Swedish police have arrested an elderly woman on suspicion of keeping her son confined to their flat in a Stockholm suburb for nearly three decades.
She has denied false imprisonment and grievous bodily harm after her son, now aged about 40, was found injured and living in squalor.
He was discovered by a relative on Sunday after his mother fell ill and was taken to hospital.
The unnamed relative went to the flat in Haninge, a southern suburb of the capital, on Sunday evening with her partner after hearing that the mother had been taken to hospital, she told Expressen newspaper.
It was about 20 years since she had last visited the flat, she said, but she was concerned about the welfare of the boy, who had been removed from school when he was aged about 12 and had vanished.
The front door was unlocked and the flat in darkness. She shouted “hello” but there was no answer and so she went in, picking her way through piles of rubbish. The place stank of urine, and decay.
In the kitchen, in the light of a streetlamp, she saw a grown man on a blanket in a corner. He was covered in open sores.
When he saw her, he struggled to his feet and whispered her name in a faint voice.
She told the paper that somehow he had recognised her after so long and was not afraid of her.
He had lost almost all his teeth and was obviously in very bad condition. The couple rushed him to hospital and when doctors examined him, they alerted the police. The mother was arrested.
Police sealed off the apartment and are seeking witnesses as they try to piece together what happened over the decades since he vanished. A police spokesman told Reuters, “We are looking into how long the son may have been imprisoned, but we assume it’s been a long period of time.”
Stockholm prosecutor Emma Olsson told the news agency that the man had required and was receiving surgery, without giving further details.
His rescuer told Swedish TV the mother had never recovered emotionally from losing an earlier child when she was very young. After giving birth again, her new son was given the same name and she became over-protective and unbalanced.
“I’m just thankful that he is getting help and is going to survive,” she said.
Neighbours said that they had always seen the mother as simply an old woman who lived alone.