It was a typically cold Scottish December morning when a man walking his dog along Prestwick Beach made a terrible discovery. Laying on the beach was the body of a woman. Covered in sand and seaweed, she had seemingly been washed up on the tide. Identified as 30-year-old Swedish national Annie Börjesson, the case appeared to be a tragic tale of suicide, a woman’s life ended in her prime at her own hand. However, all was not quite as it appeared.
Arriving in Scotland from her native Sweden in 2004, Annie Börjesson had lived in Edinburgh for over a year, enjoying life in the historic and cultural city. She was half-Hungarian, 5 foot 8 and athletic, with the expected Swedish blonde hair and blue eyes. A gifted linguist and talented musician, Annie spoke five languages fluently, including English, alongside being active in a band that had played all over Europe. Even though she liked Scotland and was a model citizen, she found it challenging to retain residency in the country and returned to Sweden in August of 2005. Desperate to return, she made the trip back to Scotland in late October.
Annie was said to have no financial worries, receiving unemployment support from Sweden and having money on her person when found, including an uncashed £300 cheque She had bought a leisure card and paid her rent. The work search was strenuous, however, with Annie having little luck as she searched for a job in the hotel industry that would hopefully lead to her being able to stay in Edinburgh permanently. To unwind, Annie would walk, swim, explore the rich culture and arts of the city and like most people her age, relax on nights out. It was on one of these nights she met Martin Leslie, a New Zealander by birth, he was an international rugby player who had been capped 37 times for Scotland.
Only, the man wasn’t Martin Leslie.
Indeed, the man might very well have been little more than a huckster trying to impress attractive women with champagne and fraudulent tales of international stardom. Yet, interestingly, it was just before Annie’s death that “Martin Leslie” appeared again at the local swimming pool she utilised. With her preferences for muscular men of the rugby playing type already known, it was unusual that she had never noticed a man like “Leslie” there before. Annie’s love of rugby was known to everyone who knew her and, in many respects, “Martin Leslie” seemed almost designed for her. She was a regular at the Murrayfield Warriors rugby club and regularly attended games there. Annie felt uneasy.
“The last time I spoke with Annie over the phone we spoke about how fun we would have when she arrived at Stockholm Skavsta Airport, and she told me that she would book an appointment with her hairdresser. The only thing that was bothering Annie at the time of our conversation was the strange behaviour by the man ‘Martin Leslie’. Annie met this man whom she knew as Martin Leslie two times during her last week in life. The first meeting made her feel almost a little scared, and during our last phone call she told me about his strange behaviour at a Rugby gathering at Murrayfield Rugby Club, and she told me that she had now decided to try and keep away from this man.”
Maria Jansson, best friend
Such was the imposter’s knowledge of the real Martin Leslie that he was almost an expert on his career, “he even talked about his brother John, who also played for Scotland and had a bad knee injury.” Despite having only met him twice, Annie told her family that “she regarded him as a sexual predator and she was planning to cut off all contact with him.”
A report in the Scottish Daily Record says that “her last email was sent to former Scotland rugby star Martin Leslie from her Edinburgh apartment — and nothing in it showed that she was suicidal.” Whether this was the real or fake Martin Leslie isn’t clear. The man was never caught.
The Börjesson family became increasingly worried before her death, being concerned for their daughter’s mental state. She sounded troubled in phone conversations and a member of staff at the Linton Court Apartments where she lived said that Annie was depressed, telling her she “had to take care of something” and “had made a decision that might change her life”. On December 1, Guje Börjesson, Annie’s mother, made a call to her cellphone where, after being told the family was worried, Annie responded by saying “you have to respect this, but I have to take care of myself.” Scottish police would later say that there was no record of this call and that Annie’s phone had received no calls in the three days before her death.
That same night, a Thursday, Annie made a call to a friend in Sweden and claimed that she was going to a party that night, starting at 10pm. She was evasive about the details but seemed enthused. No witnesses ever came forward to say they had been there or that it had even existed.
