Sweden: investigation into assassination of Prime Minister Olof Palme at a watershed

STOCKHOLM | More than thirty years after the assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, the Swedish justice system will announce on Wednesday whether it will end the investigation, deadlock despite the countless avenues explored since 1986, or whether it will initiate proceedings.

Prosecutor Krister Petersson, responsible for the case since 2017, gives a press conference at 9:30 a.m. (3:30 a.m. local time), by videoconference due to the new coronavirus.

Charismatic Social Democrat leader Olof Palme was coldly shot on a frozen sidewalk in central Stockholm on February 28, 1986, at the age of 59, while walking home from the cinema with his wife, without bodyguards . At that moment, Sweden has “lost its innocence”, to use a popular expression.

His murderer managed to escape, taking the murder weapon with him. Thousands of people were heard, dozens more claimed responsibility for the act, and the case occupies 250 meters of shelves.

According to the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet, the investigators now have the weapon in question.

Swedish experts and media have hinted in recent months that the case is likely to be closed, as the main suspects cited in the media in recent years have all died.

For Krister Petersson, if the main suspect in the case is now deceased, this can in particular justify a drop in the investigation, because according to the law, a deceased person cannot be charged, he explained in February.

Lack of seriousness

Namesake for the magistrate responsible for the case, Christer Pettersson, identified by Olof Palme’s wife, was convicted of the assassination in July 1989 before being acquitted on appeal a few months later for lack of evidence.

His testimony had also been weakened by the conditions, marred by irregularities, in which he had been taken. He died in 2004.

Lisbeth Palme, the widow of the Prime Minister who formally recognized him, died in 2018.

Over the years, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Swedish army and police or the South African secret service have also been suspected, among others – Olof Palme was very critical of politics of apartheid in the country.

A great speaker, he took a stand against the Vietnam War and nuclear energy. He also supported the communist governments in Cuba and Nicaragua.

In Sweden, where he was Prime Minister from 1969 to 1976, then from 1982 to 1986, he laid the groundwork for gender equality.

Some theories also suggest that the leader was the victim of a sniper acting in the name of “ideological hatred”.

Among the speculations circulated the name of Stig Engström, also known as “the man of Skandia” and regularly appeared in the media. He was an opponent of the leftist ideas of Olof Palme.

Arrived among the first at the crime scene from the Skandia insurance company where he was employed, the authorities questioned him as a witness, but found him to be unreliable because he regularly changed versions. He died in 2000.

The police had been strongly criticized for their lack of seriousness and the hazardous routes they had taken at the expense of more professional work undertaken at the start of the investigation.

The night of the drama, she did not properly close the scene of the crime, destroying potential evidence, a blunder that still haunts investigators today.

If the prosecution decides to close the investigation on Wednesday, it could be reopened in the future if new elements appear.

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