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Only the bonely: The strange case of sex with a human skeleton

One of the most bizarre (and arguably disturbing) stories I have come across in looking for topics to write about in my blog is the relatively recent case of a 37-year old Swedish woman who was arrested in September 2012 by local police for having sex with human skeleton. The human remains were found by chance in Kosmosgatan (located in the Bergsjön district of Gothenburg) after someone reported hearing a gunshot from the woman’s home. Swedish national television SVT reported that she was initially charged with murder, but this was subsequently downgraded to “violating the peace of the dead” (so-called “brott mot griftefriden” in Sweden) by the District Court in Gothenburg. It was alleged that she used the human bones as sex toys, and claimed her sexual activity was a hobby was motivated by an interest in history. According to Swedish prosecutor Kristina Ehrenborg-Staffas:

“I have never heard of a case like this and neither have my colleagues, so I dare to say that this kind of case is quite uncommon…In the confidential section of the investigation we have material which indicates she used them in sexual situations…We claim it’s her, but she claims it’s someone else and that she found the pictures on the internet…She has a lot of photos of morgues and chapels, and documents about how to have sex with recently deceased and otherwise dead people…You have to ask yourself why she would have those pictures…She admits to having the bones, but says she collected them out of a historical and archaeological interest”.

Allegations were also made claiming that the woman boasted to local children and teenagers that she kept many knives, weapons, and dead people in her apartment (subsequently confirmed after the police raid found knives and human bones in the woman’s living room). One of the teenagers claimed the woman had said to him that she had “killed people and there’s blood everywhere”. The woman then went to her apartment and fired a gunshot.

Ehrenborg-Staffas also said the woman had used the human bones in an “unethical” way but couldn’t explain how the accused had managed to assemble almost an entire human skeleton. Thomas Fuxborg, the Västra Götaland police force’s press spokesman told SVT at the time of the initial arrest that “several skeleton parts” were found in the police search. However, there was great speculation as to whether the bones had come from a local graveyard, a hospital, or from a murder. The police could not confirm if the bones came from a male or female, or were from more than one person. Later in court, it was revealed that the woman kept at least six human skulls (one of which was found in her freezer), one human spine, and “a large number of other [human] bones”.

The prosecuting team presented their evidence that included two compact discs (one entitled “My necrophilia” and the other “My first experience”) that contained both written documents and various photographs (such as ones which showed the woman hugging and licking a skull). She was also alleged to have sold human skulls to others via the internet. For instance, the court was told that the most recent online transaction was a person in Uppsala (Eastern Sweden) who allegedly bought three human skulls and a human spine. Other evidence shown in court included mortuary photographs, body bags, and a drill, all found inside a secret compartment in the woman’s apartment. According to a Swedish daily newspaper (Goeteborgsposten), the accused woman (who claimed she was in a relationship) wrote on an internet forum that:

“My morals set my limits and I’m prepared to take the punishment if something should happen. It’s worth it. I want my man like he is, whether he is dead or alive. He allows me to find sexual happiness on the side”.

A number of psychological evaluations were carried out, none of which showed she was suffering any mental illness but was “fascinated” by death, however, there was no evidence that the woman had dug up any graves to access human remains. Like Ehrenborg-Staffas, Dr. Katarina Öberg (Head of Stockholm’s Centre of Andrology and Sexual Medicine at Karolinska University Hospital) also claimed that this particular case was the first she had heard of in Sweden:

“During my ten years I have never had a patient with necrophilia. Although, I guess it is not really something that one confesses to having”.

The women claimed that she had not done anything illegal, and therefore pleased ‘not guilty’ to all charges except possession of a firearm. The accused woman was said to have reported in court that:

“I’m not saying I’m the world’s nicest or best person. I’m an odd bird. I’m interested in forensics and I’m passionate about osteology. I have photographs of dead people”.

The charge of necrophilia was dismissed but it was noted by the court that:

“Moving parts of the skeleton is a crime, since she was unauthorised to do so, just as it is a crime to assemble a skeleton and keep it lying on the floor, (and) to keep skeletal parts in plastic bags and use them for trade. [She also knowingly handled the bones] in an undignified manner”.

In all the articles and paper that I have ever read in writing various blogs on necrophilia, I have never come across a single case (even anecdotally) of someone having sex with a skeleton. In a previous blog I outlined Dr Anil Aggrawal’s typology of necrophiliacs published in a 2009 issue of the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine. Dr. Aggrawal classified necrophilic behaviour into one of ten different types (Classes I to X). However, if you read my previous blog, you will come to the same conclusion as me that the behaviour described in this blog does not fit into any of Aggrawal’s ten types of necrophiliac, therefore I agree with the Swedish court’s decision to dismiss this as a case of necrophilia. Weird and depraved it might be, but using human bones for sexual bones doesn’t fit any definition of necrophilia that I am aware of.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Agence France-Presse (2012). Swedish woman arrested for using human skeleton for sex. The Raw Story, November 20. Located at: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/11/20/swedish-woman-arrested-for-using-human-skeleton-for-sex/

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Aggrawal, A. (2009). A new classification of necrophilia. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 16, 316-320.

Aggrawal A. (2011). Necrophilia: Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Johansson, E. (2012). Woman charged for sex with human skeleton. The Local, November 20. Located at: http://www.thelocal.se/44536/20121120/

The Local (2012). Woman held after human bones found in her flat. The Local, September 6. Located at: http://www.thelocal.se/43042/20120906/

The Local (2012). Woman held on remand over bones found in flat. The Local, September 8. Located at: http://www.thelocal.se/43106/20120908/

Ryan, E.G. (2012). Women [sic] who kept human skeleton for sex is somehow declared sane. Jezebel, November 20. Located at: http://jezebel.com/5962178/women-who-kept-human-skeleton-for-sex-found-sane

The Sun (2012). Swedish ‘skeleton sex’ case woman convicted of ‘disturbing the peace of dead’. The Sun, December 17. Located at: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4702693/Swedish-skeleton-sex-woman-convicted-of-disturbing-the-peace-of-dead.html