On Saturday, December 3, Annie was at the airport ready for her trip home. She made two attempts to withdraw money from her bank account, both at Glasgow Central station. The attempts failed through insufficient funds. Making her way 32 miles to Prestwick Airport, investigators have speculated that she intended to catch the 6.30 flight to Gothenburg as she had told Inger Nossborn, her hairdresser, that she would be back on Monday, December 5. In her luggage she had her Swedish passport and two library books, intending to return them to the library in Sweden. She wasn’t pictured during the entirety of her journey.
Annie didn’t pre-book a ticket, yet regularly kept money in a Filofax organiser that she took everywhere with her. However, despite making that 32-mile journey, she spent only four minutes and 41 seconds at Prestwick Airport. During her time there, Annie exited to the short-stay car park for reasons that have never been ascertained. There is no cash machine in the car park, and her family have speculated she may have been meeting somebody. CCTV from the airport showed images of Annie exiting the car park looking angry, her rendezvous perhaps having failed to appear.
Interestingly, other video footage shows Börjesson making distances in times that re-enactors could not possibly replicate without physically running, suggesting that frames have been removed and timings altered. In any event, Annie never made a flight and instead began to walk to Prestwick a mile away. It was around 3:15.
At 4:05 a figure carrying a backpack was seen walking on Station Road during CCTV analysis. While police believe this to be Annie, others don’t agree, saying they believe the person is, in fact, a man. Police would take the footage as definitive proof of how Annie made her way to the beach.
“I would question this identification. I have extensive experience of examining CCTV footage, and I must say honestly that the images from Station Road are rubbish. I may assume that it’s Annie, what with time and travel direction, but detectives should never assume. They work with facts not assumptions… We know Annie ended up on the beach, but the whole story is not known. They simply don’t have a full picture of what happened. They know the start, they know the end, but they don’t know the middle. In my opinion, they haven’t achieved the mark in this case.”
A little under half an hour later at 4:30, two men walking at Prestwick beach spot a figure standing at the edge of the water. The person was standing unnervingly motionless, staring out to sea. Continuing their walk, they eventually turned around and headed back the way they had come. The individual was still there, still motionless. Concerned about their manner, the men became worried that they might be contemplating suicide. Brushing off the concern, they minded their own business and headed home. Standing 150 yards away, they couldn’t be sure if it was a man or a woman. Police would never ask if the figure resembled Annie, yet despite this, solicitor-general Frank Mulholland told the Swedish embassy that “a witness statement indicated that someone fitting [Annie’s] description was seen standing at the water’s edge looking out to sea at about 1630 hours.”
The comments of Frank Mulholland also ignore a second report that suggested Annie had been seen talking to two men on the shore between 4:30pm and 5pm on the same day. Whether this means the first report is incorrect or that it happened between the men walking away and turning back is unknown, however, this report seems far more confident that it was Annie who was seen.
At 8.30am the following morning, Annie’s body was discovered on the beach by a dog walker, her bag and coat alongside her. Unusual, considering the effects of currents and this fact has given rise to speculation that the body had been placed there. Later investigations would find that unknown DNA was on her hands.
Before an autopsy had been performed, the press announced that there were “no suspicious circumstances” in the death. This is euphemism for an accident, illness or suicide. The press had ascertained that information from the police. In fact, so sure were the local authorities on first sight that the case was a suicide that they made no door-to-door enquiries. Furthermore, no forensic team was called to the scene. No swabs were taken. No fibres were taken. No water was sampled. They never even engaged the coastguard to find Annie’s missing belongings which included her fleece top and the Filofax.
“She would put small folders in it, funny plastic cards, and she would note down quotes, new words and expressions, the names of birds, special days, all sorts of things that interested her.”
Maria Jansson, best friend
This folder not only usually contained money, but a list of contact details for everyone she knew.
The autopsy report revealed an unexplained “depression” in the skin, small bruises to the temple, scratches to the left arm and square contused areas on the right arm. Police were satisfied; these injuries had been caused by objects in the water. However, not included in the report was damage discovered once the body returned home to Sweden, with the undertaker finding extensive bruising on the side, right arm and behind the ear that was larger than anything described by the pathologist. The undertakers were indignant that the injuries could be the result of natural processes.
