Pettersson died after suffering a brain hemorrhage nearly two weeks ago. He was unconscious when he arrived at hospital, and did not regain consciousness before he died.
Pettersson was convicted in 1988 of the murder two years earlier of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme. He was identified as the killer by Palme’s wife, Lisbeth. However, the appeal court ruled that the evidence against him was insufficient, and he was released. Since then there have been a number of rumours of a confession, most of which were later denied by Pettersson.
This week, however, Gert Fylking, a journalist and a friend of Petterssons, told Expressen that he had indeed confessed to the murder. Fylking said that Pettersson had decided to kill the prime minister because of the hatred he felt towards the justice system.
“He was drunk and high on drugs, but that was kind of his normal state,” said Fylking. “His actions were primitive, but rational,” he added.
DN reported that Pettersson had repeatedly tried to contact the Palme family over the past year. “My understanding is that it was about a confession,” said Joakim Palme, the former prime minister’s eldest son.
The exact reasons for the brain hemorrhage that caused his death were unclear. “The injuries to his head have not been explained,” police spokesman Hans Stridlund told Svenska Dagbladet, and went on to say that the death would be fully investigated. Meanwhile, however, DN said that it could have been caused during an epileptic seizure that he suffered while attending the alcoholics’ clinic at St Göran’s hospital.
The investigation into the Palme murder still continues, and Expressen reported that although Pettersson had not officially been a suspect since he was freed, the police still believed that he was the most likely culprit. And although it was not possible to convict a dead person, the former head of the Palme investigation, Lars Nylén, told DN that “the case could still be solved.” The investigation will continue until 2011, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the killing.
The reaction to Pettersson’s death was muted. “A tragic life has now come to its end,” was current Prime Minister Göran Persson’s comment. DN reported that although Pettersson was threatening and abusive when under the influence of drink or drugs, he was “good company” when sober.
Nonetheless, the paper commented, for many Swedes, Pettersson was guilty of Palme’s murder, regardless of the verdict of the courts.