Christer Pettersson PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 05 November 2008 10:43

Christer Pettersson

Born: April 23, 1947, Solna outside of Stockholm

Died: September 29, 2004, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm

Age: 57

Cause of death: Cerebral haemorrhage following fall.

Notable because: Convicted of the assassination of Swedish PM Olof Palme and then freed on appeal the following year. Drug user with mental issues who once killed a man for no apparent reason.


Christer Pettersson  was a suspect in the 1986 assassination of Olof Palme, the Prime Minister of Sweden. In 1988, he was arrested, tried and convicted of the murder but was freed on appeal the following year.

Pettersson grew up in a middle class family in Solna outside of Stockholm and later moved to the suburb Sollentuna. In his youth he attended a theatrical school (Kalle Flygares Teaterskola) where he was considered very promising by at least one of his teachers. However, Petterson suffered a head injury that he would never fully recover from. Petterson's life changed dramatically and the road towards drug abuse was entered. Pettersson's drug abuse eventually forced him to drop out.

In 1970, he killed a man in a street of Stockholm, seemingly without any provocation, in what the Swedish press dubbed the "bayonet murder". Subsequently, Pettersson was sentenced to prison for manslaughter. After his release he continued a life of petty crime, which financed his alcohol and drug abuse.

On the night of February 28, 1986, the Swedish Social Democratic Prime Minister Olof Palme was shot and killed in Stockholm as he walked home from a cinema with his wife, Lisbet Palme. Pettersson was accused of Palme's murder after an extensive investigation by the Swedish police. He was picked out from a police lineup by Mrs Palme. The original tip-off leading to the incrimination of Pettersson has been described by some as very dubious. Although the .357-caliber Magnum pistol used to kill Palme was never found, Pettersson was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1988.

However, in 1989 he was freed after an appeal court cited lack of evidence, including the missing murder weapon. It also questioned the reliability of Mrs Palme's identification. Pettersson was awarded about $50,000 in compensation for defamation by the police and for wrongful imprisonment. He quickly spent the money on alcohol and drugs, but was able to augment his income through selling TV and newspaper interviews. In some of those interviews – particularly on TV3 – Pettersson admitted to killing Olof Palme, but his confession was not treated seriously. On several occasions Pettersson pointed out that he himself was a "Social Democrat", and liked Olof Palme. In 1998, the Supreme Court rejected a prosecutor's appeal to retry Pettersson citing that evidence was not strong enough to place him at the scene of the shooting.

On September 29, 2004 Pettersson died at the Karolinska University Hospital after he supposedly fell and suffered a cerebral haemorrhage. He had been in a coma since September 16, 2004 when he underwent emergency surgery for unspecified head injuries. Pettersson had reported being harassed by the police on September 15, the day before he was found with head injuries, with rumors (unsubstantiated) circulating that he was a victim of police violence. Pettersson was buried in his hometown Sollentuna in January 2005.

Shortly before Pettersson was taken to hospital, he had contacted the son of Olof Palme, Mårten Palme, explaining he had something to tell the family. Palme said he was willing to meet Pettersson if he was ready to confess to the murder. But the meeting did not take place, and what Pettersson had to tell was never revealed.

According to a documentary aired on the Swedish television channel SVT in February 2006, associates of Pettersson claimed that he had confessed to them his role in Olof Palme's murder, but with the explanation that it was a case of mistaken identity. Apparently, Pettersson had intended to kill a drug dealer, dressed in similar clothing, who often walked along the same street at night. The show also suggested that there was greater police awareness than previously acknowledged due to surveillance of drug activity in the area. The police had several officers in apartments and cars along those few blocks of Sveavägen but, 45 minutes before the murder, the police monitoring ceased. In the light of these latest revelations, Swedish police undertook reviewing the Palme case and Pettersson's role. However, the newspaper Dagens Nyheter of February 28, 2006 carried articles ridiculing the TV documentary and alleging that the filmmaker had fabricated a number of statements while omitting other contradictory evidence. 

Both before and after his death, Christer Pettersson had achieved a certain notoriety as a cult figure, being portrayed as a victim of society and as a scapegoat in the media. At the same time he was seen as an outlaw and a rebel, and appeared as an icon in some subculture, including music and art.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 December 2008 15:27

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