“We consider we have the knowledge to state the difference between bruises and corpse patches on a body”
Body tissue removed during the post-mortem was found to contain tiny diatom shells in the sample, identifying them as navicula lanceolata which are found in freshwater, not saltwater. However, an independent study commissioned by the Börjesson family found that the algae were highly unlikely to have come from the sea. The inference that Annie drowned in freshwater and was then moved to the coast is obvious. However, one specialist pointed out that she “may have had it in the bone marrow long before she passed away” through drinking tap water. The Swedish authorities refused to do other tests on the body to prove whether Annie did indeed die in the sea.
“Although the species might be found in low numbers in a coastal environment, it would not be one of the common species living or transported there. The source of the diatoms found in the bone marrow is therefore very unlikely to have been from the sea.”
Around 4cm were found to have been cut from Annie’s hair. While it was initially feared this might be the work of a killer, it was later discovered that an undertaker had cut the hair as it was matted with mud and debris. Despite this explanation, other undertakers have said this is highly unusual.
Searching for the contact details lost in the Filofax, Annie’s mother Guje logged into her Hotmail account. It had been wiped. How this tires the Scottish Daily Record’s knowledge of the email to “Martin Leslie” isn’t known. When Annie’s best friend Maria Jansson attempted to obtain details of her own telephone calls that she’d made to Annie around the time of her death, they didn’t exist. There was not a single record of any call made between Maria and Annie for months. While Annie herself might have deleted the emails, the lack of phone records defied explanation. Or perhaps not.
After Maria started to receive menacingly silent phone calls and have her own troubles accessing her email accounts, she dug deeper. Maria discovered the existence of a US journalist by the name of Kristina Borjesson. Annie’s full name had been Annie Kristina Börjesson. And Kristina wasn’t just a local journalist giving reports on garage sales and college football, she was an intense critic of US foreign policy. It is believed that she had been investigating the CIA’s rendition program that ran through Prestwick airport.
While rendition as US policy has a history that goes back to the Reagan years, it was during the War on Terror that the Bush administration began regularly flying terror suspects to CIA black sites abroad. This allowed the security forces to circumvent their own nation’s laws on torture. The British government under Tony Blair allowed these flights to refuel and resupply at Prestwick, often carrying illegally detained prisoners. In 2018, a report on the scandal was filed by the Intelligence and Security Committee. Two of those involved in that report, Dr Sam Raphael and Prof Ruth Blakeley, said they believed that one of these flights had contained Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the masterminds behind the 9/11 atrocity. While the US and UK governments continue to officially deny the claims, John Finnie, a Scottish Green MSP, said that “airports under direct control of Scottish ministers are clearly implicated in the vilest of crimes.”
Perhaps then, believing that Kristina Borjesson was in Scotland to investigate Prestwick, using the name Annie Börjesson, she had attracted the unwanted attention of the security services, namely MI5 or the CIA. While this may seem fanciful, the Swedish government has since refused all requests to make public their unredacted files on the case, saying that they are classified, and any release of information may do harm to “national interests.”
“Information has been deemed classified as secret according to the provision of Chapter 15, section 1 of the Public Access to Information and Secrecy Act and has been redacted to the attached file.
The reason for this is that the information concerns Sweden’s relations with a foreign state and a foreign authority and it can be assumed that a disclosure will damage Sweden’s international relations or, in other ways harm national interests.”
Daniel Andersson, Swedish foreign ministry
The British government has a long history of spying against individuals it considers subversive. Suspected of being an undercover Kristina Borjesson, this would have undoubtedly included Annie. For four decades Britain’s police ran a covert operation that has become known as the Spy Cops Scandal, utilising 140 undercover officers to report on over 1,000 political groups, producing endless confidential reports on the activities of these “subversives”. These individuals were mostly not terrorists and included green activists, peace campaigners, socialists, liberals, and even serving MPs.
