From left to right: North African asylum seekers Aladdin El-Arabi (18), Alzafiri Mansour, Mohammad Al Agawi (20) and Swedish national Haiderat Salim (28). Pictures compiled from the Malmö police investigation report.

Basing the story entirely on a 550-page police report (PDF), Swedish website Samhällsnytt on January 15 published a piece on a gang, specializing in robbing the elderly. Operating in the city of Malmö, the severity of one of their heists was so remarkable, the police put in extra effort to find the perpetrators. An effort that eventually paid off.

It all started on the night of 31 August 2017, with 97-year-old Elsa waking up to find several men in her bedroom. Elsa, who lives alone in her house in Marieholmsvägen first thought it might be the home care nurse, to change the bandaging on her injured finger. She was partly right: then 28-year-old Haiderat Salim had indeed worked as an assistant offering medical care in Elsa’s area. This time, however, he had brought three North African asylum seekers with him and intend to rob her.

Elsa was threatened with a screwdriver held against her throat and told:

If you scream, I’ll cut you!

According to the police’s preliminary investigation, the gang was looking for money. Working calmly and methodically, they turned over the old woman’s apartment completely. The went through cabinets, carried out her old television. They took Elsa’s wedding rings – the last tangible memory of her late husband. They took the time to have a smoke, leaving the butts of their cigarettes on the floor: a source of DNA the police eagerly exploited. Finally, they threw Elsa out of her bed, onto the floor, in order to search through her mattress. Finding no money there, Samhällsnytt *speculates* they were disappointed and decided to beat her.

I have osteoarthritis in my spine, so it hurt very much,

Elsa would tell the police later. Pictures in the preliminary investigation files show the bruising on her body.

A picture from page 104 of the police report, showing Elsa’s bruisings

It was only early in the morning when the gang left the house, leaving Elsa lying on the floor. It took more than an hour for a passer-by to hear her calls for help and summon the police.

A picture from page 126 of the police report, with the caption: “Photographed from the hall above the stairs leading into the bedroom on the right. Displays overview of the bedroom to the right above the stairs.”

The police had little hope of solving the crime. They had several DNA traces, but no match in the database. Then, early in the morning of 4 September, police are warned that some men have broken the window of a house on the Regementsgatan, where another elderly woman lives. They were scared off by a watchful neighbor, who called the police. Responding rapidly, a police patrol car is able to intercept the men. The police report on the investigation says that:

“We turn [the car] around and stop at the parking lot at Rönneholmsparken. I leave the car and talk to the driver. He is markedly nervous. He cannot answer questions and I perceive him as playing dumb and ignorant. He thinks a long time before telling me what he has done in the last few hours. Even though I tell him to stay away from his car after interviewing him, he keeps trying to talk to the others.

As we search the car, we find Tramadol and hash among their belongings. (…) Soon after, colleague Mattias finds an Ica card [supermarket customer card] with the name ‘Elsa Harsten’. Colleague Christian Sörberg asks an RLC operator if he can check if Elsa has been the plaintiff in any sort of crime. We soon hear that Elsa was exposed to unlawful detention, maltreatment and gross theft in her residence 2017-08-31.”

Haiderat Salim, 20-year-old Mohammad Al Agawi, 18-year-old Alladin Al Arabi and Mansour Alzafiri (unknown age) are arrested on the spot. Apart from Salim, who has Swedish citizenship and is the only one who speaks fluent Swedish, all are asylum seekers coming from Northern African countries. The Migration Board has already ruled that both El Arabi and Alzafiri are to be expelled.

In December 2017, the Malmö District Court sentenced Haiderat Salim to 5 years and 6 months in prison. Taking their age into account, the other criminals were sentenced to shorter terms. Alzafiri was given 22 months in youth care, as the Court chose to believe he was younger than 18 at the time of the crime. This despite the fact that Alzafiri gave conflicting information about his age during the asylum procedure.