A 10-year-old boy has confessed to killing a four-year-old by strangling him with a skipping rope after an argument, Swedish police say.
The boy’s confession came after a 59-day investigation into the playground killing in the southern village of Ljungby that has transfixed Sweden.
Given that the 10-year-old is well below the country’s age of criminal responsibility of 15, he will be held in a secure social care unit.
Police did not reveal any motive for the killing of the youngster, named Texas, who disappeared on October 16 from outside the apartment building where he lived. His body was found in woodland the same evening.
“The boy has told us what he did and how he did it and there is a confession in that,” said Robert Loeffel, head of information at the Kronoberg county police.
The 10-year-old came to the attention of police early in the investigation and was questioned several times. More than 35 police officers were involved in the investigation and at least 65 children, aged between 5 and 15, were questioned.
There were no family ties between the two boys.
“As far as I am concerned, the crime is solved,” said Yvonne Rudinsson, the deputy prosecutor who ran the investigation. A witness said that there had been a fight among the children in the playground and police worked from an early stage on the theory that a child might be the culprit.
“There has never been another suspect than this boy,” Ms Rudinsson added. “The difficulty with this investigation has been that the evidence came from children and that was a very difficult situation to handle.”
Anders Kjaersgaard, the police chief in Kronoberg, said: “My hope is that, now that the crime has been resolved, it will help everyone who is in one way or another involved in this very tragic event to move forward in their painful grief.”
Child killers are extremely rare in Sweden and the perpetrator would be regarded as “cruel rather than evil”, experts said last night.
“The role of social services is not to punish. It is to provide care and treatment and we will now make use of child psychiatry,” said Ing-Marie Bystrom, the head of social welfare in Ljungby.
“We have already started working around the clock on care and treatment,” she added. “This is an extremely tragic and fortunately rare event. The most important thing now is that everyone involved must be supported.”
Margit Ekenberg, a child psychologist, told the Aftonbladet newspaper: “Children can be cruel to each other, but not evil.
“Young children can bite and fight as a physical reflex. It has nothing to do with evil. Eventually, they learn that it hurts if you bite. They learn that there are limits, otherwise children killing children would be more common.
“Children who commit acts like this have probably not received the care and assistance they needed from adults in setting limits to their actions.”
Rare as child killers are, the 10-year-old is not Sweden’s youngest killer. Two brothers aged five and seven killed a four-year-old identified only as Kevin in Arvika, western Sweden, in 1998 by pressing a stick against his neck.
Lotta Polfeldt, a psychotherapist at Save the Children Sweden, told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper: “We do not expect a child to be able to understand and take responsibility for these types of actions. That is why they cannot be tried in a court.
“It is important that people do not think about retribution and punishment. People may think he does not deserve a good life after this. But you cannot think like that about a child.”