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Olof Palme: Is the 34-year mystery of who killed Sweden’s PM about to be solved?

The 34-year mystery of who shot Sweden’s Social Democrat prime minister Olof Palme could be solved later as the man in charge of the investigation presents his conclusion.

Mr Palme was shot dead in central Stockholm in 1986 after going to the cinema with his wife and son.

The murder sparked a massive manhunt and a number of conspiracy theories involving shadowy forces ranging from the CIA and Kurdish separatists to the South African security services.

Christer Pettersson was convicted of Palme’s killing, however the judgement was later overturned.

Mr Palme was prime minister between 1969 and 1976 and between 1982 and 1986. Some hail him as the architect of modern Sweden, but conservatives hated his anti-colonial views and criticism of the United States.

So many years after the killing, few Swedes had expected a resolution of the nation’s most high-profile murder case, and prosecutor Krister Petersson’s announcement in February that he was close to wrapping it up ignited a storm of debate.

He has been tight-lipped since then, later will announce his conclusions at a news conference.

“If we get a clear answer, it will mean that one of the biggest political and judicial mysteries in Sweden has finally been solved,” Gunnar Wall, a journalist who has written several books about Mr Palme’s killing, said.

“If what is put forward now is another uncertain hypothesis… it will just strengthen the feeling that many people have that the Swedish justice system does not work very well.”

The details behind the mystery:

  • On the night of 28 February 1986, Palme was shot once in the back at close range as he walked with his wife Lisbeth along a busy street in central Stockholm.
  • The single bullet severed his spinal cord, killing him instantly. He was 59 years old. A second bullet grazed Lisbeth.
  • Several witnesses glimpsed an assailant clad in a dark jacket or coat, who fled the scene into an 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, which had recently been named a terrorist organisation by Palme’s government.
  • 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 seeking to silence critics abroad.
  • 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 £4.3m Swedish crown reward.

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