The murder of Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh plunged the country into a crisis last September. Now, with the confessed killer standing trial, Swedes are hoping to draw a close to a dark moment in thier history.
Sweden is still mourning the passing of Anna Lindh.
The man who admitted to killing Lindh testified that voices in his head told him to stab the Swedish minister repeatedly in the chest and arms. "I couldn’t resist," Mijailo Mijailovic confessed to the panel of judges in the packed Stockholm courtroom on Wednesday.
Although he said he did indeed kill the widely popular Anna Lindh, the 25-year old Swede of Yugoslav origin denied it was for political reasons. "I’m not interested in politics," he told chief prosecutor Krister Petersson. "I have nothing personal against Anna Lindh."
Mijailo’s lawyer, Peter Althin, has pushed for dropping the charges down to manslaughter rather than murder, arguing that his client had not planned the Sept. 10 stabbing and that there was "no intent to kill."
Prosecutors, however, insist the attack was premeditated and argue that Mijailovic stalked Lindh for 14 minutes before stabbing her with a knife in a crowded department store.
Given the killer’s confession and the prosecution’s overwhelming evidence, the court’s main task will be to determine whether Mijailovic really intended to kill Anna Lindh or not.
Why Anna Lindh?
The killer was caught on video tape in the department store
When the prosecution asked whether he was specifically looking for Lindh in the department store, Mijailovic said he had been wandering aimlessly, without any reason.
"I just trotted around on different floors and visited all the departments," he said. He denied looking for anyone in particular.
He said he just saw Lindh and voices in his head, including that of Jesus, urged him to stab her -- 10 times with a knife. Lindh died the next day in the hospital after doctors worked through the night to save her.
Mijailovic, who was arrested Sept. 24, confessed last week, saying he wanted to end speculation about the motive, including media reports that he was upset over Lindh’s support of the 1999 NATO air strikes on Serbia.
The death of one of the country’s best-loved politicians sent shock waves through Sweden, and initially there were concerns that the murderer wouldn’t be found. After a first suspect was detained and then quickly released without charge, public opinion against the police.
"We were under huge pressure to solve this murder," said chief police investigator Leif Jennekvist. "And we had to be careful to pass on the information in such a way that on the one had the public need for information would be satisfied, while on the other hand our work wouldn’t be hindered."
The murder weapon
It wasn’t until the end of September that Mijailovic was arrested. Initially he denied the killing, however police managed to match his DNA with that found at the murder scene and on the knife. "Only when we got the DNA proof were we one hundred percent sure about the identity of the murder," said Jennekvist.
Mijailovic, who has a history of mental problems and three previous convictions, including one for a 1996 stabbing of his father, could face a sentence of between 10 years and life in prison. If found mentally unstable, he could also be sent to a mental hospital for mandatory treatment. A previous psychiatric evaluation found him "in great need of psychiatric and psychotherapeutic efforts," but concluded that there were no medical grounds to sentence him to psychiatric care.
Whichever way the sentence reads, the trial brings a sense of relief, a form of closure for Sweden, said Jennekvist. Bringing Mijailovic to court will help heal national wounds surrounding the murder and the painful memories it evoked of the assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986. Like Lindh, Palme was attacked while out in public without bodyguards. To this day his murderers have not been found.