Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Sweden, murder, and murder of justice

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As I visited my father in February, Swedish TV made a lot of noise about the 1986, still unsolved, murder of Olof Palme—new hotshot investigator Krister Petersson* announced that the time for big revelations was upon us. In just a few months (why the wait?) he would either announce** the perpetrator or (!!!) close the investigation.

*Not to be confused with Christer Pettersson, who was once convicted (and later acquitted) of this very murder. Cf. below.

**This is a while back, so I do not remember the exact formulations, what he said and what the media speculated, etc. The “announce” is the likely minimum for Krister Petersson; he might or might not also have spoken about arresting someone, but some media certainly did. Other speculation included that the murder weapon had been found. This speculation was not quashed by Krister Petersson. This is the odder, because today’s claims include that it would be impossible to match the bullets fired at Palme to any given weapon—something that must have been know for a very long time (if true).

My spontaneous reaction was that Krister Petersson was more interested in making publicity for himself and that the result would be the “or”, that the investigation would be closed.

Today, 10th of June, was the day for the big revelation, almost four (!) months later. The result: the investigation is being closed …

True, he did also name his candidate for the culprit, but one that had been on the table for decades and who was long dead. In other words, we do not have an interesting revelation but just a rehash with a little more (claimed) certainty—not quite as bad as “Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK!”, but not much better either.

Moreover, because the accused murderer, Stig Engström is conveniently dead, there will be no trial and he will not be able to defend his name, e.g. by providing new exculpating evidence—and he will certainly not be able to file a libel suit or otherwise strike back. Here we have a potentially* innocent man who will be considered the murderer by great swaths of the population and many history books—who has no chance to say anything in his defense.

*An important word: I do not claim that he necessarily is innocent. He might be an innocent man who made a convenient scapegoat; he might be guilty and crucified without due process.

An additional aspect is that his death is the justification to close the investigation: “We know whodunit; ergo, it is a waste of time to look for someone else. The murderer is dead; ergo, it is a waste of time to spend more resources on him. Double-ergo, we can close the investigation in good conscience.”

The whole situation reeks.

What would a good investigator have done? He would (a) have skipped the publicity making in February, (b) closed the investigation without naming names (even if he was personally convinced), (c) accepted that this was not his stepping stone to fame and fortune.

The exact timing of events might be coincidental, but it is an oddity that today’s revelation appear to be just short of twenty years after Stig Engström died (“26 June 2000”, according to the linked-to Wikipedia article), while the original publicity came shortly* before the anniversary of Palme’s death.

*I do not remember the exact timing, but it was likely after the 20th of February. The murder took place on the 28th (in 1986). Also note that Stig Engström has been dead for the clear majority of the time since the murder—twenty years out of thirty-four and change.

Moreover, irrespective of whether Stig Engström was the murderer, the investigation has resulted in at least one grave miscarriage of justice—what in Sweden is dramatically called a “justitiemord”*. Either he is innocent, and then he is a victim; or he is guilty, and then Christer Pettersson was a victim; or, maybe, both were victims. (Barring some conspiracy setting, where they were both, somehow, involved in the murder.) Who then is Christer Pettersson? A petty criminal, drug user, and mental patient, who in 1989 (!) was convicted for the very same murder that is now pinned on Stig Engström. Mere months later, the conviction was overturned, but by that time, virtually everyone in Sweden knew him by both name and sight—and many still considered him the killer, many more** the prime suspect.

*Literally, either “murder of justice” or “murder by justice” (either justice it self has been murdered or justice has committed the murder, in both cases metaphorically). I am uncertain which is historically more warranted, but I always understood it as the former as a child and this matches the textual shape of the English “miscarriage of justice” better—hence, the dramatic title of this text. (If there is a connection to the English “judicial murder”, the meaning has drifted considerably.)

**Including yours truly, until I left Sweden in 1997 and lost track of the investigation.

Christer Pettersson, incidentally, died in 2004: If the two main candidates have been dead for sixteen and twenty years, respectively, then closing the investigation with a generic “It is highly unlikely that we will find revolutionary new clues after more than thirty-four years of very little success and, if we do, there is a considerable risk that the culprit is dead anyway. Besides, the witnesses are dying* too.” seems justifiable.

*Notably, the main witness, Palme’s wife, is also dead. I have not investigated the more secondary witnesses, but even if they are alive, thirty-four years is far, far too long for someone to remain a reliable witness.

Written by michaeleriksson

June 10, 2020 at 2:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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  1. […] a recent text on absurdities around the Palme murder I did some reading on other people’s reactions (and the murder in general). Gratifyingly, for […]


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