Police Criticized Over Lack of Progress in Palme Case
STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) _ Police failure to come up with hard leads in their search for the man who killed Prime Minister Olof Palme has produced a rising chorus of complaints that the investigators are naive, inefficient and slow.
Police have not found the murder weapon, identified by ballistics experts as a .357-caliber Magnum handgun. Their search for the getaway car apparently has led to a dead end, and they had to release their only serious suspect last Wednesday when a witness failed to identify him.
″For every day that passes, the risk increases that Sweden will become known around the world as the site of the only murder of a prime minister or head of state in office that remained unsolved,″ the prestigious Svenska Dagbladet newspaper said Friday in an editorial.
Since Palme was shot on a Stockholm street Feb. 28, about 300 detectives have been assigned full-time to find the killer. Police Commissioner Hans Holmer said they received about 14,000 tips from the public and other police agencies.
″We still have so many leads to follow up, so many hypotheses,″ he told Swedish television last week. Thoroughness, not speed, will be the key to success, he said.
But Swedish newspapers said police may already have bungled any chances of catching Palme’s killer by failing to react quickly enough in the first hours after the shooting.
″It was disastrous,″ the Expressen newspaper, Scandanavia’s largest daily, said Thursday of initial police response to Palme’s shooting.
″The nationwide alarm was not sounded until two hours and 24 minutes after the murder,″ Expressen said.
It said that by then, the assassin could be far from the scene of the crime.
Critics also have said police should have sealed off exits from Stockholm and cordoned off the murder site. Svenska Dagbladet and other newspapers have called on the government to set up a commission to complement the police effort.
The Palme killing was a shock to Swedes who believed their normally peaceful society was immune from the violence of many other countries. Commentators have said the seeming helplessness of police has been an added jolt to a country that prides itself on efficiency.
″It has made Swedes feel insecure,″ Martin Scharfe, a visiting professor of ethnology at Stockholm University, told the Swedish news agency TT Saturday. Based on witness descriptions, police released a drawing Holmer calls a ″fair portrait″ of the killer. Holmer also said computer files turned up many names that ″may be of interest″ in the investigation and have yet to be investigated.
Police said the man who shot the prime minister in the back, at close range, was a professional killer who planned the attack carefully.
The man who was released Wednesday, a 32-year-old Swede, was taken into custody March 12 after having been seen behaving suspiciously near the site of the killing, Holmer said. The commissioner said the man had been known to make threats against Palme.
Police never said whether they suspected the man of actually pulling the trigger or of helping the gunman in some way. When the man was released, Holmer refused to say if he had been cleared of all suspicion.
A second man who was taken into custody in the case last Monday also was released Wednesday.
On Friday, Holmer struck back at critics, saying most of them were reporters impatient for developments to write about.
″I think police are appreciated by the general public,″ he told a news conference. ″We have received lots of flowers and encouraging letters.″