• Reading Level 5
Science | History | Geography | PSHE

The unsolved murder that still haunts Sweden

What lies behind our fascination with true crime? It is fear? Swedish police have just called a halt to a long-running murder investigation which drove amateur sleuths to the point of madness. It was a moment of high drama. At the press conference yesterday, Swedish prosecutors announced that they were closing a case that had obsessed the nation for 34 years: the murder its prime minister, Olof Palme. They had "reasonable evidence" that his killer was a graphic designer called Stig Endstrom - but, since Endstrom had died in 2000, there was no point in probing further. Or was there? Palme's murder took place in 1986, in a busy StockholmStockholm is the capital of Sweden, a country in northern Europe. It is Sweden's largest city. It is also the country's center of culture, education, and business. Stockholm is known for its natural beauty. street. The politician was walking home from the cinema when a man came up behind him and shot him in the back. Though bystanders hurried to help him, Palme was already dead. The gunman escaped up a flight of steps. The crime became one of the greatest real-life murder mysteries of the past 100 years. Palme, the man largely responsible for Sweden's system of high taxes and excellent social services, had many admirers, but also enemies. Unanswered questions and police blunders gave rise to a host of conspiracy theories. How did the killer know that Palme was at the cinema - without his bodyguards - when the outing was an impromptu one? Why did the police fail to make a proper search of nearby streets, or identify all the witnesses, and let the public trample over the crime scene? Investigators focused first on the PKK (a militant Kurdish group), despite a lack of evidence. Later, an alcoholic ex-prisoner was arrested and convicted, but released on appeal. Some suspected the South African security services. Others said it was the film-maker Andrei Tarkovsky. People obsessed with the murder became known as "privatspanarna" - private eyes. It spawned books, films, and plays. Why are human beings so addicted to true crime stories? Does it make any sense to spend years investigating long-standing mysteries we have little chance of solving? One theory is that they are a way of controlling our own darkest fears. According to criminologist Gemma Flynn, "When we experience heightened levels of fear, we can often seek comfort in facing these issues head on. We have always turned to crime storytelling as a way to better understand the moral limits of our society." Is our fascination with true crime driven by fear itself? Horrible mysteries Yes, some say. "Safety is always at the forefront of our minds," argues Rachel Fairburn, co-host of the All Killa No Filla podcast, "and when we read about serial killers, murderers, true crime cases, I think there's always an element of self-preservation." For journalist Julia Davis, it is about "your worst possible fear - understanding it, confronting it, knowing everything you can about it". No, think others. It is more complex than that. It is partly puzzle-solving: people love to be armchair detectives, above all, with real unsolved cases. It is partly fascination with motive: what leads someone to commit a horrific crime? And it is partly compassion for victims: an emotional connection. Finally, never forget the power of escapism. KeywordsStockholm - Stockholm is the capital of Sweden, a country in northern Europe. It is Sweden's largest city. It is also the country's center of culture, education, and business. Stockholm is known for its natural beauty.

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