The gun used to murder the prime minister of Sweden has apparently been found at the bottom of a lake -- where the killer threw it in 1986 -- after he committed the one and only post-WWII, head-of-state assassination in Western Europe. A tip to a newspaper led to the find in a body of water that had been dragged by police seven times before. Will the Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolver finally reveal who really killed the controversial Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, the last famous left-winger in European politics?
From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (which is so reliable in dishing out interesting true crime news...):
Swedish police recover gun in Palme case
By LOUISE NORDSTROM
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
Investigators said a handgun recovered from the bottom of a Swedish lake is one of the most important finds in the 20-year-old search for the killer of Prime Minister Olof Palme - an unexpected discovery that could breathe new life into a troubled investigation.
However, experts cautioned the Smith & Wesson revolver may have been damaged by years under water, making it difficult to determine whether it fired the bullets that struck Palme as he walked home from a Stockholm movie theater with his wife. ...
Divers acting on a tip to the Swedish tabloid Expressen found the .357 Magnum revolver on Monday and turned it over to police. The newspaper did not reveal how it got the tip. "This is one of the most important weapons in the investigation," chief prosecutor Agneta Blidberg told The Associated Press in Stockholm.
In a coincidence in a case that favors coincidences, I was just finishing a terrific book about this murder case when the news broke of the discovery of the weapon.
Blood on the Snow: The Killing of Olof Palme by Jan Bondeson is the first book in English to fully explore the case, the amazing details of the botched police response, and the "weird theories and urban legends" that have sprung from his death. It was written for American audience and compares the murder to the Kennedy assassination -- which, coincidentally, was today -- and calls the one man tried for the murder but later released for lack of evidence a "Swedish Lee Harvey Oswald." (Photo: the Prime Minister.)
From the book:
Once or twice a year, the Swedish public is reminded of the existence of [a special] task force when the newspapers pick up rumors about the whereabouts of the murder weapon, or when some journalist decides to rehash the old police conspiracy... The murder of Olof Palme is fast acquiring the status of a historical mystery.... Before long, its status will be similar to that of the hunt for the elusive Jack the Ripper, and various people will propose novel suggestions as to who killed the prime minister, safe in the knowledge that the mystery will never be solved.
Perhaps not, to judge by today's news!
The Swedish media comes off poorly in this book; the news reached America, the UK and Japan before it reached the state tv or radio stations in Sweden. "Like a nation of cuckolded husbands," the author says, "the Swedes were the last to know." The police work was laughable; they literally kept their dogs leashed.
The story of one early suspect, Viktor Gunnersson, is a soap opera plot. An odd young man who hung around cafes spewing venom about the prime minister while pretending to be an American playboy ended up arrested, released, and hounded by the public right out of the country. He eventually moved to North Carolina and was murdered himself, the apparent victim of a fatal love triangle.
This book summarizes all the many theories, speculates as to some likely answers, and it is also an important lesson on the extreme fallibility of eyewitness accounts, especially in high-profile cases. The author reviews the statements of 36 people who saw at least part of the murder. Many completely disagreed on the killer's physical description. The author proves that initial witness statements grew "more reliable" under press influence. I cannot help but agree when he concludes, "witnesses are easily influenced, particularly in an extraordinary case like this, and they have a subconscious wish to help the police solve the case. Many sad examples of this tendency can be found...."
This book is a fascinating exploration of Sweden's most infamous murder, a brutal assassination that left blood not only on the snow but squishing in the boots of Palme's widow. The fresh news of the murder weapon may bring new answers and a final chapter to this enduring mystery.