Swedish sleuths name killer of PM Olof Palme, close 34-year case
Swedish sleuths name killer of PM Olof Palme, close 34-year case

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

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

Palme was gunned down on Feb. 28, 1986, after he and his wife Lisbet Palme left a movie theater in the Swedish capital.

Petersson said Engstrom, also known as the Skandiamannen for working in the nearby Skandia insurance company, had a strong dislike of Palme and his policies. He was one of the first 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 wasn't 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 criticized 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 a unreliable and inconsistent witness and classified him as a person of no interest.

Palme sought to live as ordinary a life as possible and would often go out without any bodyguards. The night of the murder, 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.

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

One of the theories put forth by Dr Jan Bondeson, the author of Blood on the Snow: The Killing of Olof Palme, told the BBC that she believes that middlemen involved in the Bofors scandal of the 1980s were responsible for his killing.

Swedish arms company Bofors had a deal to supply artillery to India, but it was later revealed to be one of the biggest corruption cases in the country where several middlemen were bribed. The scandal implicated former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. "It may well be that Palme found out that the Bofors company was corrupt the very day of the murder," he said. "That gives the middlemen behind the Bofors deal a strong reason to murder him. But that's something the police have always ignored," Bondeson told the BBC.

A Rs 60 crore scam, the alleged amount paid as kickbacks received by Congress seems positively miniscule now, compared to say Nirav Modi’s PNB scam which notched up Rs 12,000 crore.

While kickbacks are the norm across defence deals, this was the first time a PM was directly caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and the guilt is such that the Congress mouthpiece National Herald even labelled Rafale, BJP’s ‘Bofors’, an explicit admission of guilt from anyone related to the Congress.

But Bofors helped in the reversal of Rajiv Gandhi’s mandate and hurt the Indian Army as much as it hurt the Congress. It put India’s attempts to modernise its military in the ICU, inducing a deep fear psychosis for placement of orders fearing bribe scandals that haunts the bureaucracy.

While there is another conspiracy theories doing the rounds, it could be problematic for the Congress if the Bofors theory turns out to be true. The other conspiracies involve the role of South Africa.

South African Defence Force Major General Tai Minnaar has been named by a group of theoriests who claim that they have documented proof that Minnaar and his team of South African security forces were behind Palme’s assassination. Minaar called Palme and enemy of the state in a set of documents and ordered is murder. While the Swedish government thought it another conspiracy theory, one retired official told UK daily The Guardian that the documents signed by Minnaar may be genuine.

South African Defence Force Major General Tai Minnaar has been named by a group of theoriests who claim that they have documented proof that Minnaar and his team of South African security forces were behind Palme’s assassination. Minaar called Palme and enemy of the state in a set of documents and ordered is murder. While the Swedish government thought it another conspiracy theory, one retired official told UK daily The Guardian that the documents signed by Minnaar may be genuine.

Palme, who was serving his second term as Prime Minister of Sweden, insisted of living a normal life. He would dismiss his police protection every night before walking to the station to go home.

(With inputs from

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