June 29, 1999 - Palme Commission Strongly Criticises Police

A Swedish government commission has strongly criticised the police here for bungling the investigation into the murder of Prime Minister Olof Palme 13 years ago.

By Kris Boswell and George Wood

The investigation into Palme’s has itself been the subject of three government-appointed commissions. The third of these published a 916 page report on June 29.

This latest report contains a wide range of criticisms aimed at how the investigation into the Palme murder was carried out. The report says basic errors meant that various leads were never followed up, or were even just ignored. One of the biggest problems was a lack of leadership, according to the head of the commission Lars Eric Ericsson.

Ericsson says the investigation didn’t set any real priorities and lacked real leadership. He says investigators reacted to events, getting drowned down in paper work, rather than acting proactively.

But the main focus of this commission was how the investigation handled the so-called “Police Lead”. There has long been a suspicion that a network of policemen with far right political belief was active at the time of the Palme murder, and may be linked to his death. People with walkie-talkies were seen around Palme’s Stockholm apartment, and police procedures weren’t carried out according to the book in the minutes directly following the murder.

But the investigation never seriously delved into the “police lead”, and only now are investigators looking more closely into the matter.

Other possible leads in the case were also ignored. The commission says the investigation failed to look into possible links between the murder and Palme’s mediation in the Iran/Iraq war, the international arms trade, and a possible South African connection, Palme was an outspoken supporter of the ANC.

Instead the Swedish police concentrated their efforts on linking the murder to the Kurdish terrorist group the PKK. Arrests were made, but led nowhere.

The finger of blame then lay on the Swedish police’s prime suspect, Christer Pettersson, who was convicted of Palm’s murder, but acquitted on appeal. As late as last year the police wanted to retry Pettersson, but were refused by the Swedish Supreme Court.

Some of the strongest criticism of the Palme investigators in the report comes from the Swedish Foreign Ministry. Veteran diplomat Jan Eliasson, today the second highest official at the ministry, says that he sometimes had the strange feeling that tips sent to the police just disappeared into a black hole.

’The Foreign Ministry tried to alert the police to several potential international connections, including the Pinochet regime in Chile, Palme’s role mediating in the Iran-Iraq war, and the Bofors arms scandal in India. But, the Ministry’s liason with the Palme investigators, Nils G. Rosenberg, remarks that the police showed no interest and little desire for co-operation.

The commission says another mistake was to make a psychological profile of the killer, as long as 8 years after Palme’s murder. One of the experts the commission talked to in drawing up their report was ex FBI agent and profile expert Robert Resler.

Resler has read the Swedish investigation’s reports, and says he agrees with their main conclusion, that the murder wasn’t carried out by a professional assassin. But Resler is critical that the police knew well the prime suspect at the time when writing their psychological profile of the killer.

Resler is also critical in the way the Swedish Police drew up the profile, using the behaviour of sex criminals when drawing their conclusions. After studying the Palme murder, Resler says he doesn’t think the case will ever be solved, unless the killer dies and evidence is found afterwards among his belongings.