Obituary: Ebbe Carlsson

BJORN KUMM is right to draw attention to the attempt to ostracise Ebbe Carlsson by drawing attention to his homosexuality, but indignation is too mild a word for Ebbe's rage, writes Richard Dowden (further to the obituary, 4 August). He was hurt by the whispering campaign about his sexuality, something he was open but dignified about, and he felt it went against the tolerance that he believed Sweden stood for. His attempt to find out who killed his friend and boss Olof Palme, and the uncomfortable theories he held about the murder, did lead to his ostracism.

When I first met Ebbe in 1983 he was at the heart of Swedish political life, Palme's personal assistant and confidant. He was an anomaly, an admirer of Margaret Thatcher in Sweden's socialist party, but his charm, humour and un-Swedish informality made him many friends. When I last saw him he felt squeezed out by the Swedish establishment partly because of his, by then publicly acknowledged, homosexuality, and partly because of the ineptitude of the secret police which he believed amounted to complicity in Palme's murder. By then the subject had become almost an obsession with Ebbe, who was usually so light-hearted and sceptical. He walked me to the place where Palme had died and demonstrated that it could not have been a sudden random attack but a carefully planned assassination.

Ebbe Carlsson's death should once again focus on the still unexplained mystery of who killed Palme and why. Ebbe's theory was that it was carried out by members of the Kurdish PKK organisation at the instigation of Iran. Iran wanted him dead because Tehran believed that the Swedish arms manufacturer Bofors was selling weapons to Iraq. Ebbe said he had overheard the parting remarks of Palme to the Iranian ambassador at a meeting just before he was killed, in which Palme had said he would do everything in his power to stop it. Ebbe did not know what 'it' was but in retrospect believed it was UN sanction-busting arms sales to Iraq by Bofors which Palme knew nothing of. Ebbe also pointed out that the other two people who may have known about the sales, the head of the Swedish arms sales office and a senior executive of Bofors, also died in mysterious circumstances.

It was the failure of the Swedish police to investigate this theory or even to investigate properly the PKK in Sweden which made Ebbe believe in a conspiracy. After his own arrest and disgrace he was hurt and angry but he was not paranoid. He was also committed to finding out who killed Palme - an important, interesting and not unworthy cause.

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