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'We have come as far as we can': Swedish prosecutor drops probe into Olof Palme's assassination

Former Swedish prime minister Olaf Palme with his wife Lisbeth and their sons Mathias, Joachim and Marten.
Former Swedish prime minister Olaf Palme with his wife Lisbeth and their sons Mathias, Joachim and Marten.
Image: OFF/AFP

The 34-year-long investigation into the assassination of Sweden’s then prime minister Olof Palme, which is believed by some to be linked to apartheid-era security agents, has been dropped.

Naming Stig Engstrom, who died in 2000, as a primary suspect, Sweden’s chief prosecutor Krister Petersson said on Wednesday he had decided to drop the investigation.

“Prosecutors are not courts. A standard of proof is required to find guilt. Stig Engstrom is deceased and we cannot start proceedings against him. We have come as far as we can with this investigation. The decision which we have come to is to discontinue the investigation,” said Petersson, who has overseen the probe since 2017.

Palme was murdered as he walked out of the Grand cinema in Stockholm with his wife  Lisbeth on February 28 1986.

The Social Democratic Party leader, who had watched a movie with his wife, their son Marten and his partner, bled to death after he was shot in the neck and back.

His wife escaped injury.

For decades speculation has been rife about the apartheid government’s links to the murder of Palme, whose government was supportive of the ANC in its fight against the state and who had been applying international pressure to shut down arms and oil supplies to the country’s then authorities.

On Monday the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported that senior South African State Security Agency officials met Swedish authorities in March in Pretoria at the department of international relations & co-operation where they received a dossier said to contain information on the killing.

According to the newspaper, which quoted an unnamed SA intelligence source, the meeting was requested by Swedish authorities.

The source told the newspaper: “There was a meeting between this Swedish investigation unit and national intelligence arranged through Dirco ... and we handed over a file to the Swedish investigations unit. What they’ve done with it I’m not sure.”

The Swedish police’s Palme investigation head, Hans Melander, who revealed that the prime minister had been shot with two armour piercing bullets fired from a .357 Smith and Wesson revolver, said a lack of information had made it difficult to rule on the potential South African link to the killing.

He said the link had been interesting because of several specific motives.

“The problem is that you cannot get specific information. South Africa has been discussed extensively. A number of people gave our investigators interesting views, but unfortunately there was not enough specific information to do something about this lead.”

Melander said that during the investigation more than 10,000 people had been questioned regarding the shooting, with more than 22,000 leads followed up. 

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