Hans Holmér

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Hans Gillis Åke Holmér (28 December 1930 – 4 October 2002), Chief of the Swedish National Security Service (SÄPO) and later Chief constable of Stockholm county police police force ("länspolismästare" in Swedish). He became well known during his tenure, spanning barely a year, as Chief of the special investigation unit into the assassination of the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme (1986-87). Holmér was commonly associated with the Swedish Social Democratic Party and was known to have good connections within its top ranks.

After the assassination of Palme, Hans Holmér, then the Chief constable of Stockholm county police , personally took charge of the investigations (and without actually being designated as such, which would lead to later accusations of a breach in operative routines).

Holmér assumed that the murder was of a political nature, but not related to the domestic political scene. No analysis was ever made of whether the deceased PM's political positions could have created motives to kill him, either from within the Swedish political scene or on the part of foreign governments or secret agencies. Instead Holmér opted to look for the assassins within certain immigrant groups living in Sweden, notably the Kurds. A Palme task force with a special Palme office were set up. Holmér particularly focused on the assumption that the Kurdish liberation movement PKK might have been behind the assassination. In the fall of 1986, a great number of search warrants were issued in order to follow the activities of a number of Kurds living in Sweden. Many people with presumed PKK connections were arrested - only to be released shortly afterwards due to lack of solid evidence.

During press briefings up to this point, Holmér had insisted, with considerable panache, that the investigations were making steady progress and that, before too long, the crime would be solved. After the raid on the Kurds, things backfired. Although the hunt suddenly turned into failure, Holmér demanded further investigations along the same lines. This rapidly created a rupture between Holmér and the prosecutors who were critical of him for not respecting the demands of the law in making searches and arrests (they were also getting support from the media, now turning against the mesmerizing police chief). At this point, Holmér resigned from the investigations (February 1987). He would continue to follow the Kurd track, though, outside of the formal police inquiry, resulting, in 1988, in the sensational Ebbe Carlsson affair.

Holmér spent the remainder of his life writing crime novels; he was also appointed to a UN-related police job in Vienna, overseeing the countering of drug trafficking. In one of his books, Olof Palme är skjuten! ("Olof Palme has been shot!"), Holmér describes his experiences leading the special investigation unit and goes on to blame the prosecution for the failure of the investigation. Holmér, on the other hand, has been strongly criticized by later commissions looking into the conduct of the investigations and also by journalists and independent investigators, owing to his singleminded pursuit of the Kurds track, the neglect of other leads, as well as for his use of phantom images of the suspected killer and his insistence that Palme was shot with a Smith & Wesson .357 gun (brandishing that model during an early press briefing) which is considered to have locked the investigations of possible weapons onto that model only for many years after.

Fringe conspiracy theorists have occasionally claimed that Holmér had engaged in deception about his movements on the night of the assassination - the generally accepted view is that he got the news in the morning, hundreds of miles out of Stockholm, having driven up to Dalarna to take part in the cross-country skiing race, Vasaloppet, and then got into his car and turned back towards Stockholm at high speed. These theorists hint, without evidence, that he, with other policemen, were involved in the murder plot.

The Chief of the Secret Police in Terroristerna (1975; "The Terrorists") by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, the final book in the Martin Beck mystery series, is modelled on Holmér; though the character remains nameless, references to his pronounced ears and the contempt in which he is held by many people on the political left (referring to the aftermath of the IB affair) give it away. Ironically, due to an oversight by one of the other police bureaucrats in the book, Olof Palme is killed by a completely inexperienced young girl, acting in desperate protest. Holmér, of course, would go on to lead the investigation after the actual Palme assassination a decade later.


  • Hans Holmér, Olof Palme är skjuten!, Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand, 1988. ISBN 91-46-15682-8