Stockholm mother arrested 'after keeping son for decades in flat'

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image captionPolice are searching the flat

Swedish police have arrested an elderly woman suspected of having kept her son confined to their flat in a Stockholm suburb for up to three decades.

She denied false imprisonment and grievous bodily harm after the son, now aged about 40, was found injured and living in squalor.

It seems he was only discovered by a relative on Sunday after his mother fell ill and was taken to hospital.

He is now undergoing surgery in hospital for his injuries.

Police have sealed off the apartment in Haninge, a southern suburb of the capital, to conduct their investigation and are seeking witnesses as they try to piece together what happened.

The woman, who is aged 70, is expected to remain in police custody while the investigation continues. If she is found guilty of false imprisonment, police say she could face up to ten years in jail.

How was the son found?

The relative who discovered the son said she was his sister and had gone to the flat on Sunday evening with her partner after hearing that the mother was in hospital, she told Swedish media.

image copyrightEPA

As a child, she said, she had tried in vain to raise the alarm over the welfare of the child, who had been removed from school when he was aged 11 or 12.

Opening the unlocked door, she said she found the flat in darkness and reeking of urine, decay, dirt and dust. There was no answer when she shouted "hello" so she went in, picking her way through mounds of clutter.

Hearing a sound from the kitchen, she saw the man sitting in a dark corner, lit by a lamp on the street outside. Sores covered his legs up to his knees.

When he saw her, he stood up and whispered her name again and again. He had lost almost all his teeth and his voice was slurred, she told the paper.

Somehow, she said, he had recognised her after all the time that had passed and he was not afraid of her.

When the man was taken to hospital, doctors alerted the police and the mother was detained.

Stockholm prosecutor Emma Olsson told Reuters news agency the man had required surgery, without giving further details.

"The only comment on the time that person has been kind of 'imprisoned' by his mother is: we are sure that it has been for a long period of time," police spokesperson Ola Österling told BBC News.

"We don't estimate how many years. That's a part of our investigations now, to get the detailed information about the exact amount of time."

What do we know of the relationship?

Earlier, SVT quoted the relative - who was not immediately identified as the sister - as saying the mother had felt bad about losing an earlier child at a young age.

When she gave birth again, her new son was given the same name. She wanted her dead son back and became over-protective.

"I'm just thankful that he got help and is going to survive," the relative told Expressen.

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