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Suspect in Swedish murder makes surprise confession

After months of denials, the man suspected  in the slaying of Swedish  Foreign Minister Anna Lindh confessed.
Mijailo Mijailovic has confessed to the saying of Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh. Reuters file
/ Source: The Associated Press

Under pressure to solve last year’s murder of Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, prosecutors received a surprise confession from the lone suspect after months of denials. His lawyer said the attack was random.

Mijailo Mijailovic confessed during an interrogation Tuesday night to the Sept. 10 fatal stabbing, chief prosecutor Agneta Blidberg told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

His lawyer Peter Althin didn’t disclose the nature of the confession but said there was no political motivation behind Lindh’s stabbing, which happened four days ahead of a bitter referendum on the euro. Lindh had been an ardent supporter of the common currency, which Swedes voted not to adopt.

Investigators would not say why the 25-year-old admitted his guilt or under what circumstances.

DNA on the knife
“I had counted on a confession at some time,” Blidberg said. She added that that DNA traces found on the knife used to stab Lindh match Mijailovic’s. A DNA match is a sure sign of success at any trial, legal analysts said.

For Swedes, the confession brought a sense of closure in the killing of one of the country’s rising political stars and most-admired women, who seamlessly handled foreign affairs and carried on a happy family life with her two children and husband.

It also brought relief: Many were concerned the Lindh murder might not be solved, as in the case of the late Prime Minister Olof Palme. He was shot in a Stockholm street in 1986, but his murderer was never found.

Justice Minister Thomas Bodstroem said the confession should give Swedes peace of mind that the right man was caught.

“If the suspect had been sentenced without having confessed, this could have led to years of speculation about whether the right person was sentenced,” he said. “This can be avoided now.”

Mijailovic is a Swede of Yugoslav origin with previous convictions for assault, possession of illegal weapons and making death threats. He has been in custody since Sept. 24, two weeks after the 46-year-old Lindh was stabbed several times in the stomach in a Stockholm department store while shopping with a friend. Doctors worked for several hours to save her, but she died the morning of Sept. 11, plunging the country into mourning.

Murder charges coming Jan. 12
Now, with a confession, prosecutors said Mijailovic will be charged with murder on Jan. 12. A trial could follow within two days before a panel of judges in a courtroom just one subway stop from the upscale store where Lindh was killed.

** FILE ** Foreign Minister Anna Lindh of Sweden ponders over a question during a news conference in Budapest, Hungary, in this May 30, 2001 file photo. The man suspected by police of fatally stabbing Anna Lindh last year confessed to the crime, his lawyer said Wednesday Jan. 7, 2004. (AP Photo/MTI/Szilard Koszticsak)MTI

Mijailovic could be sentenced to between 10 years and life in prison, or sentenced to a mental hospital if found not mentally competent. Sweden, like other European Union countries, does not have capital punishment.

Chief District Court Judge Goeran Nilsson said he would not order psychiatric testing for Mijailovic and would rule on the matter only if Althin or prosecutors request it. “I myself will not take any such initiative,” he said.

Haunted by the specter of the shooting of Palme — as he walked home from a movie theater with his wife and, like Lindh, without bodyguards — police labored to build a meticulous case with plenty of evidence.

Lead investigator Leif Jennekvist said the results of the preliminary investigation were enough to charge Mijailovic.

The evidence, prosecutor Blidberg said, including surveillance camera footage, DNA traces and witness testimony, was enough to get a conviction.

“I believe that you can say that the combination of technical evidence and the confession is enough to consider the killing solved,” legal analyst Christopher Diesen, a law professor at Stockholm University, said.

News of the confession swept the country, and Swedish newspapers and television began airing and publishing images of Mijailovic and referring to him by name. Previously, most media referred to him only as the 25-year-old suspect and ran blurred photos of his face.