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Prosecutors in Sweden finally close case on 1986 assassination of Olof Palme

By Fabrice Pierre-Toussaint

Staff Writer for Telegraph Local | See my LinkedIn

In 1986, Sweden’s then-Prime Minister Olof Palme was gunned down as he took a late-night walk on a busy Stockholm street with his wife and son after visiting a movie theater. 

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There were more than a dozen witnesses, thousands of people were interviewed by police, bullets but not a handgun were found at the scene. The assailant slipped away on a side street. A nationwide manhunt yielded no immediate suspects.

Investigators, as well as  the public, were left with one of the nation’s greatest mysteries and numerous conspiracy theories: Why had Palme dismissed his security detail that day? Was he killed because he attacked South Africa’s apartheid regime and was outspoken on other issues, such as the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam? A petty criminal was convicted of the killing in 1989. The judgment was later overturned, sources from USA Today.

On Wednesday, the Swedish prosecutors finally closed their investigation into the unsolved 1986 murder of Palme because the main suspect is dead. Stieg Engstrom, known as “Skandia man,” because he worked at the Swedish insurance company as a graphic designer, killed himself in 2000. He was 66. Sweden’s judiciary made it clear that they now believe that Engstrom was the man that shot Palme in the back at close range.

“We have come as far as we can do with regards to this investigation,” Krister Petersson, Sweden’s chief prosecutor, told a news conference in the country’s capital. He said that there was no doubt that Engstrom was the man that assassinated Palme even if he could no longer bring a case against him because he was dead. During his press conference, Petersson compared the investigation to the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

Prosecutors did not find any new forensic evidence connecting Engstrom, who was linked to the case years ago as a witness, to the crime. Rather, they examined statements he made to investigators. They also established that he was experienced with using weapons, had financial problems and was severely critical of Palme’s policies, which included gender-equality initiatives of various forms. 

Prosecutors focused their investigation on Engstrom after a freelance Swedish journalist named Thomas Pettersson told police in 2017 that he believed there was enough evidence implicating the graphic designer. Engstrom was known to have been working late on the evening of Palme’s killing and Skandia’s office was right near the murder scene. Engstrom also claimed that he tried to resuscitate Palme.

However, when Engstrom’s ex-wife, who Swedish media have agreed not to identify, was interviewed by the Expressen newspaper in 2018, she said. “It is out of question. He was not that kind of person. He was too much of a coward. He wouldn’t harm a fly.” 

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Marten Palme, the son of Olof and Lisbet Palme, told Swedish radio Wednesday that he believes Engstrom is the perpetrator and Stefan Lofven, the nation’s current prime minister, said the “fact that a country’s prime minister was murdered is a national trauma. I now have a hope that the wound can heal.”

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