By: Scott RossPublished: August 22, 2022

Jan-Erik Olsson

Sweden's Jan-Erik Olsson was an experienced robber know among the local constabulary for his facility with explosives and his willingness to use a firearm. In 1972, while serving time at a jail in Kalmar, Sweden, he made the acquaintance of veteran bank robber Clark Olofsson. Olsson quickly developed a fondness for Olofsson, a bond so abiding that when the former went AWOL during a prison furlough in January of the following year, he wasted no time in hatching a plan to spring his new friend from the hoosegow. Unfortunately (?), the plan was foiled, though Olsson managed to stay on his preferred side of he prison walls, free to take a mulligan.

On August 23, Olsson made another bid for Olofsson's freedom. Olsson sauntered into the Kreditbanken in downtown Stockholm wearing a wig, sunglasses and make-up, in one hand a machine gun hidden beneath a coat draped over his arm, in the other hand a suitcase packed with ammo, explosives, rope, a knife, a pair of walkie-talkies, and a radio. Upon entry, he squeezed a few rounds into the air and then declared in American-accented English, "The party has just begun!" And so began the six-day hostage crisis that would give birth to what we now call "Stockholm syndrome," the bizarre phenomenon whereby hostages develop a bond with their captors.

After securing the premises and taking hostage three women and a man, Olsson demanded that Olofsson be brought from prison to the bank, and that he be supplied with two handguns, $710,000--half in Swedish kronor, the other half in foreign currency--and a fast getaway car, as well as helmets and bulletproof jackets for the two crooks and their hostages.

That afternoon, the police brought Olofsson to the bank, escorted him through a backdoor and told him to walk down a staircase to the bank's main floor. The bewildered convict ask "What's going on here?," before recognizing his friend and laughing, "Oh, it's you."

As the days dragged on, police heard screams coming from inside the bank and became certain that the women were being sexually assaulted, likely by both men, but in an interview with Kristin Ehnmark following the ordeal, police leaned that she had actually been holding hands with one of them.

“Perhaps it sounds a little like a cliché, but Clark gave me tenderness," she told police. "Yes, we held hands, but there was no sex. It made me feel enormously secure. It was what I needed.”

Despite having been held at gunpoint, her life hanging in the balance for nearly a week, Ehnmark had come to think that Olofsson was a pretty alright guy, and it would turn out that her fellow hostages felt much the same way.

Mercifully, their ordeal finally came to an end on Tuesday, the 28th, when police fired tear gas into the bank, forcing Olsson and Olofsson to surrender, and both men were subsequently sent back to jail.

Ironically, the hostages' feelings toward Olsson were unrequited, as he made clear a year later in an interview with Daniel Lang ofNew York magazine.

“It was the hostages’ fault," he seethed. "They did everything I told them to do. If they hadn’t, I might not be here now. Why didn’t any of them attack me? They made it hard to kill. They made us go on living together day after day, like goats, in that filth. There was nothing to do but get to know each other.”

People are weird, man.


Related Articles