Swedish police have named the man they say fatally shot Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986, but have closed the case without charge because the suspect is dead.
Stig Engström, a graphic designer, is the man responsible for killing Palme as he left a cinema in central Stockholm with his wife on the night of February 28, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Engström was known to be among 20 people at the scene of the shooting and was initially treated as a witness by police, before being deemed a potential suspect after changing his story several times.
Popularly known as ‘Skandia Man’, Engström worked for the Skandia financial services company which had offices near the murder scene.
Stig Engström, a graphic designer popularly known as ‘Skandia Man’ (left), has been named by investigators as the man who fatally shot Prime Minister Olof Palme (right) in 1986
Flowers left at the site the day after Palme was assassinated, at a Stockholm crime scene which was not properly cordoned off at the time
Security guards said they spoke with him as he left the offices shortly before the killing, and then again afterwards when he returned to tell them what happened.
It is thought Engström was motivated to kill Palme because he disagreed with the Prime Minister’s left-wing views.
Two Swedish writers had previously named Engström as the man most likely to be responsible for the murder.
Engström was named Wednesday after an extensive review of the case – the largest murder investigation in Swedish history – which began in 2017.
Prosecutors said they began working on the theory that Engström was the man responsible in the fall of that year after reviewing the evidence.
Prior to the announcement, it was thought police were about to reveal they had found the weapon used to kill Palme – but admitted they have not.
The bullets which killed Palme have been tested against 788 weapons, investigators said, but none have proved a conclusive match.
The murder weapon may be among those tested, officers said, but the bullets have so few traces on them that it has been impossible to conclusively prove which gun fired them.
As part of the case review, investigators said
Christer Pettersson was jailed for the murder of Palme after being picked out of a lineup by Palme’s wife, but was subsequently released after the evidence was dismissed
The life and death of Olof Palme
Palme was born into a wealthy family in Stockholm in 1927. 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, but higher taxes and stronger unions put him at odds with the business community and the right.
His condemnation of the US bombing of Hanoi during the Vietnam war strained ties with Washington, and Sweden hosted US citizens fleeing the draft. Palme also advocated sanctions against apartheid South Africa.
After a period out of power, he served as PM again from 1982 until his death.
On the night of February 28, 1986, Palme was shot once in the back at close range as he walked with his wife Lisbeth along a busy Stockholm street.
The bullet severed Palme’s 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 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 later 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 case 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.
Crime author Stieg Larsson was working on a theory connected to South Africa’s 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.
Palme was killed on February 28, 1986, after leaving a Stockholm cinema with his wife Lisbet to walk home, having dismissed his bodyguards for the evening.
An unidentified attacker shot Palme – a critic of apartheid – in the back and fled, leaving the 59-year-old dying in a pool of blood on the pavement.
More than 10,000 people have been questioned over the years, but authorities do not currently have anyone placed under formal suspicion.
Chief prosecutor Krister Petersson, who took over the probe in 2017, will announce his decision at 9.30am local time.
Experts and Swedish media have in recent months suggested that the most likely scenario would be that the case will be closed, because the main suspects speculated about in the media in recent years are all dead.
Petersson said in February that if the main suspect was dead, that would justify closing the case as a dead person cannot be prosecuted.
Over the years, more than 130 people have claimed responsibility for the murder and the case files take up some 820ft of shelf space.
Thousands of people have been questioned over the crime, which became a national obsession, with an army of amateur sleuths chasing the culprit and the 50million kronor (£4.3million) reward.
Christer Pettersson – a petty criminal and drug addict who in a bizarre coincidence shares a nearly identical name with the current chief prosecutor – was convicted of the crime in 1989 after Palme’s widow identified him in a widely-criticised line-up.
But he was freed months later by an appeals court which dismissed her testimony on a technicality.
Pettersson died in 2004, while Palme’s widow passed away in 2018.
The news that their charismatic leader had been brutally killed shocked Swedes, and their open and peaceful society is said to have ‘lost its innocence’ that day.
Among the leads investigated over the decades have been Turkey’s Kurdish rebel group the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Swedish military and police, and the South African secret service. Palme was highly critical of apartheid.
Palme was prime minister between 1969 and 1976, and again from 1982 to his death in 1986.
A Social Democrat known as a great orator, Palme was a controversial figure who infuriated Washington with his vocal opposition to the US war in Vietnam.
He also backed communist governments in Cuba and Nicaragua.
At home, he laid the foundation for Sweden’s modern-day gender equality, but was at odds with the country’s business leaders and military, and spoke out against nuclear power.
Some theories suggest Palme was the victim of a lone gunman acting out of ideological hatred.
Crowds line the route of Palme’s funeral procession in March 1986, two weeks after he was shot dead after leaving a cinema with his wife
People lay flowers the day after the killing in Stockholm. A petty criminal was found guilty of the murder in 1989 but the conviction was later overturned