Suspect arrested in hunt for killer of Swedish minister

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The Independent Online

Police in Sweden have arrested a man suspected of killing Anna Lindh, the country's Foreign Minister.

The suspect was not identified but was believed to be the man in khaki combat trousers and a grey Nike top whose picture ­ taken from a closed circuit video in the NK depart- ment store where Ms Lindh was attacked ­ has been widely publicised in the media. The arrest was made last night at a restaurant in Solna, a suburb three miles north of the centre of Stockholm.

A source close to the investigation said the suspect was understood to be aged 35 and possibly linked to the Nordic extreme right wing ­ a profile that would, if confirmed, provide a potential motive for Wednesday's stabbing, given that Ms Lindh was popular among immigrants. Ms Lindh died in hospital on Thursday.

There was speculation earlier yesterday that the hunt had spread to Finland after unconfirmed reports that the man's Finnish-born girlfriend had been questioned and investigators disclosed that they were checking closed-circuit film from Baltic ferry companies.

Last night's arrest came amid mounting criticism of the investigation. Swedes have been surprised that in a country of only nine million people no one had come forward with a useful tip. The suspect pictured in the store is white, slim and has shoulder-length brown hair and sideburns. He was wearing a blue baseball cap, which police found in a dustbin after the attack. Forensic scientists said DNA taken from the cap did not match anyone on the police register of 2,500 convicted criminals or DNA taken from 8,000 crime scenes.

Leif Jennekvist, the chief police investigator, said the suspect could be a recluse but he was surprised that no member of the public had positively identified him. "He could be from another country or simply have a very limited social circle," said Mr Jennekvist.

Police have reconstructed the attack, which took place at about 4.20pm on Wednesday when Ms Lindh was in a first-floor womenswear shop with a friend, but have failed to gain a clear picture of the murderer's route before or after the crime. The video image of the prime suspect was taken in the second floor sports department of the store about three minutes before Ms Lindh was stabbed.

Initial reports that the knifeman chased Ms Lindh and her friend up the escalator from street level appear to be inaccurate. NK's shop floors are constructed as galleries around a central open space, so he could have watched her from the second floor before the attack.

Police have been widely criticised for being hasty in their scientific search of the murder scene; the day after the attack, the first floor was open as usual and mourners were able to lay flowers at the spot where Ms Lindh was stabbed.

There are also reports that police overtime restrictions came into force as usual on the day of the fatal attack.

Ms Lindh is to be buried later this week at a private ceremony. A memorial service to which the Swedish King and international dignitaries have been invited takes place on Friday.