Man accused of killing Anna Lindh confesses

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The Independent Online

The man accused of murdering the Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh four months ago has confessed, his defence lawyer said yesterday.

Mijailo Mijailovic 25, had no political motive. "He told us he attacked Anna Lindh and inflicted the wounds that led to her death" Peter Althin said. "There was no political motive whatsoever and no planning".

The confession clears the way for formal charges to be filed as early as Monday, in which case a trial would open the following week. It also offers Swedes the prospect of "closure" after a killing that traumatised their nation and sent shockwaves around Europe.

The 46-year-old mother of two young children was one of the most popular politicians of her generation. She was tipped as a future prime minister and was a high-profile figure in European Union circles. She was stabbed several times in the stomach while she browsed the designer clothing rails of NK, Stockholm's most exclusive department store.

Since Mr Mijailovic was arrested on 24 September, he has denied any involvement in the attack. But prosecutors believe the confession and the forensic evidence gathered after the attack means they will now be able to secure a swift conviction. The chief prosecutor, Agneta Blidberg, said: "I had counted on a confession at some time." She also said that investigators had successfully linked DNA traces found on the knife used to stab Ms Lindh and on Mr Mijailovic's clothes.

Ms Lindh's death came just four days before Swedes were to vote on euro membership. Her picture urging voters to back the single currency was on posters throughout the nation when she was attacked. They voted no.

Asked if the attack was a random act, Mr Althin replied: "You could say that." In fact, prosecutors discounted the political slaying theory soon after the arrest when the suspect, who has a history of psychiatric problems, demanded to have Tom Cruise, the Hollywood actor, present at his trial.

Yesterday, as news of the confession broke, Swedish media began showing previously unaired images of the suspect caught on CCTV as he left the store on one of the busiest streets in the capital.

Born in Sweden to Serb immigrants Mr Mijailovic has previous convictions for violence. Thomas Bodstroen, the Justice Minister, said the confession would reassure Swedes that police had got the right man. "If the suspect had been sentenced without confessing, this could have led to years of speculation about whether the right person was sentenced," he said.

But the government still faces uncomfortable questions. Why did police arrest a different man initially, whose identity was made available to the media? He was released when Mr Mijailovic was arrested. And why was Mr Mijailovic, convicted in 1997 for stabbing his father with a kitchen knife, and for threatening women, allowed to live freely in the community?

If convicted, he faces a sentence of between 10 years and life in jail but could be confined to a psychiatric institution.

Ms Lindh's murder on 10 September dredged up painful memories for Swedes of the 1986 assassination of Olof Palme, the then Prime Minister, which remains unsolved. Like Mr Palme, Ms Lindh had no bodyguards and the killing raised questions about the openness and accessibility politicians in Sweden are expected to observe.