For Swedes, September 11th 2003 is a date etched in their memory much like November 22nd 1963 is for Americans. Lindh, who was 46 when she was killed, was minister for foreign affairs and widely tipped to become Sweden’s first female prime minister.
“Of course Anna Lindh would have succeeded me,” said then Prime Minister Göran Persson in a new SVT documentary about Lindh.
IN PICTURES: See the life and times of Anna Lindh
But the events of September 10th and 11th changed all that and plunged her party, the Social Democrats, into a crisis from which they’ve arguably never recovered.
Lindh was stabbed while shopping for clothes in a Stockholm department store by Mijailo Mijailovic, a then 24-year-old Serb who has since renounced his Swedish citizenship. She succumbed to her injuries the following day in the first political assassination in Sweden since Olof Palme was gunned down in 1986.
Mijailovic, who stabbed Lindh repeatedly in the arms, chest and abdomen, had a history of psychiatric problems and claimed during his three trials that voices in his head told him to attack.
He later claimed he had made that up, and said he invoked the “nonsense” claim in the hopes of avoiding prison by being declared mentally unstable.
“I didn’t hear voices. That was nothing but empty talk,” Mijailovic, who is serving a life sentence, told the Expressen newspaper.
In a new documentary about Lindh to be aired on SVT on the 10th anniversary of her death, Persson admits he’d made his mind up on that fateful September 10th day that he was going to resign in 2004 with Lindh his chosen successor.
“Anna had got herself into a position in the party where she was a very bright shining star,” said Mona Sahlin, who took over from Persson instead, and led the party during its disappointing 2010 election loss.
“It’s not that the party would have taken a dramatically different direction or that Sweden would have been different. But it would have been a chance for the first woman leader, if she had started as prime minister, to be in a situation where she was regarded as increasingly obvious (to win the 2006 election),” said Sahlin.
IN PICTURES: See Monday’s memorial service in central Stockholm
Lindh’s death meant Persson, who described her murder as “beyond belief”, led the Social Democrats into the 2006 election defeat before stepping down in 2007.
“Sweden has lost one of its most important representatives. It feels unreal, it is difficult to truly understand,” said Persson in the wake of his colleague’s murder.
Much like Palme’s murder 17 years earlier, Lindh wasn’t protected by Sweden’s security service (Säpo) which considered her to be a low-risk target. Palme famously refused bodyguard protection on the night of his death.
The agency has since said they have learnt from Lindh’s assassination with increased security now the norm for all prominent Swedish politicians.
SVT’s documentary, made by Tom Alandh, also reveals her concerns for her family, and in particular her two sons.
However, those fears are unlikely to have deterred her from pursuing the highest office in the land according to a former colleague.
“She spoke reluctantly about it and that of what it could mean for the boys. Had she been asked (to be prime minister) then I think she would have been up for it,” said Jan Eliasson, former Swedish ambassador to the United States in the documentary.
A memorial service for Anna Lindh took place in Katarina’s church in Stockholm’s Södermalm on Monday, attended by former prime minister Ingvar Carlsson, Mona Sahlin, and Benny Andersson from Abba. (See pictures from Monday’s memorial)
On Wednesday there will be an evening in her honour for the public taking place in Kungsträdgården in Stockholm, opposite the shopping mall Lindh was fatally attacked, starting at 6:30pm. Among those attending will be current Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, Social Democratic leader Stefan Löfven, and former party
leader Mona Sahlin, with music provided by the Benny Andersson orchestra.
The SVT documentary “Anna Lindh 1957-2003” will air on September 11th at 8pm on SVT 1.