Olof Palme assassination

Olof Palme assassination

The assassination of Olof Palme, the Prime Minister of Sweden, took place on Friday, 28 February, 1986, in Stockholm, Sweden, at 23:21 hours Central European Time (22:21 UTC). Palme was wounded by gunshots while walking home from a cinema with his wife Lisbet Palme on the central Stockholm street Sveavägen. The couple did not have bodyguards at the time.

Two years after the event, Christer Pettersson — a small-time criminal and drug addict — was arrested, tried and convicted for Palme's murder. Because Pettersson's conviction was later quashed on appeal to the High Court, a number of alternative theories as to who carried out the murder have been proposed.

It transpired in 2007 that Pettersson, who died in 2004, had confessed to the murder in letters he wrote to his girlfriend in 1986. [cite news
title = Petty criminal killed Palme
url = http://www.news24.com/News24/World/News/0,,2-10-1462_2064222,00.html
work = News24.com
date = 2007-02-04
accessdate = 2007-02-05
] However, experts doubt that Pettersson's 21-year-old "confession" will result in the reopening of the Palme murder case. [cite news
title = Experts doubt Palme case to reopen
url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1626232.stm
work = BBC News
date = 2001-10-29
accessdate = 2007-02-05

Night of the assassination

Despite Olof Palme's position as prime minister, he sought to live as ordinary a life as possible. He would often go out without any bodyguard protection, and the night of his murder was one such occasion. Walking home from the Grand Cinema with his wife Lisbet Palme on the central Stockholm street Sveavägen, close to midnight on February 28, 1986, the couple were attacked by a lone gunman. Palme was fatally shot in the back at close range at 23:21 CET. A second shot wounded Mrs Palme.

Police said that a taxi-driver used his mobile radio to raise the alarm. Two girls sitting in a car close to the scene of the shooting tried to help the prime minister. He was rushed to the hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival at 00:06 CET on March 1, 1986.

The attacker escaped eastwards on the Tunnelgatan and disappeared.

Deputy prime minister Ingvar Carlsson immediately assumed the duties of prime minister and as new leader of the Social Democratic Party.

Sequence of events

Cinema decision

Palme's decision to visit the Grand Cinema was made at very short notice. Mrs Lisbet Palme had discussed seeing a film when she was at work during the afternoon, and called her son, Mårten Palme, at 5 pm to talk about the film at the Grand Cinema. Olof Palme did not hear about the plans until at home, at 6:30 pm, when he met with his wife. By which time, Palme had already declined any further personal body guard protection from the security service. He talked to his son about the plans on the phone, and they eventually decided to join Mårten and his spouse, who had already purchased tickets for themselves. This decision was made about 8 pm. The police later searched Palme's apartment, as well as Lisbet's and Mårten's work places, for wire-bugging devices or traces of such equipment, but did not find any. [ [http://www.regeringen.se/content/1/c4/12/44/6a2655da.pdf The investigation committee report (1999:88), p. 161.] (PDF) sv icon]

Grand Cinema

At 8.30 pm the Palme couple left their apartment, unescorted, heading for the Gamla stan subway station. Several people witnessed their short walk to the station and, according to the later police investigation, commented on the lack of body guards. The couple took the subway train to the Rådmansgatan station, from where they walked to the Grand Cinema. They met with their son and his spouse just outside the theatre around 9 pm. Olof Palme had not yet purchased tickets which were by then almost sold out. Recognising the prime minister, the ticket clerk wanted him to have the best seats, and therefore sold Palme the theatre director's seats. [ [http://www.regeringen.se/content/1/c4/12/44/6a2655da.pdf The investigation committee report (1999:88), p. 162.] (PDF) sv icon]

