Helena Andersson was 22 years old and carefree, her whole life seemingly ahead of her. However, that would all change on June 14, 1992, a hot summer’s day in Mariestad, a small town of around 15,000 in North-East Sweden. Helena had been out dancing with friends at a local hotel, enjoying herself. Tired, was ready to come home. She phoned shortly before closing time to tell her sister she had forgotten her keys, and during the same phone call, her sister insisted Helena get a taxi. However, she never came home. The next day, police searching the area for the young woman came across the only trace they ever found — her sandals laying in a pasture and her rings alongside the road Helena would have walked. They were a mere 100 yards from the home she shared with her parents.
“I have a life before, and a life after Helena disappeared. I have never really been able to feel an unconditional joy for anything, or really able to ever feel anything anymore”
The last confirmed sighting of Helena was in a square, with several witnesses having spoken to her. From here, her movements are unknown with a taxi station being 300 yards away and several exits she could have taken if on foot. Equally, she may have been willingly picked up in a car. Some have contended that she was snatched from the square, yet this was a pleasant summer night, and the area was full of potential witnesses. None reported seeing anything of that nature, suggesting that Helena either willingly went home in a taxi or private vehicle, or simply walked.
Despite the lack of a body, the police investigation into the case was treated as a murder inquiry from the very beginning. An early witness statement said that a dog walker heard the desperate screams of a woman in the area on the night in question. The witness, who had been known to Helena for about 20 years, was walking her dog between 2:10am and 2:30am. She states that she first heard a commotion coming in the direction of Ekuddenvägen. Moving onto the bicycle path, she then listened to the screams, saying they came from an area toward Helena’s home, perhaps a playground situated close by. The cries lasted for around five minutes, and there were two male voices present, both Swedish. Despite the cries, described as those of despair rather than terror or fright, there was no call for help. The witness states that “Helena” was shouting out “no, no” and “you mustn’t do that”. The noise ended with the loud slamming of a car door, but the witness heard no engine driving away. She was 100% certain it was Helena she heard shouting with no possibility she may have been mistaken. Another witness meanwhile said they observed a white car, possibly a Honda, driving around the streets near Helena’s home. This vehicle passed by her house twice and had no headlights on.
There was certainly no shortage of leads in the case, with plenty of rumours and innuendo to suggest what fate had befallen Helena. Some believe it was a clear case of a rogue taxi driver, picking up Helena and driving her away against her will. Some suggested a teacher was involved. Many years Helena’s senior, the teacher was already married and had allegedly gotten Helena pregnant. Frightened of his infidelity being exposed, he had killed Helena. Others claimed that there was all manner of dodgy characters working as doormen at the hotel, with one later being convicted in 1998 of the murder of a taxi driver. Perception of Murder, a documentary by Kanal5, suggested she’d ended hidden in an aviation fuel tank.
There were three main suspects in the case in the 1990s, identified only as “The 25-Year Old”, “The Detainee” and “The Man in the Pilot Glasses”. The Detainee was already known to Helena, and at the time of the disappearance, he was living outside Skaraborg. Several tips sent to police raised suspicions about the man, and when questioned by a journalist, he said cryptically that he knew “someone who was in Mariestad that night”. The Detainee was brought in for questioning in 1996, spending two nights in custody. Police subsequently concluded he had nothing to do with the disappearance and removed him from the inquiry.
The 25-Year-Old was the first man arrested in connection with the disappearance of Helena, being detained in July 1992, just over a month afterwards. The primary evidence held against the man was that a witness claimed he had seen Helena entering the man’s car on the night that she went missing, police finding white dog hair on the backseat of the vehicle. Helena also owned a white dog. However, the witness statement was entirely false and malicious, with the offender sentenced to prison for making up the incident. There is no suggestion that the 25-Year-Old had been involved in the disappearance in any way at all.
That leaves one main suspect and the best lead that still remains in the case, “The Man in the Pilot Glasses”. Before closing time, Helena had been seen with a man wearing distinctive aviator-style sunglasses at the hotel, the individual staying till just before Helena left on the night of her disappearance. His appearance would match that of a man that a witness says he saw in the company of a woman headed toward the Andersson’s home. While the witness couldn’t be sure the woman was Helena, a description of her trousers matches those that were being worn at the time of her vanishing. He quickly became one of the primary suspects in the case after it was revealed that he has no strong alibi for the time after the hotel’s closing, this was coupled with his story constantly “swaying” according to investigators. However, just last year prosecutors revealed that the man is no longer considered a suspect in the case, noting that with no evidence of murder, the statute of limitations has expired on any other potential charge.
The investigation into the suspected murder is still ongoing however, and in 2018, investigators sent the sandals and rings for analysis at the National Forensic Center (NFC). The results showed three different traces, one being a mixed match, and the others being separate hits for a man and a woman. The woman showed a familial match for Helena herself and can be discounted, however, the man was harder to identify, with nothing in the NFC database. There was no DNA found on the ring. Investigators were quick to point out that while none of the DNA on Helena’s sandals matched the “Man in the Pilot Glasses”, that didn’t rule him out of enquiries, with no evidence those profiles were linked to the crime.
Gothenburg’s Cold Case group has since taken over the matter, seeking to shed some new light on the affair that most people believe to be murder. The group is staffed by six officers who dedicate their time to continuing the investigations of cases considered cold. With the new DNA evidence being on the table, all be it with disappointing results, many are pleased that the police seem to once again be moving forward on a matter that has perplexed Sweden for over 28 years.
“Now it feels a bit like they have actually taken in what we say and want and that there is a strong will that we should move forward, sort this out and go to the finish line”
It seems possible that Helena was kidnapped in a vehicle, either while walking home or from the hotel itself. She could undoubtedly have phoned a taxi or hailed one in the street, falling victim to a predator in a fake cab as so many others have before and since. Equally, she may have called a friend for a lift home, that friend having other intentions than providing a service. Had Helena been transported in a vehicle, then her body could conceivably be anywhere, even in someone’s back garden.
However, eyewitness statements seem to suggest Helena was on foot, one reporting having seen somebody matching her description and yet another hearing screams from around the woods. These screams were noted by somebody familiar with Helena and intriguingly, didn’t seem to be cries for help. However, if Helena was on foot, this poses the problem of what happened to the body? It is rare for an opportunistic rapist or killer to go to the trouble of expertly hiding a body after an attack. Equally, while Helena’s sandals would likely fall off in a struggle, the rings are harder to explain. Located by a road, they were possibly thrown from a car. Were these rings offensive to the perpetrator? Was it a robbery gone wrong? Did she throw them herself as a clue? All questions which sadly have no answers. With so little evidence and so long having passed, unless there is a lucky break such as the discovery of remains or a suspect developing a conscience, the vanishing of Helena Andersson looks to be forever unsolved.