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Sweden halts investigation into 1986 murder of PM Olof Palme

“Stig Engstrom is deceased, and therefore I am not able to start proceedings or even interview him, that is why I decided to discontinue the investigation,” Petersson told reporters. “Since he has died, I cannot indict him.”

Hans Melander, head of the investigation, told the news conference that 134 people had confessed the murder –29 directly to the police – and some 10,000 people had been questioned during the 34-year probe.

“I am completely convinced that there are other people who believe in other solutions, but as Krister (Petersson) says, this is what we came up with and believe in,” Melander said.

Marten Palme, the son of Olof and Lisbet Palme, told Swedish radio that “I also think Engstrom is the perpetrator.”

“The fact that a country’s prime minister was murdered is a national trauma. I now have a hope that the wound can heal,” Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, a Social Democrat like Palme, told a later news conference. “A thorough work has been carried out by the prosecutors and they have gone to the bottom of it. … “The best thing would have, of course, been through a conviction.”

Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lovin of the small Green Party said the unsolved killing “is still a wound” in Sweden.

Palme, who cut a flamboyant, even boyish figure, had sought to live as ordinary a life as possible and would often go out without bodyguards. The night of the murder he had no protection.

The prime minister had an aristocratic background but was known for his left-leaning views and was eyed with suspicion in conservative circles and by the United States. Among Swedes and in the Nordic region, Palme was a divisive figure, much loved but also despised.

At the time of the slaying, the 52-year-old Engstrom was reportedly one of the first people at the murder scene and was briefly considered a possible suspect. He had a military background, was a member of a shooting club, often worked late and had drinking problems, Petersson said. Also known as the Skandiamannen because he worked in the nearby Skandia insurance company, Engstrom had a strong dislike of Palme and his policies.

Yet Engstrom’s actions on the night of the murder are unclear. Several witnesses gave descriptions of the fleeing killer that matched Engstrom, while others said he wasn’t even at the scene. Engstrom himself claimed to have been present from the beginning, said he 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 that night, even criticising the police investigation. He claimed witnesses who had described the killer had in fact been describing him as he was running to catch up with police officers in pursuit of the assassin.

People lay flowers at the site where Olof Palme was shot in 1986.

People lay flowers at the site where Olof Palme was shot in 1986.Credit:AP

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

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.

Immediately after Palme was killed, thousands of Swedes flooded the scene of his death with red roses, a symbol of his Social Democratic Party, building a metre-high wall of flowers.


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