The murder

After the screening, the Palme family stayed outside the theatre for a while but separated about 11.15 pm. Olof and Lisbet Palme headed south on the west side of Sveavägen street, towards the Rådmansgatan subway station. When they reached the Adolf Fredrik Church, they crossed Sveavägen and continued on the street's east side. They stopped a moment to look at something in a shop window, continued past the Dekorima shop (now renamed Kreatima) and headed for the subway station entrance. At 11:21:30 pm, half the distance across the Tunnelgatan street and only a short distance from the station entrance, a man appeared from behind, shot Palme at point-blank range and fired a second shot at Mrs Palme. The perpetrator then jogged down Tunnelgatan street, up the steps to Malmskillnadsgatan and continued down David Bagares gata [street] , where he was last seen. [ [http://www.regeringen.se/content/1/c4/12/44/6a2655da.pdf The investigation committee report (1999:88), p. 159] (PDF) sv icon]

Time line

Thanks to time stamps on records for radio and tele communication, many events have been determined with a very high precision. [ [http://www.regeringen.se/content/1/c4/12/44/6a2655da.pdf The investigation committee report (1999:88), p. 173] (PDF) sv icon]

*11.21:30 pm — The Palme couple are shot.

*11.22:20 pm — The 90000 SOS emergency line receives a phone call. An eye witness says there is 'murder on Sveavägen', and is immediately redirected to the police. However the phone call is not redirected properly and the caller is not put through to the police.

*11.23.40 pm — A Järfälla Taxi switchboard operator calls directly to the police dispatch center on behalf of one of its drivers on the scene. He can, however, not give any more details than that someone has been shot at the corner Sveavägen/Tunnelgatan.

*11:24 pm (ca) — The first police patrol arrives at the scene. Stationed on Kungsgatan, a few hundred feet from the scene, the patrol is alerted by a second taxi driver who heard the emergency call via the taxi radio.

*11.24.40 pm — The police dispatch center is contacted by the SOS alarm central concerning the shooting on Sveavägen. The dispatch center operator denies knowledge about any such events.

*11.24 – 11.25.30 pm (ca) — A second police patrol, a patrol wagon, arrives at the crime scene. The patrol was stationed at Malmskillnadsgatan at the time of murder, not far from the perpetrator's escape route. They are ordered by the commanding officer at the scene, Superintendent Söderström, to immediately take up the hunt for the perpetrator.

*11.25 pm (ca) — A patrolling ambulance is stopped at the scene and gives immediate assistance to the victims.

*11.26:00 pm — The police dispatch center calls the SOS emergency center to assure them they are informed about the events on the Sveavägen/Tunnelgatan intersection.

*A third police patrol wagon arrives at the scene, the patrol was refueling at a gas station when they got called out to the scene.

*A second ambulance arrives at the scene to assist their colleagues from the first ambulance.

*11.28:00 pm — The first ambulance leaves the scene, rushing for the Sabbatsberg hospital with prime minister Olof Palme and his wife. Mrs Palme, not being severely wounded, refuses to leave her husband.

*11.30 pm — Superintendent Söderström, contacts the police dispatch center to inform them that it is the prime minister who has been shot.

*11.31:40 pm — The SOS central is informed that the ambulance has arrived to the hospital.

*00.06 am — Prime Minister Olof Palme is pronounced dead at the Sabbatsberg hospital.

*00.45 am — Vice prime minister Ingvar Carlsson arrives at Rosenbad.

*01.10 am — First radio broadcast about the murder.

*04.00 am — First TV broadcast about the events.

*05.15 am — The government holds a press conference.

Murder theories

Palme's assassination remains unsolved, with a number of alternative theories surrounding the murder.

"The 33-year old"

A Swedish right-wing extremist, Victor Gunnarsson (labeled in the media "33-åringen", "the 33-year old"), was soon arrested for the murder but quickly released, after a dispute between the police and prosecuting attorneys. Gunnarsson had connections to various extremist groups, among these the European Workers Party, the Swedish branch of the LaRouche Movement. The extent of his connection to the latter group was having signed a petition they were circulating on the streets of Stockholm. Also, pamphlets hostile to Palme from the party were found in his home outside Stockholm.

