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BEHIND THE SCENES with Hugo Lavett


When did you first hear about Agneta's murder?

As I explain in the feature, I had met Agneta and Ingemar the year before, when I visited their yard. But I had heard about them long before that. My friend Martin has a summer house in Loftahammar and his parents were close to them. I remember the exact moment when Martin called me and told me what happened. That Agneta was dead and Ingemar accused of murdering her. I had started to study Journalism at Stockholm University just the week before and I was on my way to school, standing on an escalator. So I was, from the beginning, quite interested in the story and the development of it - both personally and from a journalistic point of view.

Agneta's death in September 2008 was just a local story in the newspaper; a woman found dead by the lake shore. The local press was crazy about it but it didn't go national, probably because the case was "solved" right from the beginning: Ingemar murdered his wife.

In November 2009 the case was solved again, and it became front-page news all over Sweden. Ingemar appeared in some morning TV shows but it actually never became a talking piece, never went viral. Maybe because that month was the most hysterical and critical period of the Swine Influenza in Sweden and everyone was to be vaccinated, I don't know. It sort of disappeared and I was surprised that no one made a bigger story of it. But I kept the idea in the back of my head, waiting for the right time to pick it up...

So when - and why - did you decide to tell the story?

In 2011/12 I took a master's degree at Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts. For my graduation project I felt mature enough to tackle "The Moose." I talked to my friend Martin and his parents who told me that Ingemar had moved from Loftahammar because the people living there still didn't believe him to be innocent. Or at least didn't believe in the moose. When I heard this I felt that this story had an importance still, and that "the moose" also could work like a metaphor or a symbol. It was more than a spectacular murder case. The tragedy had a deeper existential level to it. A story completely unique that could affect people, like, "it could have been me/my family/my parents," and at the same time make a difference – a vindication for Ingemar and the family.

I'm amazed by the access you had to the police interrogation tape, and the collaboration of the investigators in your reporting. Was it difficult to get this access? What role does the tape serve in the narrative?

I had to go via Ingemar to get the tapes from the interrogations. Only he could demand them, since he wasn't prosecuted and therefore the materialwas not made public. It took some weeks, but one day it arrived with the mail. Four CDs with hours and hours of recorded interrogations. And a fifth CD with a software program I had to install so I could play it on my computer. When I heard Ingemar's voice and the beautifully bad sound quality, I knew I had something that would lift this feature some levels. Not only because of the fact that Ingemar - 12 minutes into the first interrogation - mentions a moose and the interrogation officer ignores it, but because as a listener it really puts you in the room, you are there. The rawness of the material and the extreme situation, plus Ingemar's voice sounding different from how he is in my interviews, prods the listener to start asking questions like, "Is this the voice of a killer?" "What is he hiding?" Or: "Can't you hear he's innocent?" It gives the feature this objective quality.

The structure and character development of this story is so tightly-constructed that it almost has a quality of a fictional police procedural (do you watch Law & Order in Sweden?). How did you think about structuring the story? Deciding which details of the characters to keep in (the trombone! The crucifiction comparison!) and which to edit out?

Of course we watch Law & Order in Sweden, we consume everything you Americans create! But I wouldn't say it was an inspiration. During the process I was reading through the back catalogue of the Swedish crime novelists Sjöwall/Wahlöös books about inspector Martin Beck. Their books came out in the 60-70s and I found a lot of inspiration in their language: hard and precise but still poetic and with humour. Ingemar is a big humorist and I found Johan Bruun very funny in his "dryness" so I wanted to use that to create this bizarre touch (because it's a bizarre story and life is bizarre). Like the crucifixion comparison, the YouTube-scene and my personal Bruun-favourite "We went up to the bus and had a quick cup of coffee and a sandwich we had taken with us because we knew it was going to be a long night." It sounds really funny in Swedish, anyway.

The trombone was a personal – and very important – thing for me. When I visited the yard back in 2007 Ingemar demonstrated whole procedure with the farmyard bell and the solo, and it was so beautiful. And sort of twisted. Even before I made the first interview I knew I wanted to use the trombone somewhere in the beginning and at the end. I think that it was a way for me to get closer to the story, to put my own imprint on it - if someone else did it they probably wouldn't even know about the trombone. And I felt that it was this perfect way to describe their relationship and the place where they lived. I also think the trombone helped me in the working process because it set the tone for the piece right from the beginning. I had to tell this crime story in a way so that a sudden trombone solo wouldn't sound out of place.

When I finished school in early June 2012 I had just made the interviews and I had missed the deadline for the examination. I bought ProTools editing software, and the rest of the summer I sat home in my apartment, often still just in my underwear, editing the enormous amount of material I had gathered, reading the interrogation report, writing and speaking into a cheap microphone. When I got stuck I took an hour just reading or listening to a documentary (frantically noting and analysing). That is my memory of the rainy summer of 2012, but I felt no stress, just a joy, and a confidence with my material. I had a post-it note by the side of my computer with a time schedule I had worked out: "Intro 00-02.30, Background story 02.30-07... The Moose 32.40..." Something like that, something to lean on.

By late August I had edited it down to 65 minutes - but everything felt so important that I couldn't cut it even by 15 seconds. So I sent it to Swedish Radio, like a demo song to a record label. They liked it and hooked me up with the producer Robert Barkman. Together we cut it down to 52 minutes and I re-read my narration. We killed so many darlings, but the feature found its angle.

How did the police department react to the feature? What about Ingemar and his family?

I wanted Ingemar and the family to listen to the documentary when it was finished. But they couldn't manage so they had friends listening instead. "They say it's a lot of trombone," Ingemar reported back to me. Then a half year later or so I got a text from him saying he finally listened to it and he was overwhelmed. It has given him inspiration and a kick in the back to start writing a book about his experience, so that's what he is up to now.

Some days after the feature aired I got a call from Johan Bruun, the forensic technician. He wanted to compliment me on a well-done job. From his perspective the police force succeeded – they eventually solved the case. They made some mistakes, he admitted that, but shit like that happens, and it took a long time. "It's not like in the crime movies you see on TV," he said. But he was truly sad that Ingemar still was a suspect in the public's eye and hoped that this program would help change that - which I believe it has.

Is it true this was your first radio feature? What's next for you?

Yes it was my first. It aired in July, 2013. Since then I've made two more. Not as ambitious as Woman Found Dead By Lake Shore , but two rather personal stories about two old heroes of mine. One feature a dead poet called Urban Torhamn, the other about a tricky skateboarder called Ali Boulala. For the moment I'm not working on anything. Well, during the winter and spring I'd been working on two big projects - but both fell through. So I'm back on square one. Which is OK.