Swede faults `voices' in Lindh slaying

Confessed killer denies he planned official's death

January 15, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - On the first day of his trial, the confessed killer of Anna Lindh, Sweden's foreign minister, denied yesterday that he had intended to kill her but said he could not ignore voices in his head telling him to attack.

Lindh, 46, died of multiple stab wounds one day after she was attacked in a Stockholm department store while shopping Sept. 10. She had no bodyguard with her at the time, and her death stunned a nation that never came to terms with the still-unsolved murder of Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986.

"I couldn't resist the voices" urging him to attack Lindh, Mijailo Mijailovic, a 25-year-old Swede of Yugoslavian descent, told a high-security court near Stockholm's city center. Mijailovic was arrested Sept. 24. Swedish police are priding themselves on bringing rapid closure to a case that reopened the profound self-questioning inspired by Palme's death.

"It was very important that the police found this man," said Henning Mankell, a leading Swedish writer of police thrillers that evoke many of the dark conflicts of Swedish society. "Almost 20 years after Palme was killed, we still did not know who did it," Mankell said.

Mijailovic spoke in even tones after prosecutors used images taken by surveillance cameras to coax his memories of the day he stabbed Lindh.

In a confession made public last week after earlier insisting he was innocent, Mijailovic said he believed the voices in his head had come from Jesus Christ. He said yesterday that the voices spoke in Serbian.

Prosecutors also displayed photographs of the red-handled knife with its slightly bloodied four-inch blade that Mijailovic said he had thrown away as he fled the NK department store after attacking Lindh.

At the time of the killing - just before a referendum in which Sweden rejected the euro single currency against the advice of pro-euro figures, like Lindh - some people questioned whether he had acted for political reasons.

Lindh, a Social Democrat, was one of Sweden's most popular politicians and had been thought of as a potential future prime minister. But under questioning from the chief prosecutor, Krister Petersson, Mijailovic declared yesterday: "I'm not interested in politics. It could have been someone other than Anna Lindh."

Mijailovic's defense lawyer, Peter Althin, demanded that murder charges against his client be withdrawn because Mijailovic had not planned the killing in advance and had not intended to take a life.

Prosecutors insisted the stabbing was premeditated, arguing that the images from the cameras showed Mijailovic stalking Lindh for 14 minutes. Prosecutors also said tests had revealed Mijailovic's DNA on the knife used in the killing and traces of Lindh's blood on his clothes.

If convicted of murder, Mijailovic could receive a life sentence. But his defense lawyer is expected to seek a psychiatric report that could result in his committal to a medical institution rather than prison time.

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