Gunnarsson later moved to the United States of America, where he was murdered. Acquaintances stated he had admitted murdering Palme. [cite web |url=http://hd.se/inrikes/2006/02/25/palmemordet_konspirationsteorier/ |title=Palmemordet — konspirationsteorier |publisher=Hd.se |author=Lindqvist, Stefan |date=2006-02-25 |accessdate=2008-10-10]


Hans Holmér, the Stockholm police commissioner, followed up an intelligence lead passed to him (supposedly by Bertil Wedin) and arrested a number of Kurds living in Sweden, after allegations that one of their organisations, the PKK, was responsible for the murder. The lead proved inconclusive however and ultimately led to Holmér's removal from the Palme murder investigation. Fifteen years later, in April 2001, a team of Swedish police officers went to interview Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Öcalan in a Turkish prison about Öcalan's allegations that a dissident Kurdish group, led by his ex-wife, murdered Palme. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1262002.stm Ocalan questioned over Swedish murder] , "BBC News".] The police team's visit proved futile.

In 2007, renewed allegations of PKK complicity in Palme's assassination surfaced during the Ergenekon investigation, which is ongoing as of October 2008. [cite journal |url=http://pazar.zaman.com.tr/?bl=5&hn=2690
journal=Zaman Pazar
title=Apo, Ergenekon'un Truva Ati
publisher=Feza Gazetecilik A.S.

Christer Pettersson

In December 1988, almost three years after Palme's death, Christer Pettersson, a brain-damaged petty criminal, drug user and alcoholic, who had previously been imprisoned for manslaughter, was arrested for the murder of Palme. Picked out by Mrs Palme at a line up as the killer, Pettersson was tried and convicted of the murder, but was later acquitted on appeal to the High Court. Pettersson's appeal succeeded for three main reasons:
* The murder weapon had not been found;
* He had no clear motive for the killing;
* Doubts about the reliability of Mrs Palme's evidence.

Additional evidence against Pettersson surfaced in the late 1990s, mostly coming from various petty criminals who altered their stories but also from a confession made by Pettersson. The chief prosecutor, Agneta Blidberg, considered re-opening the case. But she acknowledged that a confession alone would not be sufficient, saying:

He must say something about the weapon because the appeals court set that condition in its ruling. That is the only technical evidence that could be cited as a reason to re-open the case.
While the legal case against Pettersson therefore remains closed, the police file on the investigation cannot be closed until both murder weapon and murderer are found. Christer Pettersson died on September 29, 2004, of cerebral hemorrhage after injuring his head.

outh Africa theory

On February 21, 1986 — a week before he was murdered — Palme made the keynote address to the "Swedish People's Parliament Against Apartheid" held in Stockholm, attended by hundreds of anti-apartheid sympathizers as well as leaders and officials from the ANC and the Anti-Apartheid Movement such as Oliver Tambo. In the address, Palme said, "Apartheid cannot be reformed, it has to be eliminated."

Ten years later, towards the end of September 1996, Colonel Eugene de Kock, a former South African police officer, gave evidence to the Supreme Court in Pretoria, alleging that Palme had been shot and killed in 1986 because he "strongly opposed the apartheid regime and Sweden made substantial contributions to the ANC". [ http://www.kurdistan.org/Washington/southafrica.html] [cite news |url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C06E1DB103CF93AA1575AC0A960958260 |title=Did Apartheid's Police Murder Sweden's Prime Minister? |work=New York Times |author=Daley, Suzanne |date=September 29, 1996 |accessdate=2008-10-10] De Kock went on to claim he knew the person responsible for Palme's murder. He alleged it was Craig Williamson, a former police colleague and a South African "superspy". A few days later, Brigadier Johannes Coetzee, who used to be Williamson's boss, identified Anthony White, a former Rhodesian Selous Scout with links to the South African security services, as Palme's actual murderer.Fact|date=December 2007 Then a third person, Swedish mercenary Bertil Wedin, living in Northern Cyprus since 1985, was named as the killer by Peter Caselton, a member of Coetzee's assassination squad known as "Operation Longreach".Fact|date=December 2007 The following month, in October 1996, Swedish police investigators visited South Africa, but were unable to uncover evidence to substantiate de Kock's claims.

