I investigated jaw-dropping cold case dubbed ‘Europe’s JFK’ – it led me to a catfish, cop blunders & a sinister cover-up | The Sun
JUST two years ago, police announced they’d finally cracked the unsolved murder of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme.
Swedes waited for six months with bated breath until the press conference, where detectives meekly announced they hadn’t ruled out witness Stig Engstrom.
Engstrom was a graphic designer for Skandia insurance who police had initially dismissed as an attention seeker.
But even after they brought him back into the frame, they had no clear evidence tying him to the 1986 murder.
Chief prosecutor Krister Petersson admitted: “We have no clear information that can put a gun in the hand of Stig Engstrom.”
“We hope that this will be accepted by the public.”
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On February 28 1986, Olof Palme had dismissed his security and taken his wife Lizbeth out to the movies in Stockholm.
As he left the theatre he was gunned down by a mystery man on the busy Sveavägen Street in central Stockholm.
Police initially bungled the investigation by ignoring witnesses, not putting in roadblocks and washing bullets of forensic evidence.
Stig Engstrom had been critical of the police at the time of the murder – saying he saw the killer escape as he left his job at Skandia bank.
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He said: “They were completely uninterested the whole time.”
Now dead, his relatives have complained to Swedish media that it couldn’t have been Engstrom.
His ex wife Margareta told prosecutors: “[Stig] would never be able to shoot someone because he couldn't kill a fly.
“He did not have any knowledge of the shooting, and would have missed if he had tried.”
The initial investigation was bungled with evidence mishandled and police failing to block off the crime scene.
After two years and many false leads, cops fingered a homeless drug addict Christer Petersson.
He had previously been sectioned for two years for manslaughter in 1970 over a killing near to the Palme murder site.
Despite no witness statements or forensic evidence, Petersson was given life imprisonment for the PM's murder.
But a year later the high court acquitted him for lack of evidence.
Unsurprisingly, after the 2020 announcement the Swedish public accused police of a botched investigation or cover up.
None more so than investigative writer Jan Stocklassa, 58, from Stockholm, who had handed his piles of evidence to Swedish authorities – only to have his theories dismissed out of hand.
He had spent 13 years investigating the famous cold case since stumbling across boxes of research on the murder by late author Stieg Larsson.
The 58-year-old told The Sun: “I couldn't believe my ears and eyes. When I saw this stuff [about Engstrom], I was completely numb.
“And then a little bit later the anger came.”
Now Sky Documentaries true crime four-parter The Man Who Played With Fire explores Jan’s evidence and his desire to have the investigation reopened.
He believes that the South African apartheid regime colluded with Swedish far right groups to murder fiercely anti-Apartheid and pro-ANC Olof Palme.
He said: “I believe he stepped on too many toes in world politics and that he provoked not only South Africa, but also at least the Western superpowers.
“He got assassinated because he was a thorn in the side of not only South Africa, but also the UK and the USA, when it comes to mainly the Southern African liberation.”
Initially Jan looked into right-wing groups who had openly criticised Olof Palme for his left-wing government.
At the time, these groups – including one American group called Stay Behind – were worried Palme would let the Soviet Union take over Sweden.
But in particular, Jan focussed on three far-right figures mentioned in Stieg Larsson's notes: Alf Enerstrom, Bertil Wedin and Victor Gunnerson.
Victor Gunnerson had been mysteriously killed in 1994 in North Carolina. Police found a book in his flat which outlined him as the main suspect in the Palme killing.
Jan traced Bertil Wedin, a former soldier in the Congo and right-wing fanatic, to northern Cyprus, where he confronted him over his links to South Africa and the Palme killing.
He admitted he had worked with MI6, the CIA and apartheid superspy Craig Williamson, who gave him a monthly stipend.
But when Jan quizzed him on Palme he denied any involvement.
Wedin insisted: “I had no hand at all… I’ve never been asked to help.
“They say there's no smoke without fire but there’s nothing in this.
“It’s just a fabrication.”
One eyewitness even placed Williamson at an anti-apartheid conference in Stockholm a week before the murder – a claim he denies.
In 2014, Jan interviewed Enerstrom, who confessed he didn’t have an alibi.
Now deceased, the man – known as “Sweden’s largest Palme hater” – had told police in 1986 that he was asleep in bed.
Jan recently contacted his assistant, David Fredin, mysteriously known as Ricard or the “wig man” due to his ridiculous disguises.
Fredin refused to speak but Jan then got in contact with one of his Facebook friends – a very attractive lady called Lida Komarkova.
After chatting online, Jan met Czech Lida in a bar in Prague – but she looked nothing like her online pictures.
Lida admitted she had created five fake Facebook profile to give “a kick” in her life.
She had befriended Fredin through a mutual Facebook group and agreed to sound him out for Jan.
Months later, Lida sent Jan a USB full of emails between Fredin and Wedin worriedly talking about involvement with the Palme killing.
He said: “Later I found out also that Wedin and Fredin, they were talking about me as a potential KGB agent. Fredin still thinks that I'm working for the KGB.
“They were writing things that were actually threatening to me. So when I was watching over them, they were watching over me.”
It was also the first time anyone had linked Alf Enerstrom – a man without an alibi – and Bertil Wedin, who had been described as a “middleman” for South Africa in the murder.
Then Jan makes another contact, former Swedish diplomat Goran Bjorkdahl, who had been talking to someone in South African military intelligence known only as “Frank”.
Goran said after Apartheid was brought down, he was handed a military document which described Olof as an “enemy of the state”.
The general told him: “You need people on the ground to assist for a long time.”
Goran later suggested to his contact that Sweden and South Africa put forward an amnesty for Palme’s killers so they can solve the case for good.
They meet with a South African general who considered the proposal after three meetings with the head of the army – but there had been a big misunderstanding.
Goran said: “They all seemed to assume that I was on official business, that I was representing the Swedish Government which I wasn’t.
“This was just a hobby.”
Thinking quickly, Goran started recording on his phone.
Frank told him: “You’re getting too close to some very dangerous people. They haven’t stopped.
“They are still working for lots of people.”
New tech, new evidence, new leads
They agreed South Africa would help Sweden solve the case under the condition that no South Africans would be prosecuted because “they were under orders of their government.”
The general piped up: “The people that were involved, they are going to want protection from us as a government.”
After listening to the recording Jan said: “This confirms what you and I suspected for years – there was South African involvement in the murder.”
Since the police named Stig Engstrom as their guy, “Frank” has urged Jan and Goran to drop their investigation.
He warned: “It’s very simple. The South African government along with the Swedish government have agreed to drop this and no further investigations are to be done.”
Neither the South African or Swedish Governments have responded to requests for comment.
Since 2020, Jan has made further breakthroughs in the case and wants it reopened.
He was handed a walkie talkie found at the scene – possibly belonging to one of the murderers – and has sent it for DNA analysis. But he needs police involvement to compare the findings.
He also discovered the prosecutor ordered physical evidence in the case to be destroyed in 2009.
He believes AI could crack the code by finding links in the now digitised paperwork on the case.
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He said: “You would need the whole investigation and that the only people that got that access is the police.”
The Man who played with Fire is available to view on Sky Documentaries and Now from 9pm on May 14.
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