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Europe

Police Come Closer to Nabbing Lindh's Killer

Swedish police say video images recorded in the department store where Anna Lindh was fatally stabbed could provide vital clues to her killer as surveys suggest the trailing “yes” euro vote is narrowing the gap.

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Condolonces and flowers have been offered near Lindh's photographs in Sweden.

Police in Sweden are hoping images provided by a surveillance camera in the upscale department store in Stockholm where former foreign minister and leading pro-euro campaigner Anna Lindh was attacked on Wednesday, will help them nab the absconding murderer.

Stockholm criminal police commissioner Leif Jennekvist said the footage was "telling" at a press conference on Friday. "You see a lot of people moving and among that group of people we are screening one particularly interesting person who has caught our eye," he said.

Lindh was stabbed in the arms, chest and abdomen by her assailant and died of massive internal bleeding in a Stockholm hospital on Wednesday despite a marathon surgical battle to save her life.

On Saturday, Sweden’s tabloids published a series of photographs of the suspected killer, gleaned from the video footage. The killer was shown wearing a blue baseball cap and a gray sweatshirt, his face obscured. Police spokesman Mats Nylen said the police were unhappy with the publication of the images because they feared it could influence witnesses.

Though police have no concrete information on the killer’s identity they contend that the attack was carried out by a person, acting alone and on impulse and believe he probably comes from the violent drugs scene in Stockholm. "This is not the act of a novice criminal. The killer has done this kind of thing before – you don’t begin your criminal career with this kind of crime," an official told news agency AFP. Swedish media said on Saturday the police had focused their search on a pool of five to ten suspects.

Sweden presses ahead with euro referendum

The attack has shocked Swedes, who were preparing to decide on Sunday whether the Nordic country should give up its currency, the krona, to join the euro zone. As one of Sweden’s most popular politicians, Lindh had been leading member of the pro-euro campaign. After initial doubts following Lindh’s death, Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson decided to press ahead with the referendum.

“I want everyone to go vote in Sunday's referendum. Violence will not prevail,” Persson said in a national address on Thursday, adding that all political parties had decided to go ahead with the vote.

A snap poll on Friday showed the outpouring of grief surrounding Lindh’s murder could boost the struggling pro-euro camp ahead of the vote. After trailing the ‘no’ campaigners for months, a Skop Institute survey of 792 people showed support was now evenly split 50-50 on the issue. Ahead of the attack polls showed around 58 percent of Swedes were opposed to joining the euro and only 42 percent supported becoming part of the single currency.

Outcome unclear

Most observers had expected the pro-euro camp to make up some ground as the vote neared, but the tragic loss of Lindh -- the Social Democrat was often considered a future prime minister -- could cause more people to turn out to vote on what was sometimes seen as a dry economic issue. At the site of the attack and under pro-euro Lindh posters across the country, Swedes laid flowers and left notes of condolence.

Margot Walstrom, the Swede who serves as the European Commissioner for the environment and a friend of the foreign minister, appeared on television from Brussels on Thursday, teary eyed, and said that the best way for Swedes to honor Lindh's death would be to vote in favor of joining the euro, according to Britain's Guardian newspaper. With polls so close, that kind of emotional outpouring could tip the balance in favor of adopting the currency.

But another poll released on Friday showed the impact of Lindh’s death remained unclear, as a Sifo survey of 1,000 Swedes still had the anti-euro camp holding a 16 percentage-point lead ahead of euro supporters.

Painful memories

Although police have said there are no indication of political motivation for the murder, the incident harkens back to the assassination of Dutch right-wing populist politician Pim Fortuyn, who was killed in May 2002 just before an election. A wave of sympathy led Fortuyn’s party to become the second strongest party in parliament, even though many Dutch disagreed with his controversial views on immigration and other issues.

Sweden, Denmark and Britain are the only members of the European Union to remain out of the monetary union. Many Swedes have been skeptical towards the euro since the Swedish economy has performed better than those of euro zone heavyweights Germany and France. Both countries also continue to flout EU rules on budget deficits that are supposed to secure the euro.

Others in Sweden fear joining the euro could mean Stockholm will lose control over the country’s famous welfare system, as control over monetary policy is ceded to the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. The pro-euro campaigners, on the other hand, contend Sweden will suffered declining influence in the EU should the country remain outside of the euro area.

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