Cold Case Hammarskjöld

In 1961, Secretary General of the UN, Dag Hammarskjöld, died in a plane crash in Northern Rhodesia. He was en route to ceasefire negotiations between non-combatant UN forces and troops from the breakaway state of Katanga. Hammarskjöld was both popular and controversial, believing he could make peace in Africa by giving the continent back to the Africans. The circumstances of the plane crash were always unclear but now the UN are reopening the case on the suspicion of assassination. The question is, who wanted Hammarskjöld dead and can the truth be revealed today?

Dag Hammarskjöld was killed September 18th 1961, when his DC-6 came down near Ndola airport in the British colony Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) as he flew in to peace talks to end fighting in the mineral-rich Katanga province in neighbouring Congo. The UNs’ own inquiry shortly after the crash blamed pilot error. But reports from witnesses and other diplomats have led to widespread accusations of a cover-up. Swedish aid worker Göran Björkdahl, the protagonist in the film, has researched the case for years, and his conclusion, after adding the new witnesses’ statements and the archive information to previously unpublished documents, is, that Hammarskjöld ‘s DC-6 was brought down. The motive was to maintain the Westen control of Katanga minerals. In 1975 Björkdahl’s father visited the spot where Hammarskjöld’s plane crashed. He talked about the crash to a local worker, who offered him a metal plate telling him it was a piece of the crashed DC6. There were five strange holes in it, that looked like bullet holes. Björkdahl’s father told the Swedish authorities about the plate, but they showed no interest. While on a mission to Zambia in 2007 Björkdahl visited Ndola and met an old charcoal burner, who claimed to have seen the crash. His story intrigued Björkdahl and he started to search for other witnesses. He went around asking for people who could have been there in 1961. After three years he ended up with a dozen witnesses – whose stories all match the one told by the charcoal burner, but are contrary to the official inquiry reports. Interviewing the witnesses and reading old documents is a journey back to an era of cold war, a struggle for liberation and fights over mineral fortunes. The secret UN cables between UN headquarters in New York and the UN mission in the Congo proved to be a mine of information. They reveal the growing frustration of Hammarskjöld and his officials over the tactics used by the powerful mining company Union Minière, owned mainly by Belgian, British and American investors, to obstruct and undermine the UN mission in Congo. Fifty years after UN chief Dag Hammarskjöld died, there is a chorus of demands for a new probe into the tragedy that many claim was the work of mercenaries. These demands are generated due to Göran Björkdahl’s impressive investigation into one of the last century’s most sinister, unsolved mysteries.

Production team