Sweden drops probe into unsolved 1986 murder of PM Olof Palme

The chief prosecutor on the case says the probe was closed because the main suspect, Stig Engstrom, died in 2000.

Olof Palme was shot dead 34 years ago in Stockholm [File: Anders Holmstrom/TT News Agency via Reuters]
Olof Palme was shot dead 34 years ago in Stockholm [File: Anders Holmstrom/TT News Agency via Reuters]

Sweden has dropped its investigation into the unsolved murder of former Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, who was shot dead 34 years ago in Stockholm city centre.

The chief prosecutor on the case, Krister Petersson, said on Wednesday the case was closed because the main suspect, Stig Engstrom, had died in 2000.

Petersson said Engstrom, also known as “the Skandia man” because he worked for the nearby Skandia insurance company, had a strong dislike for Palme and his policies.

He was one of the first people at the murder scene and was briefly considered a possible suspect.

“Since he has died, I cannot indict him,” Petersson told a news conference.

Several other witnesses gave descriptions of the fleeing killer that matched Engstrom while others said he was not even at the scene.

Engstrom himself claimed to have been present from the beginning, spoke to Lisbet Palme and police, and attempted to resuscitate the victim.

Soon after the murder, Engstrom appeared in Swedish media and developed an increasingly detailed story of his involvement in the events and criticised the police.

He claimed those witnesses who had described the killer had in fact been describing him, running to catch up with police officers in pursuit of the assassin.

The police then labelled Engstrom as an unreliable and inconsistent witness and classified him as a person of no interest.

The night of the murder

Palme served as leader of the Social Democratic Party from 1969 until his death, and was prime minister between 1969 and 1976, and from 1982 to 1986.

 

He sought to live as ordinary a life as possible and would often go out without any bodyguards. The night of the murder on February 28, 1986, he had no protection.

Lisbet Palme was injured in the attack and later identified the shooter as Christer Pettersson, an alcoholic and drug addict, who was convicted of Palme’s murder.

The sentence was later overturned after police failed to produce any technical evidence against him, leaving the murder an unsolved mystery. Pettersson died in 2004.

Palme, who cut a flamboyant, even boyish figure, had an aristocratic background but was known for his left-leaning views.

He was eyed with suspicion in conservative circles and by the United States. Among Swedes and in the Nordic region, he was much loved, but also hated.

Al Jazeera’s Paul Rhys, reporting from Stockholm, said the Swedish society was still divided on Palme.

“Although he was loved by the left for his progressive policies, Palme was hated by many on the right, “he said.”Even though there are flowers still being laid on his memorial [at the place of the murder], an element of that hatred has been seen while we’ve been here. Someone actually walked past and spat on his memorial.”

More than 100 people have been suspected of his murder, and the unsolved case has been surrounded by conspiracy theories, ranging from foreign involvement to people with right-wing sympathies within Sweden’s police, to an act by a lone shooter.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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