Christer Pettersson (April 23, 1947 - September 29, 2004) was a Swedish criminal who was a suspect in the 1986 assassination of Olof Palme, the Prime Minister of Sweden. In 1988 he was convicted of the murder in district court but acquitted on appeal the following year.
Childhood and early life
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 (Calle Flygares teaterskola) where he was considered very promising by at least one of his teachers. However, Pettersson suffered a head injury that he would never fully recover from. Subsequent to his injury, Petterson began a period of substance abuse which would eventually force him to drop out of school.
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.
Tried for the murder of Olof Palme
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.
Coma and death
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 unsubstantiated rumors circulating that he was a victim of police violence. Pettersson was buried in his hometown Sollentuna in January 2005.
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