STOCKHOLM -- A Swedish man was charged Monday with three counts of murder and 12 counts of attempted murder in a series of sniper attacks that appeared to target immigrants in southern Sweden.
The man, identified as Peter Mangs, was arrested in November 2010 in the city of Malmo where the shootings took place and has been held in custody since.
Prosecutor Solveig Wolstad told a news conference that investigators had "not been able to establish a singular motive" for the shootings, "but there was a certain extent of xenophobia" and also "hostility against people who had criminal records."
Defense attorney Douglas Norking told Swedish television that Mangs denies the shootings.
Other charges included preparing to commit murder, vandalism and attempting to pervert the cause of justice. According to the indictment, Mangs told a man of the 2009 murder of one victim, but when he was urged to report it to the police he threatened the man and his family with a gun.
Mangs appeared to have been "a rather lonely person," Wollstad said, adding that he in some cases had charted his victims.
"Initially he cooperated during interviews, but for the past year he has not wanted to answer questions," Wollstad said.
Evidence included seized weapons, ballistic tests, witness statements, telephone records and emails.
Borje Sjoholm of the Malmo police said Mangs "often shot from a distance" and had used several pistol pipes. He had filed some of the pistol pipes to change their markings.
Two of the murders took place in 2003. The next crimes Mangs was charged with took place in October 2009 when he allegedly shot to death a young woman in a car and seriously injured a man sitting next to her. Investigators said they had not been able to find sufficient evidence linking the suspect to other crimes between 2003 and 2009.
In the weeks prior to the arrest, a special police unit was set up to hunt for the gunman as the attacks began to cause panic in Malmo, which has a high immigrant population.
Police received hundreds of tips and the names of 70 individuals, including Mangs, when they confirmed they were searching for a suspected serial shooter.
"It took a lot of time to investigate all the 70 named," Sjoholm said, explaining that alternative suspects had been investigated and ruled out during the 18-month period Mangs was in custody.
The trial was scheduled to open next week and run until July. On Monday one of the four lay judges was excused from the case after having interviewed a victim in a local radio show.
Police have cooperated with authorities in Denmark, Norway, Germany and the United States.
(c)2012 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany)
Visit Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany) at www.dpa.de/English.82.0.html
Distributed by MCT Information Services