The scandal traces its origins back to the protest movements of the 1960s, with police believing they needed inside information to stop potential protests from students and workers. The undercover officers went to extreme lengths to build relatable personas to the target, utilising the names of dead children and having fake documentation created. Such was the success of these officers that they entered sexual relationships with many of their targets.
At her flat, all of her toiletries, makeup, toothbrush and toothpaste were missing. So too were two new pieces of underwear and her favourite t-shirt that she slept in. They weren’t found in her bag. This is indicative that she had been staying overnight elsewhere.
It is not beyond the realms of fantasy to suggest that Annie was approached by an undercover officer using similar tactics. This officer, not “Martin Leslie”, believed Kristina Borjesson was keeping hold of a cover story and ingratiated his way into her life. Sworn to secrecy and believing she had found love, she was ready to travel to Sweden with her beau and surprise her family. Annie was heartbroken after being abandoned, the officer having realised she wasn’t Kristina. However, this scenario works just as well with a conman, with Annie’s mother describing her as “trusting”.
With plans made for her return to Sweden, it seems unusual that Annie Börjesson would take the decision to end her own life. Yet, the human mind is irrational and, suffering from depression, a sudden erratic decision cannot be impossible. Many of these things sound suspicious as a collective, yet individually less so. Statements to Annie’s family might be suggestive of a mental crisis, police action might be shocking lack of care and/or incompetence, silent phone calls may be genuine faults, and many of us regularly delete our emails. Whether together, they make something more, is conjecture.
Yet, murder certainly cannot be ruled out either. While the security services theory certainly appeals to our own justified paranoia surrounding the machinations of the state, it is unlikely that they would kill a journalist that was a known open critic of foreign policy. Equally, it’s doubtful that such a vast and easily disproven case of mistaken identity would be made. In 2005, finding a picture of Kristina Borjesson was hardly beyond the abilities of even the most inept members of the CIA. However, the missing top and Filofax might be indicative of trophies taken by a killer and statements to Annie’s family might also suggest the influence of a controlling partner or even, as some have theorised, a stalker.
The behaviour of “Martin Leslie” around Annie had been indicative of a sexual predator, while his showing up in her life again unexpectedly might suggest he was targeting her deliberately. Equally, it might be the case that Annie was engaged in an unknown relationship, either with “Leslie” or some person unknown. Despite any suggestion, it is unlikely this man was connected with the security services, with a 2008 Sunday Express article stating that his name is known to the family. Like the real Martin Leslie, he is a New Zealand national involved in rugby.
“She thought he was there with the NZ Rugby Team, during the big Rugby games. She also thought that ‘Martin Leslie’ had been to persistent with trying to make her drink alcohol on several occasions. She, however, declined his offer and thought that could be one of the reasons to his strange and aggressive behaviour.”
Maria Jansson, best friend
Since her untimely death, Annie’s mother has campaigned relentlessly for an official inquest into her daughter’s death, meeting then First Minister Alex Salmond in 2008. Noted Scottish actor Ken Stott joined the family’s calls for answers, and a 3,000 signature petition was presented to the Scottish Parliament at the end of 2013. So far, her appeals have been denied, and the family is said to have lost faith in Scottish justice.
“This is a beautiful country with lovely and caring people. Please do not leave them and our family with all these unanswered questions. All we want is a [Fatal Accident Inquiry] into Annie’s mysterious death. Please let us know why Annie had to die in the country she loved.”
Guje Börjesson, Annie’s mother
Annie was laid to rest back home in rural Sweden. Every year her mother creates a new tableau for her with vibrant displays of flowers in the summer, hedgehogs and apples in autumn and both a gingerbread house and Christmas tree in the winter.
At the spot where Annie’s body was found, a plaque was erected in her memory. Nobody knows who put it there.
“Annie Börjesson, born 7 February 1975. Found dead 4 December 2005. Her loved ones never found out how or why. A blot on Scotland’s reputation for fairness.”
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