I recently listened to a documentary about one of the most infamous criminals in Swedish history, Lars-Inge Svartenbrandt, today Lars Patrick Ferm. He committed a range of crimes including robberies, violent assault on policemen and prison escapes between 1962 and 2009. Born in 1945, he has spent about 40 years of his life in prison.
Ferm was recently released in early 2014, but arrested shortly afterwards for rape. The interview I listened to was broadcasted in December 2006. In the following years, Ferm would get arrested for robbery and drug possession among other crimes.
Having listened to ex-offenders on radio before, I wasn’t sure what to expect as each one shows different level of insight.
I was immediately struck by the insight of Ferm, as he started off by talking about his childhood in a very open manner. Hearing about his early years, I was not surprised that he ended up choosing the path he did. Moving between different homes, being physically and mentally abused, bullied, molested and isolated, the anger and devastation built up until things took a radical turn when he became 17 and grabbed a gun to threaten someone at a break in of a military warehouse. Lars described it as “evil” taking over his body, his voice changed, and everything happened very quickly.
What touched me was that through the mental health care he received while in prison and with the help of a priest, he was able to see how events in his past had contributed to the anger, resentment and determination not to look “weak”. It seemed liked the worse the crimes got, the weaker he felt inside and therefore the need to boost himself up got bigger.
There was one incident where he shot at a police van. The event is described by a police officer as bloody, violent and Ferm showing no mercy. The same incident is also told by Ferm where he says that he felt “evil” took over him and transformed him, adding that he didn’t plan to kill anyone, he just threatened people.
The differences in the stories shows how the same incident can be viewed from very different perspectives, and just because a criminal appears hardhearted, that may not be his/her perception.
While mostly quiet during interrogations and in court, Ferm apologised to one of his victims, after being told by a therapist he trusted that "You may not say anything in court, but I think you should apologise to this woman." Someone who met Ferm frequently said that he "actually had a conscience".
In the late 80's/early 90's the Minister of Justice announced that some people couldn't be helped and should stay in prison indefinitely. According to Ferm, this idea made him panic since he couldn't stand prison. He subsequently attempted to take his own life but couldn't do it. Then he asked God for help, and he said that after that moment he just felt joy and peace for several months, and that it became a turning point.
It is true that Ferm would commit further serious, terrible crimes. To me what fascinated me about the interview is the insight he showed into the links between events in his childhood and how he behaved later in life. He was able to describe in great detail, the anger, sadness and fear felt even during the most heated moments such as during a robbery, such as wishing the police would shoot him, and getting disappointed when they didn't.
No one knows what the future holds for him, but he has offered an insight into a mind plagued by darkness, and how that darkness can, if only temporarily, be replaced by peace through understanding and God's light.
to listen to the interview (in Swedish).