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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 September, 2003, 09:43 GMT 10:43 UK
Stockholm in shock and sorrow
By Lars Bevanger
BBC, Stockholm

Poster showing Anna Lindh
Anna Lindh was the main face of Sweden's Yes-to-the-euro campaign
Grey skies were hanging low over the Swedish capital when people here awoke on Thursday waiting for news of Foreign Minister Anna Lindh.

She had been on the operating table at the Karolinska hospital since late afternoon the day before, after being stabbed while shopping at a department store in central Stockholm.

Then, a few minutes after 0900 local time (0700 GMT), his voice cracking, a clearly shaken Prime Minister Goran Persson told a televised news conference that Anna Lindh had passed away soon after 0500 in the morning.

"It feels unreal, it is very hard to understand," he said.

How meaningless, deeply tragic - it is so terribly unnecessary
Kent Eric Johannison
The flags on the parliament building were then lowered to half mast, and those here who had not been watching Mr Persson on television, or listening to him on radio, realised that what they had feared had really happened.

People started gathering outside the department store where the attack occurred to lay red roses in memory of Anna Lindh.

'Sympathy'

The scene was a terrible mirror image for everyone here of the red roses laid for then Prime Minister Olof Palme, shot dead in 1986 just a bit further up the road.

Man signs poster with words 'we are thinking of you'
People have been writing tributes on a poster at the hospital
One of those who had come to lay flowers today, with her young child in a push chair, was Ann Eentele.

"I have a little child myself and I think of her children," she said. "It's awful. I want to show my sympathy with the family."

Anna Lindh leaves two children and a husband.

Kent Eric Johannison was also outside the department store watching the scene from his bicycle. I asked him what he felt when he heard she had died.

He had not heard the news, and started crying.

"It's terrible, I thought she was going to make it. How meaningless, deeply tragic. It is so terribly unnecessary," he said.

An investment adviser, Peter Bahrke, said: "It was a total shock. It was a flashback to Olof Palme. Everybody said it would never happen again, and now it has."

Campaign face

Outside the Karolinska hospital, people were also laying flowers. Some of them had held a vigil there all night, and more arrived when the news about Anna Lindh's demise became known.

Young people at the Karolinska hospital
People held all-night vigils at the hospital
Someone had turned an election poster for the Euro referendum around and written on it: "We are thinking of you Anna Lindh".

Elsewhere, people were travelling into work passing Anna Lindh's smiling image on every street and every square.

She was the main face of the Yes-to-the-euro campaign, and the posters will stay, even though the campaign itself has been halted.

The media and politicians here all talk about an attack on democracy, and an attack on Sweden's open society.

Anna Lindh had been one of Sweden's most accessible politicians. She did not have a bodyguard. That kind of democratic openness has now been put under threat.




WATCH AND LISTEN
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw pays tribute to his colleague



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