Two of the darker sides of Swedish society intersected Tuesday with the revelation that late crime novelist Stieg Larsson once sent police 15 boxes of evidence linking the unsolved murder of a former prime minister to a cabal of South African hitmen and a right-wing Swede living in the breakaway Turkish part of Cyprus.
Mr. Larsson, who was a reporter investigating the far-right before he became a best-selling author, fleshed out a possible connection about the 1986 murder and the apartheid regime nearly a decade before such allegations became public.
The latest revelations about Mr. Larsson’s role, made by the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper, lead once again to Bertil Wedin, a Swede who has lived for three decades in Kyrenia, in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is not internationally recognized as a state and is not bound by extradition treaties.
Mr. Wedin was first identified as a suspect in 1996 when former South African police hitmen talked about their regime’s possible implication in Olof Palme‘s death. The Palme government was a staunch apartheid opponent and had given financial support to the African National Congress.
Mr. Wedin, who is described by Svenska Dagbladet as a 73-year-old with icy-blue eyes, denies being involved in the murder and told the paper he had been contacted by Swedish police in 1996 “but they never came” to question him.
“I disliked Olof Palme quite a lot, but I did not hate him,” he told Svenska Dagbladet.
It was 28 years ago this week that Mr. Palme and his wife, Lisbeth, left a Stockholm movie theatre on a Friday night when they were ambushed by a gunman firing copper-tipped bullets from a Smith & Wesson pistol.
A dominant figure in Swedish politics, the Social Democratic leader had taken forceful stands on the international stage, leading to many theories about who was behind a murder that appeared to have been carried out by a professional killer.
At one point, there was speculation that the prime minister had been killed by members of a radical Kurdish group working for the government in Tehran because Mr. Palme had tried to halt Swedish arms sales to Iran.
A German magazine claimed instead that the killer worked for the Yugoslav secret service, who wanted to blame right-wing Croatian separatists.
In the 1980s, Mr. Larsson wasn’t yet known as the author of the Millennium trilogy, where punk hacker Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist expose sinister currents behind Sweden’s placid public image. But he was already familiar with that demi-monde as a correspondent for Searchlight, a British anti-fascist magazine.
According to Svenska Dagbladet, working with an MI6 contact known to Searchlight, Mr. Larsson mined connections between Mr. Wedin, who was a former Swedish military officer, and South African agents.
“Stieg was on to it very quickly,” his former partner, Eva Gabrielsson, told the newspaper.
“The first year after the murder we spent a large part of our free time trying to connect things, go out and check addresses, who lived where and such things.”
By the fall of 1987, when Mr. Larsson passed on their findings to the authorities, the investigation into the murder was foundering. Stockholm Police Chief Hans Holmer, who had been replaced as the head of the probe, ridiculed the new team in the media.
Ms. Gabrielsson said two police officers came to speak to Mr. Larsson about the Palme murder.
“He came home absolutely pissed off ... He thought they were idiots, those two guys. Stieg had to start the whole session with a short lecture about the difference between Nazis and Socialists.”
The next year, police charged a Swede with the murder. Christer Pettersson, a petty criminal with a history of mental illness, was found guilty but the conviction was quashed in appeals court for lack of evidence.
Mr. Larsson handed his research to authorities two years before the public heard about a state-sanctioned group of brutal, heavy-drinking South African hitmen operating from a farm near Pretoria.
In 1989, a former South African police commander, Dirk Coetzee, joined side with the ANC and revealed the existence of the Vlakplaas unit, a secret squad that murdered political opponents at home and overseas.
Mr. Coetzee’s successor, Eugene de Kock, went a step further in 1996 when he testified in a Pretoria court about a litany of bombings, murders and dirty tricks. He told the court about a South African secret agent named Craig Williamson, who was alleged to have infiltrated anti-apartheid groups and directed the 1982 bombing of the ANC’s European headquarters in London.
Mr. Williamson’s operation “played a role” in the Palme murder, Mr. De Kock testified.
Mr. Williamson denied the allegation. Swedish media then identified Mr. Wedin as an associate of Mr. Williamson and descended on northern Cyprus to interview him.
Mr. Wedin told them that the night of the murder he was in Kyrenia watching television with his wife when he heard of Mr. Palme’s death from a BBC broadcast.
He denied that he had planted a story in a Turkish paper that triggered the suspicions of a Kurdish role in the murder. But he hinted that he knew more than he could say and even gave his own theory that the assassins had planned to frame him and then kill him afterward to close the case.
Today, contacted again by Svenska Dagbladet, Mr. Wedin was shown the evidence compiled by Mr. Larsson.
“There is nothing in this,” he said.
“I am aware of my reputation; right-wing man and Conservative, not liking Palme and more, but I have done nothing of all this. Not a single thing. And no one has asked me to do anything either.”