Investigators working to link suspect to murder

Saturday, September 27, 2003

STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- A judge on Friday gave investigators two more weeks to gather evidence linking a 24-year-old suspect with a history of mental problems to the stabbing death of Foreign Minister Anna Lindh.

Mijailo Mijailovic, whose youth was marked by family disputes -- including a conviction for attacking his father with a kitchen knife -- was ordered held until Oct. 10 by Judge Goeran Nilsson.

Mijailovic, a Swede of Yugoslav descent, was arrested Wednesday when police raided his family's apartment south of Stockholm. He hasn't been charged in the death of Lindh, who was stabbed in the chest, stomach and arms on Sept. 10 while shopping with a friend at a crowded downtown department store. She died from her injuries a day later.

Mijailovic's lawyer, Peter Althin, said his client was innocent and he was considering whether to appeal the two-week detention order.

"He's been detained, but we are miles away from a conviction in a trial," he said. "He is not guilty until there is a sentence."

Police remained secretive about the investigation, including whether DNA found at the crime scene matched the suspect's.

In Pruzatovac, Serbia-Montenegro, a village 25 miles south of Belgrade, news of the arrest reached Mijailovic's family home, built largely with money that three generations earned as guest workers in Sweden.

"I'm so ashamed, I could just die," said Zivota Mijailovic, 78, as he looked at a photograph of his grandson, who was born in Sweden.

"Swedes were good to us; they gave us jobs, we owe them almost everything we have," added the grandfather, who emigrated from Serbia to Sweden in 1970. He moved back to Serbia in 1996.

According to Swedish court documents obtained by The Associated Press, Mijailovic was convicted of assault, gun possession and making threatening phone calls. He was sentenced to probation after each conviction.

In 1997, he was convicted of assault for stabbing his father repeatedly in the back and behind the ear with a kitchen knife. Mijailovic told the court he wanted to stop an argument between his parents, but couldn't recall the actual attack on his father, who survived.

A psychiatric evaluation in connection with the trial found Mijailovic "in great need of psychiatric and psychotherapeutic efforts," but said there were no medical grounds to sentence him to psychiatric care.

The court said the attack was "triggered by an acute stress situation."

In 1999, Mijailovic was convicted of carrying a loaded gun without a license, but acquitted on extortion charges. He was back in court in 2001, after a woman and her mother accused him of telephone threats to kill and rape them, and throwing rocks at their apartment window. Trial documents said he had violated his parole and "used large amounts of medicine prescribed to another person."

Nilsson ordered another psychiatric evaluation of Mijailovic on Friday.

Police do not believe the attack on Lindh was politically motivated, though it came just three days before Swedes voted to reject replacing the Swedish krona with the euro. Lindh was a leading campaigner for the euro.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Associated Press reporter Misha Savic in Pruzatovac, Serbia-Montenegro, contributed to this report.

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