Theater of Cruelty

Was the murder of Palme a coup?

Suspiciously many people walked around with walkie-talkies in the area just before the murder of Palme. Ny Tid's journalist was close by on the fateful night when Sweden's prime minister was shot. We ask why the police ignored a number of matching testimonies. 


Witness Anders Björkman is wearing a blue bubble jacket late February evening in 1986. He does not know that the middle-aged couple walking in front of him along Sveavägen are Lisbet and Olof Palme. He also believes that they are three people joining together, since the man just behind them is so close. Then the man suddenly puts his hand on Palm's shoulder and shoots two shots. Palme recalculates on the sidewalk as the murderer disappears into Tunnelgatan with "resilient steps" and "at a leisurely pace," as Björkman later says in the witness interview. The perpetrator wore a "dark or dark blue knit hat with the edge rolled up," as well as a "dark, fluttering, coat-like garment that reached below the knees," according to Björkman. He himself sought refuge at the entrance to the colorist Dekorima just after the shots fell.
In several other testimonies, the same coat is mentioned: Dark, long and fluttering, as if it were uncut, several say. But the man the investigation gradually concentrates on did not wear long coat that night.

Never saw the killer. It is 30 years since Sweden's Prime Minister Olof Palme was shot on a Friday night in central Stockholm on the corner of Sveavägen – Tunnelgatan. Just minutes before, I myself passed the same place, on my way home from an editorial meeting in the magazine Ord & Bild. On Saturday morning, March 1, 1986, I woke up to the news that Olof Palme had been killed. My first reaction was, “Yeah. Now it has happened. " It was almost expected, that was the mood. The anger against him was enormous.
I placed a rose in the flower sea in Sveavägen, and wrote my name in the condolence protocol in the Prime Minister's Office. There were many rumors, various perpetrators were identified, and after a year of baseless suspicions of some Kurds, some in the police began to focus on a petty criminal drug and alcoholic, Christer Pettersson – as if inspired by Claude Rain's words in the film Casablanca: "Round up the usual suspects."
As we write March 2016, there are still politicians and journalists who, for unclear reasons – psychological barriers? Laziness? Conformity? – points out a "lonely curler", Christer Pettersson, as the murderer, despite being acquitted in Svea Hovrett in 1989. The witness who designated Christer Pettersson with the blue bubble jacket was Olof Palme's wife Lisbet, who first bowed over her husband who had collapsed on the sidewalk, and only a few seconds later looked around. We now know that she never saw the killer. Or rather, in an early interrogation she said she had seen someone running away from the scene, but later she talked about a man in a blue bubble jacket standing between five and ten feet behind, staring at her. This man, who she thought was the killer, was a witness – Anders Björkman.


(FILES) – This undated file photo shows Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme in Paris. Olof Palme was killed February 28, 1986 by a lone gunner in central Stockholm. Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh died September 11, 2003 after being stabbed by an unknown assailant in Stockholm September 10. AFP PHOTO
(FILES) – This undated file photo shows Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme in Paris. Olof Palme was killed 28 February 1986 by a lone gunner in central Stockholm. Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh died 11 September 2003 after being stabbed by an unknown assailant in Stockholm 10 September. AFP PHOTO

More witnesses. Olof Palme was shot with an armor-breaking special ammunition that could penetrate bulletproof vests. The autopsy report shows that he was shot at a distance of 20 centimeters – through the spine, trachea and the large coronary artery. It was an immediate deadly shot. Manufacturer Kari Ormstad describes the shooter as competent. (The second shot shot Lisbet Palme, who turned around when the shot fell.)

Anders Björkman walked between five and seven meters behind the Palme couple, and saw how Olof Palme was shot and that the killer ran away with a coat fluttering around his knees. He is not alone in this observation. Inge Morelius was sitting in his car waiting for some friends, and saw the killer standing on the corner Sveavägen – Tunnelgatan waiting for several minutes. The man wore a dark knit hat that was folded up at the bottom, like Jack Nicholson's Cuckoo's Nest. He also apparently wore a dark coat "that stretched to just below his knees" (the color was difficult to determine, as he saw him standing against Dekorima's bright showcase). As the Palme couple came walking, the killer went up behind them. Morelius saw the man put his left hand on Olof Palme's shoulder, and shot him calmly and professionally. Morelius described him as almost an elite soldier. "It was slaughter," he said. The killer was in complete control, and jogged away from the site via Tunnelgatan to the east. There was definitely no messy junkie.

The man put his left hand on Olof Palme's shoulder and shot him calmly and professionally. Morelius described him as almost an elite soldier.