A book that was published in 2007 suggested that a high-ranking Civil Cooperation Bureau operative, Athol Visser (or 'Ivan the Terrible'), was responsible for planning and carrying out Olof Palme's assassination. [ [http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1845962060 "Devil Incarnate: A Depraved Mercenary's Lifelong Swathe of Destruction" by Wayne Thallon] ]

Bofors and Indian connection

In his 2005 book "Blood on the Snow: The Killing of Olof Palme" historian Jan Bondeson advanced a theory that Palme's murder was linked with arms trades to India. Bondeson's book meticulously recreated the assassination and its aftermath, and suggested that Palme had used his friendship with Rajiv Gandhi to secure a SEK 8.4 billion deal for the Swedish armaments company Bofors to supply the Indian Army with howitzers. However, Palme did not know that behind his back Bofors had used a shady company called AE Services — nominally based in Guildford, Surrey — to bribe Indian government officials to conclude the deal.

Bondeson alleged that on the morning he was assassinated, Palme had met with the Iraqi ambassador to Sweden, Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf (the man who would later go on to become notorious as Saddam Hussein's Information Minister during the 2003 Iraq War). The two discussed Bofors, which al-Sahhaf knew well because of its arms sales during the Iran–Iraq War. Bondeson suggested that the ambassador told Palme about Bofors' activities, infuriating Palme. Bondeson theorised that Palme's murder might have been inadvertently triggered by his conversation with the ambassador, if either the Bofors arms dealers or the middlemen working through AE Services had a prearranged plan to silence the Prime Minister should he discover the truth and the deal with India become threatened. According to Bondeson, Swedish police suppressed vital MI6 intelligence about a Bofors/AE Services deal with India.

The Red Army Faction

The Red Army Faction (RAF) better known as the Baader-Meinhof Group of Germany claimed responsibility for the assassination of Palme via an anonymous phone call to a London news agency. They supposedly assassinated him because he was the Prime Minister of Sweden during the West German embassy siege in Stockholm in 1975 which ended in failure for the RAF. They claimed the assassination was carried out by the 'Holger Meins Commando.'

Roberto Thieme

The Swedish journalist Anders Leopold, in his 2008 book "Det svenska trädet skall fällas" , makes the case that the Chilean fascist Roberto Thieme killed Olof Palme. Thieme was head of the most militant wing of Patria y Libertad, a far-right political organization, financed by the U.S. CIA. According to Leopold, Palme was killed because he had freely given asylum to so many leftist Chileans following the coup that overthrew Salvador Allende in 1973. [ [http://politiken.dk/udland/article477209.ece New book: Chilean fascist leader killed Olaf Palme] "Politiken" February 29, 2008 (in Danish)]

New evidence?

According to a documentary programme broadcast on the Swedish television channel SVT in February 2006, associates of Pettersson claimed that he had confessed to them his role in the murder, but with the explanation that it was a case of mistaken identity. Apparently, Pettersson had intended to kill a drug dealer who customarily walked, in similar clothing, along the same street at night.

The programme also suggested there was greater police awareness than previously acknowledged because of surveillance of drug activity in the area. The police had several officers in apartments and cars along those few blocks of Sveavägen but, 45 minutes before the murder, the police monitoring ceased.

