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Norrmalmstorg robbery

The Norrmalmstorg robbery occurred in Sweden in 1973, and was famous for two reasons:

  1. It inspired the first widely televised reality drama in Sweden, which got a huge success.
    ('Reality drama' here means something exciting actually happening while being broadcasted live.)
  2. It coined the term Stockholm syndrome.

Table of contents
1 Sequential Run-Down of the Events
2 Myths of the Norrmalmstorg Robbery
3 Influences

Sequential Run-Down of the Events

Clark Olofsson (right) with hostages

On August 23, 1973, Jan Erik "Janne" Olsson, on leave from prison, walked into Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstorg, central Stockholm. Police were called in immediately, two of them went inside, and Olsson opened fire, injuring one policeman. The other was ordered to sit in a chair and "sing something". He started singing "Lonesome Cowboy". Olsson then took 4 people as hostages. (See picture.) He demanded his friend Clark Olofsson to be brought there, along with 3 million Swedish Krona ($360,000 US 2003 value), two guns, bullet-proof vests, helmets and a fast car.

Olofsson was brought in by permission of the government and established a communication link with the police negotiators. One of the hostages, Kristin Ehnemark (not present on the photo), said she was confident with the robbers but feared the police may cause trouble by violent methods (this was the beginning of the Stockholm syndrome). The robbers barricaded the inner main vault together with the hostages. The doors to the vault were closed. The robbers were permitted to have a car to escape but were not allowed to take the hostages with them, if they were to leave.

The robber, Olofsson, called up the Prime Minister Olof Palme and said he would kill the hostages, and took a stranglehold on Elisabeth; she was heard screaming as he hung up.

The next day Olof Palme received another call. This time it was Kristin Ehnmark who said she was very displeased with his attitude, asking him to let the robbers and the hostages leave.

Olofsson walked around in the vault singing Roberta Flack's "Killing me softly".

The drama went on. On August 26, the police drilled a hole into the main vault from the apartment above. This was the hole from which the picture of the hostages and Olofsson was taken. Olsson opened fire and threatend to kill the hostages if any gas attack was attempted. He attached small snare traps to the necks of the hostages which would cause them to strangle themselves in the event of a gas attack. These can be seen on the deposit boxes on the left.

On August 28 the gas was used anyway, and after half an hour the robbers gave up. Nobody was injured physically.

Both Olsson and Olofsson were charged and sentenced to extended imprisonment for the robbery. However Olofsson claimed he didn't help Olsson and was only trying to save the hostages by keeping the situation calm, and at the court of appeals he was freed of any charges. He was later to become a friend with one of the hostages, Kristin Ehnemark, and they meet sometimes, their families becoming friends. Olsson was sentenced to 10 years of prison and has not committed a criminal act since he was released. He got many admiration letters from women who found him attractive. He later got engaged to one of them (not one of the hostages, however, as some state).

The hostages still repeatedly claim they were more frightened of the police than the robbers during their six days of confinement. They clearly identify with their unlawful guardians. This leads to academic interest in the matter. The term "Stockholm syndrome" was coined by criminologist Nils Bejerot.

Clark Olofsson has repeatedly committed armed robberies and acts of violence, both before and after the events in 1973, all since he was 16 years old. He was finally released from prison in 1991, but in 1999 he was arrested in Denmark and was sentenced to another 14 years of prison. He has spent some 24 years in prison.

Myths of the Norrmalmstorg Robbery

The most widely publicized myth about the robbery, or rather about the Stockholm syndrome, was that one or both robbers became engaged to their captives. This is simply not true, and may stem from the language barrier: the phrase "engagera sig i någon" in Swedish, does not mean "to become engaged to someone", but rather "to care deeply about someone" (this sort of resemblance between two words in different languages that are not synonyms is known as a false friend).

As stated above, Kristin Ehnemark and Clark Olofsson became friends, and Jan Olsson married one of his female admirers, but there were no engagements between anyone present during the events.


Apart from creating the Stockholm syndrome term, the robbery has inspired a feature film by Håkan Lindhé named Norrmalmstorg aired on Swedish television on August 29th 2003.