23 January 2021

The Guardian: “Who killed the prime minister? The unsolved murder that still haunts Sweden”

Although more than 20 witnesses saw the gunman, these facts are still more or less everything that the public knows for certain about the killing of the most controversial leader in Sweden’s modern history.

To his fellow countrymen, Palme was more than a politician. For more than 16 years, he had led Sweden’s leftwing Social Democratic party, which was in power for much of the 20th century. The party was responsible for many of the policies that people typically associate with Sweden, including high taxes and a robust social welfare system. Palme had come to embody not only the party, but these values, too.

Following Palme’s death, the country was cast first into turmoil and then into confusion. Over the past three decades, one chief investigator after another has failed to solve the case, and today the official inquiry remains open. In 2010, Sweden removed the statute of limitations on murders, specifically so that investigators could continue their search for Palme’s killer for as long as it takes. More than 10,000 people have been questioned in the case, whose files now take up more than 250 metres of shelf space in Sweden’s national police headquarters. It is the largest active murder investigation archive in the world.

Imogen West-Knights

Fascinating story: to have a public figure shot to death in plain sight on a busy Friday night, and yet to not be able to identify the murderer for more that 30 years! As with any mystery left unsolved for this long, this one has sparked a number of wild theories.

Hans Holmer, who headed the investigation into the Palme’s assassination
Hans Holmér, the regional head of the police, took charge of the initial investigation into the Palme assassination. In 1986 he appeared at a news conference showing two Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolvers. Håkan Rodén/TT News Agency, via Associated Press

In the latest chapter of this convoluted saga, last year Swedish prosecutors have finally named Stig Engström as the killer of the former Swedish prime minister and closed the outstanding investigation. The twist? Engström killed himself in 2000, so there will be no court case, and the prosecutor said he could not rule out the possibility that Mr. Engström had acted as part of a larger conspiracy. I guess some mysteries are meant to remain open…

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