Swedes Mourn Palme; Police Report No New Clues in Manhunt for Killer
STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) _ Swedish police hunting the assassin of Prime Minister Olof Palme said Sunday they had detained three men for questioning and spent the night sifting through information given by the public, but with little positive result.
″I can’t say there is any single piece of information considered particularly important,″ said police Inspector Kjell Roehrstroem.
Police Superintendent Rolf Fredriksson said police had found one 9mm bullet but no cartridge casing, which he said ″could indicate a revolver,″ perhaps a .38-calibre weapon, was used in the Friday night attack on the 59-year-old Palme.
Palme and his wife had gone to a new movie, ″The Brothers Mozart,″ and were walking along a snowy sidewalk in central Stockholm when a man wearing a blue jacket and a hat with earflaps shot him once in the back at 11:20 p.m. Palme had dismissed his bodyguards earlier in the day.
Police said Lisbet Palme, 55, was grazed by a bullet and slightly wounded. Palme was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead on an operating table at 12:06 a.m. Saturday.
Fredriksson told The Associated Press that by Sunday morning, police had taken three men into custody for questioning, but released them without any suspicion of their being involved in Palme’s assassination. Scores of other Swedes, including witnesses to the shooting, were questioned voluntarily, he said.
He said police overnight had also tried to analyze threats which had been made against the controversial Social Democratic leader in the past.
″We remain on the same spot,″ he said of the investigation as it headed into its second day. ″Nothing has happened.″
Fredriksson said it was still unclear whether one or two bullets were involved in the attack on the Palmes. He said it was also unclear whether Palme’s wife had been grazed by the bullet that killed her husband, or by another.
Earlier, police had reported that Mrs. Palme had said she thought she had seen the killer before, described by police as a man 35 to 40 years old and about 5-foot-7, but that she could not recall the circumstances.
But police Superintendent Kenneth Karlsson said Saturday night, ″She has not reported that she in any way knew the man″ or that he resembled anyone she had met.
He said Mrs. Palme told investigators she was walking arm-in-arm with her husband when she heard one or two ″bangs″ and turned to say something about them, thinking children were playing with firecrackers.
Karlsson reported Mrs. Palme said that as she turned, her husband was falling to the sidewalk, bleeding heavily from the chest, and she got only a brief glance at the gunman as he fled.
Police said they were investigating an anonymous telephone call to an international news agency in London saying West German terrorists killed Palme, who was serving his fourth term as prime minister since 1969.
National Police Chief Holger Romander said of the call, ″Of course we take it seriously but we cannot believe in all declarations like that.″
Swedish Radio said Saturday that Stockholm subway system employees had found a bag containing a dark jacket and pants and turned them over to police. Palme’s assailant was initially described as wearing dark clothing. A police spokesman was quoted by the broadcast as saying the find was ″potentially interesting.″
More than 10,000 Swedes gathered Saturday in a Stockholm square for a candlelight memorial service for the flamboyant, caustic politician, one of Western Europe’s leading socialists and best-known advocates of disarmament.
Industry Minister Thage Peterson, surrounded by red banners of the Social Democratic Party, told the assemblage, ″All Palme did was to walk as a free man in the streets, every man’s right.″
Leaders of the governing Social Democratic Party, which has been in power almost continuously since 1932, met in emergency session and nominated Deputy Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson as new party leader and prime minister.
Carlsson, 51, a veteran politician, automatically heads a caretaker government until Parliament, called the Riksdag, meets this week to vote on Carlsson’s nomination. Approval was virtually certain.
A large pool of blood marked the spot where Palme fell, in front of an artists’ supply shop. The blood was covered Saturday by mounds of flowers piled there by Swedes.
Hundreds of people remained gathered at the spot throughout Saturday, and police estimated that about 300 people filed each hour into the main government building to sign a remembrance book.
″We just felt we had to come here, it seemed the right thing to do, to honor Sweden’s great statesman,″ Ingela Benn said, choking back tears as she waited to sign the book.
Tributes to Palme poured in from throughout the world, from every political spectrum.
Social Democratic officials said Palme would be buried March 15 after a memorial service in the Great Church, the resting place of Swedish kings.
Palme was killed blocks from the site where King Gustaf III was shot to death in 1792, the last Swedish leader to meet a violent death.
Palme’s killing appeared likely to shatter the relaxed political tradition that had developed over centuries in Sweden.
King Carl XVI Gustaf, rushing back to the capital from a skiiing holiday, called the slaying ″a blow to the open society Palme always worked for.″
The 39-year-old king said Palme had ″wanted to live a personal life even if he was the country’s prime minister.″
″The meaningless violence will forever cast its shadow over our political life,″ said Palme’s chief political opponent, Moderate Party leader Ulf Adelsohn.
Palme’s Social Democrats had defeated Adelsohn’s Moderate-led coalition in national elections last Sept. 15, giving Palme his fourth three-year term as prime minister.
The Social Democratic speaker of Parliament, Ingemund Bengtsson, warned that if the killer turned out to be a foreigner, racial prejudice could be stirred up against emigrants to traditionally open Sweden.
″If it’s a crackpot it’s, well, all right,″ he told the national news agency TT. ″But if it’s an organization behind it, it’s extremely serious, especially if the perpetrator is not Swedish. Then the hate against immigrants would be awful.″
Palme was born into an aristocratic Stockholm family, and first gained international attention in the 1960s as one of Europe’s most outspoken critics of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
Romander, the national police chief, told journalists Saturday he had tried repeatedly to get Palme to accept greater police protection.
″On many occasions he accepted personal protection for public events but he claimed there should be a private sector where there should be no protection,″ Romander said. ″We could not do anything else but respect that firm wish.″