From 'boy next door' to mass killer

2012-04-16 10:41
Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik appears in court to face terrorism and premeditated murder charges. (Frank Augstein, AP)

Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik appears in court to face terrorism and premeditated murder charges. (Frank Augstein, AP)

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Oslo - Anders Behring Breivik came across as your average guy but behind his courteous exterior lurked one of history's most gruesome killers, fuelled by a hatred of multiculturalism and Islam.

Tall, blond and with piercing blue eyes, the 33-year-old rightwing extremist has confessed to killing 77 people on 22 July 22 2011, when he gunned down youths attending a Labour party camp after setting off a bomb outside the government offices in Oslo.

The massacre was "a preventive attack against state traitors" guilty of "ethnic cleansing" due to their support for a multicultural society, Breivik told a court hearing in February.

His trial opens in Oslo on Monday.

Born on 13 February 1979 in tranquil and affluent Norway, Breivik grew up without anyone around him suspecting what would one day unfold.

He has said he had an unremarkable childhood, with a diplomat father and a nurse mother who divorced when he was just one year old.

Contact adverse child

"I have had a privileged upbringing with responsible and intelligent people around me," he wrote in a 1 500-page manifesto he published just before the massacre.

Raised by his mother in a middle-class family, he said he never had financial problems and has only one gripe: "I had way too much freedom though if anything."

But from a young age, child welfare services were concerned that he may not have been receiving proper care.

"Anders has become a contact adverse, somewhat anxious, passive child... with a feigned, disarming smile," a psychologist wrote when he was just 4-years-old.

"Ideally he should be placed with a stable foster family," the expert wrote in a report revealed by Norwegian media.

But that never happened. Around the same time, Anders' father failed in his bid to obtain custody of his son.

Cut off from father


After this episode, Anders Behring Breivik appeared to have a typical childhood with no major problems.

"When he was younger, he was an ordinary boy but not very communicative. He was not interested in politics at the time," his father told Norwegian media.

The diplomat cut off all contact with his son when he was around 15-years-old, supposedly when Anders, during a hip-hop phase, was caught drawing graffiti tags.

His old friends describe him as a discreet person, who sometimes had a hard time finding his place in the world - not at all the natural leader he presents himself to be.

He quit high school at age 18 without getting his diploma, supposedly to undertake a career in politics.

In 1999 he joined the populist right-wing, anti-immigration Progress Party and was active with its local youth branch.

Laid back

He left the party in 2006, writing later on an internet forum that he felt the party was too open to "multicultural demands" and "the suicidal ideas of humanism".

While his criticism of Islam, multiculturalism and Marxism are all over the internet Breivik considered himself "a laid-back type and quite tolerant on most issues".

"Due to the fact that I have been exposed to decades of multicultural indoctrination I feel a need to emphasise that I am not in fact a racist and never have been," he wrote.

"Being a skinhead was never an option for me. Their dress codes and taste of music was unappealing and I thought they were too extreme," he wrote, adding that he had "dozens of non-Norwegian friends during my younger years".

On his Facebook profile, Breivik describes himself as "conservative", "Christian", and interested in hunting and video games like World of Warcraft and Modern Warfare 2, which, he later revealed, he used to train for his deadly rampage.

On 22 July last year, he spent more than an hour methodically killing 69 people, most of them adolescents, on the island of Utoya, in what is believed to be the deadliest shooting ever carried out by a single person.

Knight Templar


Shortly before the island massacre, he killed eight people when he blew up a bomb in a van parked in the government block in Oslo.

He called his actions "cruel but necessary", a plan he apparently spent years plotting and carried out alone.

Last week, his lawyer Geir Lippestad said Breivik would during his trial "not only defend [his actions] but will also lament, I think, not going further."

According to his manifesto, Breivik began his ideological crusade in 2002 as part of the "Knights Templar" - an organisation whose existence police have never been able to confirm.

He put his plan into action in late 2009, preparing in minute detail the bloodiest attack on Norwegian soil since World War II, making sure to arouse no suspicions.

He became a textbook example of the "lone wolf" who lived a reclusive life in an apartment with his mother before renting a farm, a move that enabled him to acquire the fertilisers he needed to build his bomb.

Criminally insane


"For me he just looked like your average guy. He could easily go unnoticed," a neighbour said. "A well-kept Norwegian that no one would suspect."

A first psychiatric examination carried out last year found him to be suffering from "paranoid schizophrenia" and criminally insane, a diagnosis that meant he would in all likelihood be sentenced to a closed psychiatric ward.

But a second opinion published earlier this month found him to be sane, paving the way for a possible prison sentence.

Breivik himself has said being sent to a psychiatric ward would be "worse than death", and wanted to be declared sane so as not to damage the political message presented in his manifesto, according to his lawyers.

Read more on:    anders behring breivik  |  norway  |  norway attacks

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