Young tourists take chances


SAN FRANCISCO -- They come by the thousands from the cities and hamlets of northern Europe. They are young, adventurous and, in many cases, too trusting.

Marie Lilienberg, 23, and Maria Wahlen, 25, were among them.


The two Swedish girls had traveled about America for nearly a year. They teamed up in Aspen, Colo., and visited Hawaii together before coming to the West Coast this summer.

On July 23, the pair set out from Redwood City, south of San Francisco, for Newport Beach and a flight back to Sweden out of Los Angeles. They were low on money and decided to hitchhike. They were seen in Monterey later and then disappeared.

Their bodies were found in Los Padres National Forest, south of Monterey, last week.

'These kids hitchhike and backpack all over Europe,' said Art Shanks, of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. 'If they need a place to stay, they just ask a farmer if they can pitch a tent in his field. There is no danger there.'


Shanks, who spent tours of duty with the INS in Frankfurt and Rome, said the service has very little trouble with the Europeans.

'They are mostly good kids,' he said. 'They keep their noses clean. They usually come from good families. But the problem is they are living with the image they live with in Europe.'

Shanks said the young people are usually told not to hitchhike by their parents but disregard the instruction because they 'simply run out of money.'

Such was the case with Ms. Wahlen and Ms. Lilienberg.

When they set out for Southern California, friends said the pair had 'about $50' left.

Their fathers, who flew to California to search for them, said they had repeatedly warned their daughters against hitchhiking.

Mikael Johansson, a 21-year-old tourist from Kristianstad, Sweden, says the problems Swedish youngsters encounter are easily understood.

'We come from a country where there is little crime so you trust people,' he said. 'People aren't very open in Sweden. So when you meet open people, as most Americans are, you tend to think they are honest people.

'The common thinking is if a person doesn't look the way criminals are portrayed on television, they are good guys.'


Johansson said the murder of the two girls naturally has all parents back in Sweden very concerned.

'My parents are very concerned but they know I can handle myself,' he said. 'My girlfriend's mother called her and was crying.'

The two young women were not the the only Scandinavian victims of violent crime in the West.

Elisabeth Martinsson was a 21-year-old Swedish babysitter when she disappeared in January 1982 after leaving the San Francisco home where she worked for a trip to the market.

The car she was using was found in Oklahoma City. The man who had the car was charged and convicted of auto theft. No other charges were filed against him because of a lack of evidence. Ms. Martinsson has not been seen since the day she disappeared.

Although the murders have received much publicity, Lars Malstrom, the Swedish consul on the West Coast, said many more visiting young people are robbed.

'We handle quite a few robberies every year,' he said. 'It happens when they hitchhike, at hotels and on the beach.'

Malstrom said a lot of crimes go unreported because the young people are hesitant to go to American authorities.

'Most of them won't go to the local police,' he said.


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