The officer was fined eighty days’ wages last autumn by Malmö district court for overstepping the culinary mark. But the appeals court has now revoked the fine, arguing there was no substantial proof that the officer had made any personal profit from the alleged tart bribe.
Musician Magnus Johnson first turned to the police after somebody stole his beloved trombone. Sensing the opportunity for a workplace feast, the policeman said that he could probably speed up the investigation if the trombonist promised to buy a ‘smörgåstårta’, or savoury tart, if and when the case was solved.
“I told him that’s how it usually worked internally, that the head of a preliminary investigation would offer to buy a savoury tart for the working group that solved a case,” the officer told Lund District Court when the case went trial in October 2007.
After 38 years in the force, the policeman added that he never for a second imagined that there was anything criminal in his actions.
The smörgåstårta, translating literally as ‘sandwich cake’, is a popular dish at Swedish workplaces, where the savoury tarts are served up with startling regularity to mark all manner of special occasions.
Deflated by the theft of his 40,000 kronor ($6,000) instrument, Johnson agreed to splash out at the baker’s if it would help to move the investigation along.
When the officer informed his colleagues that there was a savoury tart at stake, the case was brought to a swift conclusion. Having viewed the relevant security footage, an arrest officer recognized the trombone thief.
The suspect was taken in for questioning and the trombone was ready to return to its rightful home.
But first there was the small matter of a savoury tart to be dealt with. The officer at the centre of the case called the trombonist with precise details of what was required. Johnson was to buy the tart at Widerberg’s bakery; it was to contain very specific ingredients and should be big enough to feed ten hungry officers.
“I didn’t feel under obligation but his tone was very insistent and we had already agreed after all,” Johnson told the court.
“If that sort of thing generally helps then I didn’t want my case to drop down the list of priorities”.
He stressed however that the tart he eventually bought was designed for eight rather than twelve people.
“I didn’t believe that so many people had worked on the case,” he said.
As if the bribery charges weren’t enough, the officer never even got to taste the tart as he was off work the day it was purchased.
In fact, the officers’ reward ended up sitting in the bakery for two whole days awaiting collection. Having seen off a colleague earlier in the day, the officers at the station in Lund had already eaten about as much savoury tart as they could manage for one day.
“There’s a limit to how much one can eat,” said the arrest officer responsible for identifying the trombone thief.