Used and misused, the Stockholm Syndrome turns 40

Used and misused, the Stockholm Syndrome turns 40
Police snipers as they lie side by side on a roof opposite the Kreditbanken bank on Norrmalmstorg square in Stockholm on August 24,1973.

PARIS - Forty years after a Swedish hostage drama gave rise to the term "Stockholm Syndrome", the phenomenon is still being used, and misused, to explain the reactions of kidnap victims.

But one man knows exactly how it works. Jan-Erik Olsson remembers clearly the strange things that happened after he walked into a bank in the Swedish capital on August 23, 1973, pulled out a submachine gun and took four employees hostage.

"The hostages more or less sided with me, protecting me in some situations so that the police wouldn't shoot me," said Olsson, then a convict on furlough from prison, and now a peaceful 72-year-old.

"They even went down to use the bathroom and the police wanted to keep them there, but they all came back," he told AFP.

The five-day hostage crisis, the first to be broadcast live to a mesmerised Swedish nation, created even more drama after police agreed to Olsson's demand to have one of the country's most notorious criminals, bank robber Clark Olofsson, brought there from prison.

Olsson, much less of a celebrity at the time, had kicked off the drama with the memorable line, "The party has only started!", and initially he had scared the hostages.

"You could see the fear in their eyes," Olsson said. "I only wanted to scare them. I've never done time for anything particularly violent."

After a while, however, the fear turned into other more complex feelings, as a shocked Swedish public learned from one of the first telephone interviews with hostage Kristin Enmark.

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