Anders Delsborn was a taxi driver, waiting for the green light just off the scene. He saw a group of three people and the killer shot Palme. He saw the revolver with the long run, and he saw Palme collapse. The killer ran away from the place, east through Tunnelgatan. Delsborn also describes the man dressed in a "black, long coat that reached to his knees".
Jan Andersson was in a car in Sveavägen, just behind the taxi. He heard the gunshots, and saw a man running into Tunnelgatan, and that he had "a knee-length coat that fluttered when the man ran, as if it were not fucked again." Andersson also saw a man in blue bubble jacket who "seemed very confused" and who had been hiding at a front door. He describes the man in the jacket as much lower than the man in the coat.
Lars Jeppson walked in Tunnelgatan, and he too saw Palme fall over. The killer ran right past him. Jeppson tried to follow the killer up the stairs to David Bagare's street. The man was not Christer Pettersson. Jeppson had seen Pettersson hundreds of times – they were almost neighbors. In David Bagare's street, Yvonne Nieminen also sees the murderer. She says it seemed like he was being pursued, and that he "turned around two or three times ... He was wearing a dark coat, which was cramped and fluttering. The coat was knee-length. It must have been a thin material, since it fluttered so much. "
Another witness, Nicola Fauzzi, met the Palme couple in Sveavägen just before the murder. He recognizes them and sees that a few yards behind them is a man in a blue jacket. This is Anders Björkman. Fauzzi hears the two shots. His first thought is that Palme has been shot, and he turns around and returns to the scene of the killing. When Lisbet Palme sees her husband fall on the sidewalk, she goes down on her knees to see what has happened. She does not connect the slings to Olof's fall. She looks around for help, and sees a man in a blue bubble jacket standing a few feet behind her. He stands frozen and looks at her. Lisbet thinks the man in the blue bubble jacket is the killer, but this man was certainly Anders Björkman, and he later described how Lisbet stared at him. "She screams and looks at me," he says in the interrogation. According to Jeppson, she screams, "Help, what are you doing?"

Men with walkie-talkies. The designation of Christer Pettersson was based on one testimony – Lisbet Palmes – who only saw a glimpse of the murderer as he ran his way. She also thought it was the man in a blue jacket behind her who was the murderer. Maybe she still thinks so. There's no need to blame her for that. The problem is that police investigators who knew full well that she didn't see the perpetrator, and that the man behind her was Anders Björkman, made her believe that he could be the killer. These police officers knew what the other witnesses had described. They cannot have acted in good faith. Why did they act like they did?
If the police investigators had reconstructed all the witnesses present, including Björkman and Lisbet Palme, this problem would have been solved – but this was never done. The case against Christer Pettersson was brought to trial, although the charges against him were obviously unreasonable.
Now, if I understand it correctly, a change has occurred: Investigators are today investigating the around 80 witness statements from people who observed men with walkie-talkies in the area (there were no cell phones at the time). Along the route of Olof Palme and in the areas around the murder site there were several sightings of men with walkie-talkies – suggesting a more professional operation.
When I was on my way to Ord & Bild's editorial meeting on Skeppsholmen, I walked along Strömmen past Riksbron in the extension of Västerlånggatan, where Olof Palme lived (in Gamla Stan). I passed a man standing and looking out towards the Riksbron. When I was less than a meter away from him, he jumped over the fence to the street, took a few quick steps, and opened the trunk door of a parked car. I was just air. He acted like on signal – from a walkie-talkie? I assumed there was something criminal going on – he was acting with military precision. I took a few steps back to check the car number, but at the exact same second, Jacob's church bell rang seven times. I was late for the editorial meeting, and continued towards Skeppsholmen – but the next day I thought that if one were to monitor Olof Palme, it would be necessary to monitor the Riksbron.

State Bargain? What really happened that night 30 years ago is yet to be determined. One thing seems clear though: There are too many who tried to warn Olof Palme that his life was in danger, and too many who, months before the murder, told them that they had been offered large sums to kill Olof Palme, that it made sense to concentrate the murder investigation on a petty criminal. Senior officers have spoken about meetings with police officers and officers discussing the need to eliminate the prime minister by force. Olof Palme and his secretary of state Ulf Larsson were informed of these meetings, where the Nazi salute was also done, Larsson said. Alf Enerström, one of the most prominent in the campaign against Olof Palme and who received large sums from the powerful Wallenberg family, told Swedish television that officers and others who wanted to shoot Palme had come to him in the period 1982-1985. They had selected 250 men to take the prime minister's office, and 250 men to take the television house. Even Enerström believed that the Harvard case should be taken (Palme's speech at Harvard had given his son Joakim a scholarship that Palme had not taxed) to discredit Palme and force him to step down as prime minister. Palme had appealed this case to the Länsrätten, but some had illegally deleted Palme's case from Länsrette's computer system at 18.23 on February 28 – exactly five hours before the killing – as if there was a link between the two alternative methods of eliminating the prime minister.
Military and political circles argued for a coup d'etat – and the killing of Palme turned out to be a coup d'etat. "The governments after Palme did not seek fundamental change in the world, Sweden became a normal country," to quote Richard Burt, European Union official in the US State Department. Sweden was disciplined and never became the same as before.
That journalists and politicians have pointed to a petty criminal junkie like Christer Pettersson, "the usual suspect", may be explained by a psychological resistance to the harsh realities. Maybe they are looking for a normality. Maybe it's about denying the reality of being able to sleep well at night.

Also read ours next article about the Palme murder.

Ola Tunander
Ola Tunander
Tunander is Professor Emeritus of PRIO. See also wikipedia, at PRIO: , as well as a bibliography on Waterstone

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