Likely Killer Claimed He Tried to Resuscitate Swedish PM

Prosecutors wrap up investigation, naming deceased suspect who arrived at scene
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 10, 2020 7:33 AM CDT

(Newser) – Authorities have a suspect in the 1986 assassination of Swedish prime minister Olof Palme—but the unsolved case will now be closed. Those are just some of the developments shared Wednesday as chief prosecutor Krister Petersson wrapped up his investigation of the high-profile case that has been an "open wound" for Swedes for more than three decades. More:

  • "We have come as far as we can do with regards to this investigation," Petersson said at a news conference in Stockholm, per CNN. He said the main suspect was deceased, "therefore I am not able to start proceedings or even interview him," per the AP. "That is why I decided to discontinue the investigation."
  • That suspect is Stig Engström—no stranger to the case. He testified as a defense witness in the trial of petty criminal Christer Pettersson, who was convicted of Palme's murder in 1989. Pettersson—picked out of a lineup by Palme's wife—was later acquitted and died in 2004. Engstrom died by suicide in 2000 at age 66.

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  • Palme was shot in the back at close range as he walked home from a Stockholm cinema with his wife, Lisbet, on Feb. 28, 1986. The shooter, matching Engstrom's description, is believed to have escaped down a side street. National police were later criticized for failing to properly cordon off the scene.
  • Engstrom arrived within minutes. He claimed to have spoken to Lisbet Palme and attempted to resuscitate the prime minister, per the AP. He was later found to have lied to investigators. He also had weapons training due to a military background and was a member of shooting club.
  • Freelance journalist Thomas Pettersson investigated the case for more than a decade before concluding in late 2017 that Engstrom was the likely killer, per the New York Times. The graphic designer for an insurance company was working in a building near the cinema and opposed the socialist ideals of Palme, who served as prime minister from 1969 to 1976 and again from 1982 until his death.

  • The AP reports Palme "was a divisive figure, much loved but also despised" in Nordic countries. He was vocal in opposing the US war in Vietnam and the apartheid regime in South Africa, which led to speculation that he was killed by South African agents, per the Guardian. He's also said to have "laid the foundation for Sweden's modern-day gender equality," per AFP.
  • Some 134 people confessed to Palme's murder, including 29 who spoke to the police, while some 10,000 people were questioned, per the AP. After all that, investigators "cannot get around" Engstrom, the chief prosecutor said, per CNN.
  • Petersson, the prosecutor, said there was "reasonable evidence" implicating Engstrom. But he said he could not rule out the possibility that Engstrom was part of a larger conspiracy, per the Times. No murder weapon and no new forensic evidence was found, per the BBC.
  • Marten Palme, the son of Olof and Lisbet Palme, who died in 2018, told a radio station that he backs the conclusion of prosecutors. "I also think Engstrom is the perpetrator," he said, per the AP.
(Read more Sweden stories.)

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