Valborg fair evening 2018, in Upplands Bro outside Stockholm. It all starts with a conflict between a youth gang and a woman with a dog. Toddler father Johan Falkenberg sees the guys as threatening. He tells them to leave.
Instead, they surround him, he has his four-year-old daughter in his hand.
- I felt extremely lonely and exposed even though I was among so many other people. It felt like all of a sudden all these hundred people were gone, Johan Falkenberg tells Mission Review.
He is beaten to the ground by three guys from the gang. Some blows come from the front, some from the back.
- The only thing I thought was to get up quickly before someone jumped on me. That's what I had in my head the whole time: "Get up, get up." I had my kids and my wife there."You don't want to risk exposing yourself"
There are many witnesses, several in close proximity to the abuse. But despite this and that the gang is well known, the police should have trouble investigating who they are guilty of. Bro is a small place where everyone knows everyone, says Tobias Becker, preliminary investigator at Järfällapolisen. He recognizes the grouping that easily arises in smaller towns.
- Rumors are spreading, you are dangerous, they have violent capital, it is best to keep your mouth shut if you see something for otherwise it will happen to me something next time. That's how I think many people feel. You do not want to risk exposing yourself to reprisals simply. I think it's a huge problem.
What crimes are there where you dare not testify?
- That's kind of everyone I would say. I almost think it is the general basic attitude of the majority, that “We take care of ours. We haven't seen anything ”.“No one is lining up”
After the beatings at the May fire in Bro, the witnesses retire, for fear of the gang. Six witnesses jump off - in the end, only Johan and his family are left. The investigation is closed for lack of evidence.
- Nobody really wanted to participate then, so we didn't have anything to substantiate the evidence. We judged that prosecution at that stage could not suffice, says Tobias Becker.
One of the witnesses who jumps off says that they do not want to expose their children to risks. Photo: SVT
Johan Falkenberg says he has an understanding of a person who lives next door or has a relationship with an offender who does not want or dare to testify.
- But at this place in Valborg, people from all over Bro and very many families with children must have seen it. No one is lining up.Unexpected turn in the case
The case finally gets an unexpected turn. Police find a footage of the abuse in a seized cellphone, where two out of three perpetrators can be identified. The investigation opens up again.
"We have police officers with local personal knowledge who recognize the people who beat this man down and it is really the one who makes up the entire evidence," says Tobias Becker.
Two of those who assault Johan are sentenced in the district court, to youth care and a month's imprisonment respectively. The third, suspected of being hit from behind, is released when the evidence is considered to be weak.
The question of culture of silence in connection with testimonies has now come up at the government level, there are a number of suggestions on how to approach the problem - including tougher penalties for trial abuse and better protection for witnesses.The report "Silent witnesses" will be sent on Wednesday 23 October. You can watch it from 12pm on SVT Play or 8pm on SVT1.