people inside it. The police had stopped all negotiations with the robbers; no more food, no more water and they had begun to drill holes in the vault. The drilling was constant and loud, and the water used to cool down the drills filled the vault. They were trapped in the wet darkness for three more days.
On the sixth day, after 130 hours of being held captive, tear gas was administered into the vault via the holes drilled by police, and Clark and Jan surrendered.
When police told the hostages to leave the building, they refused, saying their captors would be shot if they went out separately. Instead, the six hugged in the doorway of the vault, shook hands and kissed, and the six walked out together, with Jan and Clark leading the way. As she was put onto a stretcher and taken to hospital, Kristin Enmark shouted, “Clark, I will see you again”.
Jan-Erik Olsson surrounded by policemen via hurriyetdailynews.com
Because of their attachment to the robbers, police initially thought that Enmark was involved in the heist. They weren’t the only ones who were puzzled; Clark, Jan and the four captives didn’t understand, either. The hostages spent ten days in the hospital, being evaluated by doctors and specialists, trying to determine why they acted the way they had.
Their behaviour was associated with shell shock, where hostages became grateful for their captors during the war. This behaviour hadn’t been seen in citizens before and a few months later was labelled ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ by psychiatrist Nils Bejerot.
Jan-Erik Olsson was charged with violent robbery, kidnapping and attempted murder, and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was released in the 1980s and moved to Thailand, where he married the woman he’d become pen pals with in prison. After 15 years, he returned to Sweden with his family and ran a car repair shop. He never went back to prison and publicly apologised for the hostage situation.
Clark Olofsson was returned to prison after he was taken from the bank and was charged with violent robbery. He defended himself in court and argued that he was forced into taking part in the bank robbery and hostage situation by the police.
The hostages made regular visits to their two captors in prison and still spoke highly of the two men. Kristin Enmark even lied in court and said that she never saw Clark hold a gun during the six days. She didn’t believe that he should have been punished for his forced involvement.
Clark spent many years in and out of incarceration for other crimes, including drug smuggling and theft. In 1976, he married Marijke Demuynck and had a family with her. He’s appeared on the podcast, Criminal and in May 2020, Netflix cast Bill Skarsgård to play him in Clark.