Much Awaited Law May Give Palme Investigation More Time

One of the crimes that received the most media attention in Sweden – the murder of Catrine da Costa in 1984 – expired on 1 July this year. But a proposed law that has been in the making since 2007 may make serious crimes exempt from the statute of limitations. The hope is that it will come into effect before the investigation into the murder of former Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme expires in two years time.

Nowadays, advances in technology is making it possible for police to solve crimes decades after they were committed – and that makes the old regulations on crime-solving obsolete. Johan Pehrson, Vice Chairman on the Swedish Parliamentary Committee on Justice, says that new legislation is sorely needed – not just for high profile cases such as the Olof Palme murder - but in order to lay all unsolved cases in Sweden to rest.

“Previously it was difficult to prove that someone was guilty as you were depending on the memory of witnesses. But today you can strengthen that with DNA evidence,” he said to Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

Pehrson regrets that it has taken so long to prepare the proposal but hopes that the law may come into effect in a year’s time. That would mean that the Palme investigation could continue past 2011.

However, there is no question of expired investigations being re-opened.

“Murder investigations that have expired will stay closed – that goes without saying. But it doesn’t mean that murders already committed will not be affected by the change in legislation. That is a question we are discussing at the moment,” he said to Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet.

In the first draft from 2007, it is proposed that investigations into all war crimes and murders, i.e. crimes with the intention to kill, should be able to carry on indefinitely.

Currently all crime investigations in Sweden expire sooner or later. The longest statute of limitations is 25 years and pertains to the crimes that carry a penalty of life imprisonment.