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The New York Times
By ALAN COWELL
Published: January 14, 2004
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Jan. 14 – On the first day of his trial, the confessed killer of Anna Lindh, Sweden’s foreign minister, denied today that he had intended to kill her but said he could not ignore voices in his head telling him to attack.
Ms. Lindh, 46, died of multiple stab wounds one day after she was attacked in a Stockholm department store while she was shopping last Sept. 10. She had no bodyguard with her at the time and her death stunned a nation that never quite 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 Ms. Lindh, Mijailo Mijailovic, a 25-year-old Swede of Yugoslavian descent, told a subterranean high-security court near Stockholm’s city center. Mr. Mijailovic was arrested last Sept. 24. Swedish police are priding themselves on bringing rapid closure to a case that re-opened the profound self-questioning inspired by Mr. 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,” Mr. Mankell said in a telephone interview.
Clad in black sweatshirt and track-suit pants, Mr. Mijailovic, sat on the front bench of a brightly lighted courtroom, sometimes fidgeting but speaking in even and unemotional tones after prosecutors used images taken by surveillance cameras to coax his memories of the day he stabbed Ms. Lindh.
In a confession made public last week after earlier insisting that he was innocent, Mr. Mijailovic said he believed the voices in his head had come from Jesus Christ. He said today the voices had spoken in Serbian.
Prosecutors also displayed photographs of the red-handled knife with its slightly bloodied four-inch blade that Mr. Mijailovic said he had thrown away as he fled the NK department store after attacking Ms. 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 Ms. Lindh – some people questioned whether he had acted for political reasons.
Ms. 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, Mr. Mijailovic declared today: “I’m not interested in politics. It could have been someone other than Anna Lindh.”
Mr. Mijailovic’s defense lawyer, Peter Althin, demanded that murder charges against his client be withdrawn because Mr. Mijailovic had not planned the killing in advance and had not intended to take a life. “There was no political motive and no intent to kill,” Mr. Althin said.
“Did the voices say anything about killing?” Mr. Althin asked Mr. Mijailovic.
“No,” he replied.
The images from surveillance cameras showed Mr. Mijailovic wearing olive trousers, a light gray hooded top and a navy blue baseball cap as he criss-crossed the atrium of the department store.
The images did not show the attack itself.
Prosecutors insisted that the stabbing was premeditated, arguing that the images from surveillance cameras showed Mr. Mijailovic stalking Ms. Lindh for 14 minutes. Prosecutors also said that tests had revealed Mr. Mijailovic’s DNA on the knife used in the killing and traces of Ms. Lindh’s blood on his clothes.
Mr. Mijailovic insisted that he had not been following Ms. Lindh and had seen her only by accident. “I was on my way out but I took a wrong turn,” he said. “I saw Anna Lindh. Then the voices came.”
Mr. Mijailovic said he was carrying the knife – a well-known and widely available brand in Sweden – because he was feeling anxious and tired. Mr. Althin, his defense lawyer, said Mr. Mijailovic had been using anti-depressants that may have been wrongly prescribed.