In rural town, Norway attacker seemed city loner

2011-07-25 09:19

Rena, Norway – A right-wing zealot who has confessed to killing 93 people in Norway seemed a polite “city man” out of place in a small rural town where he leased a ­­hide-away farm to plot his attacks.

“He said he was a farmer,” said Trine Stetten, a 22-year-old hairdresser, who had stood next to Anders Behring Breivik while her partner in a local salon clipped his hair a month or so ago.
“He had a PC bag with him and nice clothes ... we thought it was really weird that he was a farmer,” she said.

Breivik, the 32-year-old Norwegian who has admitted to shooting dead 86 people and planting a bomb that killed seven others on Friday, leased a farm in the municipality of Rena, about 160 kilometres north of Oslo, this spring.

In the small town, he brushed elbows with locals, including at a pub called the Cuckoo’s Nest frequented by soldiers from the elite Telemark Battalion whose 2?000-strong base is in Rena.

Breivik said in a May 12 entry in his Internet-posted diary: “It’s quite ironic being situated practically on top of the largest military base in the country. It would have saved me a lot of hassle if I could just ‘borrow’ a cup of sugar and 3kg of C4 (explosive) from my dear neighbour.”

People in Rena said he could not help but stand out.

“He asked for a receipt and paid with cards – nobody here asks for a receipt for a beer, and we just throw them away,” said Hanne Skavern, 20, who works at the pub and some days at a petrol station.

Wrong words
Svein Meldieseth, a burly 61-year farmer who made a deal with Breivik this spring to cut and buy the hay that grows at the leased farm in the village of Aasta, said Breivik appeared to be a “city man.”

“He told me I could ‘clip’ it – we say ‘cut’ in farming, so that tells a little about what he knew about farming,” Meldieseth said.

Lasse Nordlie, owner of the Gjoekeredet Pub – the Norwegian word for Cuckoo’s Nest, a reference to a film starring Jack Nicholson as a patient in a psychiatric hospital – said he did not remember seeing Breivik but said Rena was the perfect place for someone who wanted to avoid attention.

“It’s easy to get under the radar here, and there’s no view of the farm from the road,” said Nordlie, age 34.

Rena residents who talked to Reuters said they had only ever seen Breivik alone. He has told police he carried out the attacks alone.

On a good Saturday night, Nordlie said, 150-200 soldiers from the Rena Camp drink at his pub, whose wall bears a banner from the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan and dance in the basement disco dubbed the Psych Ward Nightclub.

The bartenders in the nightclub, which is decorated with photographs Nordlie took at the abandoned Lier psychiatric hospital near Drammen, wear white doctor’s coats.

“I am going to have to lie low with this psychiatric ward stuff for a while, maybe keep the disco shut for a while,” Nordlie said.

Down the Rena main street from the Cuckoo’s Nest, Breivik dined at the Milano Rena Restaurante five or six times, the two Turkish owners said.

“He sat with his hands-free (mobile phone earpiece) and wrote in a notebook,” said Eyup Ali Aykut, adding he never heard Breivik talking to anyone on the phone.

“He ate shrimp as a starter, beef a la Rena and apple pie for desert. He drank soft drinks – a cola.”

“He was exceedingly nice,” said Bilal Guclu, co-proprietor of the restaurant, which shares a two-storey white building with the local police department.

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