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The Stockholm-area woman allegedly pulled her son out of school at age 12 and held him captive in her apartment for at least 28 years, local media report.
“We are looking into how long the son may have been imprisoned, but we assume it’s been a long period of time,” a police spokesperson told Reuters.
The woman was questioned Tuesday on suspicion of unlawful deprivation of liberty and grievous bodily harm, according to Stockholm prosecutor Emma Olsson.
Authorities say they learned about the case on Sunday, when a relative visited the woman’s apartment and saw the son lying on a blanket on the floor. The man, who is now 41, was toothless and his legs were covered in sores and other injuries, the relative told local media. The man was also unable to speak or walk.
The relative took the man to hospital, where doctors reported the injuries to police.
“He’s now in hospital,” Olsson told Reuters on Tuesday. “I know that he needed surgery.”
She declined to offer any more details on his injuries or the circumstances of the case.
Doctors also described the man as unable to speak in their report to police, according to the Swedish newspaper Expressen.
The man was being held in a hoarder-style apartment that looked “miserable” and smelled “disgusting,” like urine, dirt and dust, the relative told Sweden’s Aftonbladet newspaper. The person described the home as a “dump” and said it was like “stepping straight into a horror movie,” Expressen reports.
She said she went to the apartment on Sunday because she knew the mother was in hospital, and she had worried for years about the son’s well-being.
She says she last encountered the pair 20 years ago and was unnerved by the mother-son relationship she saw. She says the mother answered questions for her son, and the son appeared nervous in public. They both eventually ran away from the outdoor encounter, the relative told Aftonbladet.
The mother, son and relative have not been publicly identified, but, as above, the relative has spoken to several media outlets in Sweden.
The mother has denied the allegations against her.
She was arrested on Tuesday.
—With files from Reuters and The Associated Press