It wasn’t the crime of the century — that was the Kennedy assassination — but the 1986 murder of Swedish prime minister Olof Palme ranks as one of the great unsolved murders of the 1900s. Now it has been officially put to rest, at least for the time being.
Palme was shot on a cold evening in February as he and his wife walked through downtown Stockholm after attending a movie. Dozens of people were out and about at the time, but there were few who actually saw the murder. But from the beginning, officials botched the investigation badly and continued making mistakes in the weeks that followed.
As Imogen West-Knights writes in a long piece about the murder in The Guardian, published last year:
On Sveavägen, where the shooting occurred, shock seemed to have taken over. Police failed to cordon off the crime scene properly, covering too small an area. One of the bullets was not found until two days later, when it was picked up from the pavement by a passerby. Mourners arriving in the hours after Palme’s death slipped past the tape to place flowers near the pool of blood; by trampling the crime scene, they rendered future searches for the killer’s footprints useless. Key witnesses were allowed to leave the scene without being interviewed. Löfgren, the broadcast journalist, was out in the area that night and hailed a cab to take him home. The driver had witnessed the killing but had not been questioned, Löfgren recalled with disbelief. “I phoned the police and said: ‘This guy here claims that he was a witness to the murder, and he’s still out driving a cab?!’”
Other protocols were ignored or forgotten. The Stockholm police have a system for searching the inner city street by street, but it was never deployed. Squads of police tore around looking for the gunman, but had almost no information about what he might look like. Trains, ferries and flights continued as normal, while the roads and bridges out of the city remained open for hours after the murder. At that stage, it seemed as if nobody was really in charge. It was “sports week”, a holiday when many Stockholmers head for the mountains. Hans Holmér, the chief constable of Stockholm county police, was skiing in the north country with his mistress. Who killed the prime minister? The unsolved murder that still haunts Sweden | News | The Guardian
If you are interested in this topic, this article is the one to read.
Just recently, however, an official commission has identified what it considers to be the most likely suspect: a man who died in 2000. (Read about that in The Guardian here.) But there won’t be a trial or any additional chances to question witnesses under so. So, it is unlikely that this conclusion will be persuasive.
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