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Swedes mark 25th anniversary of Prime Minister Olof Palme's unsolved murder

‘Olof Palme’s killer is still alive’
Killing of Olof Palme a 25-year mystery

Roses were piled high Monday at the grave of Olof Palme, as Swedes marked 25 years since their prime minister was gunned down on an icy Stockholm sidewalk by a still unidentified assassin.

"It's hard to put words to how I feel. I am so sad," Social Democrat leader Mona Sahlin told reporters after carefully laying a large wreath of red roses -- the symbol of their party -- on the snow-covered ground in front of a simple granite tombstone bearing only Palme's signature.

"He was big. He was Sweden. He was our voice," she said, standing in the Adolf Fredrik church cemetery in central Stockholm, where around 100 people had gathered, lighting candles and laying down roses.

"I feel sad because 25 years have passed when he could have been here, participating, debating and inspiring," she added.

Shortly after leaving a downtown cinema in Stockholm to walk home with his wife Lisbet on the evening of February 28, 1986, Palme was shot twice in the back by a lone gunman. Lisbeth was also grazed by a bullet.

The attacker ran off, taking his .357 Magnum revolver with him and leaving Palme in a pool of blood on the snow-covered sidewalk at the corner of what has since been renamed Olof Palme street. The gun has never been recovered.

The murder, which sent shockwaves through Sweden, has never been solved despite hundreds of thousands of leads over two and a half decades.

The case had been set to be filed away for good Monday, but Sweden last year scrapped its 25-year statute of limitations on murder, and the investigation continues.

On Monday at the scene of the killing, on the busy Sveavaegen avenue in central Stockholm, passers-by placed red roses on a bronze plaque in the ground marking the spot where Palme fell.

"It felt important to come here today. This is where our innocence was lost," Ingrid Landvall, 66, told AFP, recalling how she and her daughter had unsuspectingly exited the underground train station right across from the scene a few hours after the murder.

"There was still a lot of blood on the ground, and some police tape... Everyone was in shock," she said.

"This is still an open wound in Sweden," she said, adding "whenever I pass this spot, I look up the stairs (where the murderer was last seen fleeing on foot) and think: 'that is where the answers disappeared'."

A few steps away, amid the flowers and candles in the Adolf Fredrik cemetery, Lea Skonberg, 50, described Palme as "the best politician we ever had."

"It's heart-breaking that this case has never been solved," she said.

The trauma of Palme's murder was relived again in 2003 when Sweden's hugely popular foreign minister Anna Lindh was stabbed to death while shopping -- also without bodyguards -- at a Stockholm department store by a man with a history of mental illness.

Unlike the Lindh case, which with the help of surveillance cameras was quickly solved, the Palme investigation was a mess from the start.

"A lot went wrong," Stig Edqvist, who has led the inquiry for the past 14 years, told AFP last week, pointing out that the attempts to cordon off the murder scene "were ridiculous."

News footage from the time shows shocked and crying onlookers crowded almost within touching distance of the red-stained snow, with a mountain of roses towering nearby.

The initial decision to place a politically-connected police chief with no experience of investigating murder in charge of the probe was especially disastrous, most experts agree.

Over the years, investigors have suspected Turkish Kurd rebel group PKK, the Swedish military and police and the South African secret service among others, but Palme's family remains convinced they know who did it.

Christer Pettersson, a petty criminal and an alcoholic and drug addict, was identified by Palme's widow in a widely-criticised line-up nearly three years after the murder, and was convicted of the crime in July 1989.

He was however set free months later by an appeals court due to lack of evidence, and the supreme court never agreed to hear the case before Pettersson died in 2004.

"I have identified the murderer," Lisbeth Palme said in a rare interview with Swedish public radio Monday.

The eldest of the couple's three sons, Joakim Palme, agreed.

"I myself am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that it was Christer Pettersson," he told AFP earlier this month, adding "it is devastating that no one was ever punished for such a serious crime."

 

Last Updated (Monday, 28 February 2011 19:11)

 

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