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Factbox: Swedish Prime Minister Palme, the man and the murder

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A Swedish prosecutor blamed Stig Engstrom, a graphic designer at an insurance company who died 20 years ago, for the shooting of Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986, and closed the case of the country’s most notorious unsolved murder. [ID:nL8N2DN1QD]

FILE PHOTO: A man bends over a bunch of roses and lit candles on a pavement in Stockholm February 28, 2006, on the spot where Swedish Premier Olof Palme was gunned down 20 years ago. REUTERS/Fredrik Sandberg/Scanpix/File Photo

Here are some details about Palme’s life and death.


* Olof Palme was born in Stockholm on Jan 30, 1927, the youngest child of a prominent and wealthy family. He was elected to parliament in 1958, rising though the ranks of the left-wing Social Democrat party despite his patrician roots.

* He became prime minister in 1969 and led the expansion of Sweden’s welfare state. Increased taxation and stronger labour unions put him at odds with the business community and the political right.

* His 1972 condemnation of the U.S bombing of Hanoi during the Vietnam war strained diplomatic ties with the United States and Sweden hosted U.S citizens fleeing the draft. He was also a vocal supporter of economic sanctions against apartheid South Africa.

* After a period out of power, he served as prime minister again in 1982 until his death.


* On the night of 28th February 1986, Palme was shot in the back at close range as he walked with his wife Lisbeth along a busy street in central Stockholm. The single bullet severed Palme’s spinal cord, killing him instantly. He was 59. A second bullet grazed Lisbeth.

* Several witnesses glimpsed an assailant clad in a dark jacket or coat, who fled the scene into a dark alley and up a flight of steps to a road above.

* The murder weapon, believed to a Smith & Wesson .357 magnum revolver or similar weapon, was not recovered.

* A suspect with links to right-wing groups was taken into custody 17 days after the murder but was quickly released.

* The lead investigator resigned after no evidence was found in a 1987 raid on a bookshop linked to the Kurdish separatist group PKK.

* Christer Pettersson, who had a previous murder conviction, was convicted of the crime in 1989 but freed by a higher court amid doubts over the process by which Lisbeth identified him from a police line-up.

* Since his acquittal, no suspects have been arrested and the unsolved murder has frustrated four lead investigators.

* Swedish police visited South Africa in 1996 after a former police commander there alleged the murder had been directed by apartheid-era security forces.

* Bestselling Swedish crime author and journalist Stieg Larsson was working on a theory connected to the South African security apparatus until his death in 2004.

* Other theories have fingered diverse groups ranging from right-wing elements in Sweden’s police to Croatian separatists.

* Thousands of people have been questioned and more than 130 people have confessed to the crime, which became a national obsession, with an army of amateur sleuths chasing the culprit and the 50 million Swedish crown ($5.42 million) reward.

($1 = 9.2235 Swedish crowns)

Reporting by Colm Fulton; editing by Niklas Pollard and Philippa Fletcher