Swede gets 4 ½ years in prison for royal jewels heist

FILE - This file image made available on Wednesday Aug. 1, 2018 by the Swedish Police, shows a collection of Swedish Crown jewels that were stolen from Strangnas cathedral. A 22-year-old Swede has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison after he was convicted of stealing 17th-century Swedish royal treasures estimated to be worth 65 million kronor ($7 million) from a cathedral last year, it was reported on Friday, Feb. 22, 2019. (Swedish Police via AP, File)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A 22-year-old Swede was sentenced Friday to four and a half years in prison after he was convicted of stealing 17th-century Swedish royal treasures estimated to be worth 65 million kronor ($7 million) from a cathedral last year.

The Eskiltuna District Court said Johan Nicklas Backstrom stole two crowns and an orb used at the funerals of King Karl IX and Queen Kristina. The jewels, dating from 1611, had been on display in Strangnas Cathedral, west of Stockholm.

On the closing day of his trial last week, Backstrom confessed to stealing the items on July 31. His confession came after prosecutors said his DNA was found on the jewels, which were discovered Feb. 5 in a garbage bin north of Stockholm. Backstrom said he cut himself when smashing the alarmed glass case during the theft.

The court noted that the king's crown was damaged, and some of the ornamental stones had fallen off.

Christofer Lundgren, the cathedral dean, said "the regalia need to be repaired as much as possible so a lot of work remains," according to Swedish broadcaster SVT.

The heist made international headlines because two thieves were seen dashing away from the 13th-century red-brick church on stolen bicycles and then fled by motorboat via the vast system of lakes west of Stockholm.

The treasures were used as funeral regalia, which were placed inside or on top of a coffin to symbolize a deceased royal's identity and social ranking. While some funeral regalia are kept in the cathedrals of Strangnas, Uppsala and Vasteras, Sweden's crown jewels are in vaults under the Royal Castle in Stockholm.

During the trial, Backstrom declined to say if he had accomplices. Two other men, aged 24 and 26, have been detained in the case. One is suspected of being involved in dumping the regalia in the garbage bin.

After the verdict, Backstrom's lawyer Johan Eriksson told SVT his client was relieved that he wasn't given a six-year prison sentence as requested by the prosecution.

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