In the light of these latest revelations, Swedish police undertook to review Palme's case and Pettersson's role. However, the newspaper "Dagens Nyheter" of February 28, 2006 carried articles ridiculing the TV documentary, and alleging that the filmmaker had fabricated a number of statements while omitting other contradictory evidence. [cite web |url=http://www.dn.se/DNet/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=572&a=525028&previousRenderType=2 |title=Filmen om mordet på Palme ett moraliskt haveri av SVT |publisher=Dn.se |date= |accessdate=2008-10-10]

Mockfjärd Gun

Swedish police, acting on tip communicated to the "Expressen" newspaper, retrieved a Smith & Wesson .357 revolver from a lake in Dalarna, in autumn 2006. The gun was earlier used in a post office robbery in Mockfjärd, in 1983, confirmed by the gun's serial number. The Swedish police over the years have test fired hundreds of guns of this kind, seeing if the trace on the bullets would match those found on scene of Palme's murder. The gun was transferred to the National Laboratory of Forensic Science in Linköping for further analysis. However, the laboratory concluded in May 2007 that tests on the gun could not confirm that it was used in the Palme assassination, for it was too rusty. [cite news | title = Swedish Police Recover Revolver Linked to Palme Murder Investigation |url=http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-26934046_ITM |first=Louise|last=Nordstrom| agency=Associated Press| date = 2006-11-21] [cite news | title = Swedish Police Unable to Confirm Link Between Recovered Gun and Palme Murder Investigation | agency = Associated Press | work = International Herald Tribune |url=http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/05/28/europe/EU-GEN-Sweden-Palme-Weapon.php | date = 2007-05-27]

Other theories

John Ausonius, "the Laser Man", also known as John Stannerman, was one of the suspects. However, Stannerman had a solid alibi, as he was imprisoned on the night Palme was shot.


* The cost of the investigation stands at SEK 350 million, EUR 38 million or US$45 million as of February 25, 2006. [ [http://www.dn.se/DNet/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=147&a=528374 "Dagens Nyheter", March 12, 2006] .]
* The total number of pages accumulated during the investigation is around 700,000. [http://www.polisen.se/inter/util/nodeid=21434&pageversion=1.jsp?articleid=168698 Swedish Police official site] ]
* The reward for solving the murder is SEK 50 million.

Film portrayals

In the 1998 Swedish fictional thriller film "The Last Contract" ("Sista kontraktet"), Palme's assassination was portrayed as having been planned by the CIA. A Special Branch detective, Roger Nyman (Mikael Persbrandt), is on the trail of the international hitman (Ray Lambert, played by Michael Kitchen) but finds his line of inquiry is blocked by senior police officers and the Swedish establishment. The reason suggested for the murder is the firm stance taken by Palme in rejecting deployment of nuclear weapons in Scandinavia. The assassin himself is then killed, to cover any trace back to the CIA.

"The Last Contract" has been favourably compared to two other thriller films featuring political assassinations: "The Day of the Jackal" and Oliver Stone's "JFK". [ [http://clevelandfilm.org/films/details/index.php?films=detail&film_detail_ID=1113&fest_year=2006&film_db=film_archive Cleveland Film Society] ] [ [http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117906783.html?categoryid=31&cs=1 Variety] ]



*"Blood on the snow: The killing of Olof Palme", Jan Bondeson, Cornell University Press, 2005.
*"Inuti labyrinten (Within the labyrinth)", Kari and Pertti Poutiainen, Grimur, 1994.
*"Olof Palme är skjuten! Writer Hans Holmer, ISBN10: 9146161538 ISBN13: 9789146161530 "Publisher Wahlström & Widstrand 1988.

External links

* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/february/28/newsid_2802000/2802181.stm Swedish prime minister assassinated]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1626232.stm Experts doubt Palme case to reopen]
* [http://www.karisable.com/palme.htm Karisable] . Retrieved 14 February 2005
* [http://www.workers.org/ww/palme.html The Olof Palme murder: who covered it up?]
* [http://svt.se/svt/road/Classic/shared/mediacenter/index.jsp?d=43493 Television archive: The murder of Olof Palme] sv icon

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