About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Who Killed Olof Palme?

  In Killing Pilgrim the 1986 assassination of Olof Palme is conducted by a member of the Yugoslavian Secret Service. The motive involves the sale of nuclear centrifuges. Interested in seeing what theories exist for the killing of the Swedish Prime Minister I was astonished in internet searches how many different groups and individuals have been identified as the potential killers. It is a conspiracy lover’s dream.

Sweden thought they had the murderer when Christer Pettersson was convicted of the murder. He was permanently affected by a head injury he suffered as a young man and was prone to violence. Described as a petty criminal, drug user and alcoholic in Wikipedia he was identified by Lisbet Palme at a lineup. His appeal was allowed because the murder weapon could not be found, he had no clear motive and the lineup was flawed. Later he may have confessed. There are allegations, probably weak, that he mistakenly killed the Prime Minister thinking he was a rival drug dealer.

Victor Gunnarsson, a Swedish right wing extremist, was initially arrested for the murder but released as eyewitness evidence of his presence in the area of the murder was frail. He was killed in America by the ex-fiance of a woman with whom he was involved. As often happens with the deceased several acquaintances claimed he had confessed. 

One of the more unusual groups identified was the Kurdish PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Some members of the Party living in Sweden had conflict with the Swedish government. Probably the greatest reasons to doubt them were the efforts of the Turkish government to tie the PKK to the murder.

More plausible are the allegations against the apartheid government of South Africa who allegedly murdered Palme, an outspoken opponent of apartheid, because the Swedish government was secretly providing money to the African National Congress. Three different men were named by separate accusers as the killer of Palme. I doubt the South African government would risk the international complications of killing Sweden’s leader for the uncertain prospect of ending the payments to the ANC. Even if Palme were dead the payments could continue to be made.

More outlandish is the claim that the murder was instigated because Palme had received information that the Swedish armaments company, Bofors, had concluded a shady arms deal with India. The motive is questionable as killing the Prime Minister was unlikely to cover up the deal and there was a subsequent scandal.

Another author, Anders Leopold, claims a Chilean fascist, Roberto Thieme, killed Palme because he had given asylum to numerous Chilean leftists after the coup against Salvador Allende. The motive makes little sense to me as there were Chileans given asylum across the Western nations. One of them ended up in Melfort. I know another in Saskatoon.

The German weekly, Die Zeit, claimed Palme was murdered by right wing Swedish police officers. I very much doubt that a conspiracy within the Swedish police could have been maintained in secrecy after the assassination.

John Ausonius, a racist stock broker turned bank robber, was a suspect until it was established he was in jail on the night of the murder.

Solely on the basis of motive I doubt the conspiracy theories. Crime fiction fans certainly recognize the allure of conspiracies. They are far more interesting the lone killer acting for personal motives.

Conspiracy aficionados cannot accept that President Kennedy was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone. I became convinced it was Oswald when I visited the Museum in the Book Depository building and saw the distance and angle Oswald would have had to shoot Kennedy. It was easy shooting. Oswald, trained in the American army, would have found the shots straightforward.

As with Kennedy I think there is an important issue related to how the killing of Palme was done. One of the more unusual aspects of the Palme murder is that the weapon was a .357 Magnum revolver with a 4” barrel. It is a large handgun. It is distinctive and loud. I cannot see a hired killer using a .357 Magnum.

Swedish police diligently searched for 10 stolen .357 magnum revolvers. In Widipedia it states:

Out of these all have been located except the Sucksdorff revolver, a weapon stolen from the Stockholm home of Swedish filmmaker Arne Sucksdorff in 1977. The person who stole the weapon was a friend of drug dealer Sigvard "Sigge" Cedergren, who claimed on his deathbed that he had lent a gun of the same type to Christer Pettersson two months prior to the assassination.

While the lineup involving Pettersson was conducted improperly there is the visual identification by Palme’s widow who was slightly wounded in the attack.

I think, as with most assassinations, it was a lone troubled killer, Christer Pettersson, who killed Palme.


  1. This is really interesting, Bill. We may never know the exact truth in the Palme case. And as you say, there are those who will never be satisfied with the Warren Commission's report on the Kennedy murder. Perhaps that's a small part of the continuing fascination with both events. Thanks for such a thorough summary of the theories, and for your take on it.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. The truth can be elusive for conspiracy fans.

  2. Sounds like you might be the target audience for Leif G.W. Persson's FREE FALLING AS IF IN A DREAM Bill. In it an elite team of Swedish investigators take another look at all the evidence and theories about the Palme assassination...and they do come to a conclusion of sorts. I warn you the book needs a good edit (it's 600 pages long in the version I read) but if you have a fascination for the case it might be the book for you.

  3. Bernadette: Thanks for the comment. I would like to read the book but 600 pages gives me pause. I appreciate being referred to the book.

  4. Very interesting to read your roundup of the theories, Bill. I have lost track of the investigations into this case, and did not realize that it was possible they had the right suspect in the first instance.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. Pettersson would still be in jail if the standard of proof in criminal law was a balance of probabilities.