Norway massacre survivors return to scene of crime

August 20, 2011 - 8:50 AM
Norway Massacre

Terror-charged Anders Behring Breivik arrives in the back of a police car at the court in Oslo Friday, Aug. 19, 2011. The confessed killer of 77 people in Norway faced a closed-door hearing to determine if he should be kept in isolation, a month after he detonated a bomb and went on a shooting rampage. Anders Behring Breivik has admitted to killing eight people when he exploded a truck bomb outside government offices in Oslo and then shooting dead 69 people at a youth camp on Utoya island nearby. (AP Photo/Scanpix, Thomas Winje Oeijord) NORWAY OUT

UTVIKA, Norway (AP) — Survivors of the massacre of 69 people in Norway last month carried flowers to the site of the killings, shed tears and laughed together Saturday as they remembered the joys of a youth camp that turned into a scene of horror last month.

Norway's criminal police chief said the island was "filled with flowers, candles, pictures, poems and all things the families chose to put down yesterday," after returning from Utoya island which he visited with survivors.

Jon Staale Stamnes told reporters that the survivors had "very different" reactions.

"Some had, of course, traumatic experiences and it's clear to us that it's a really tough time for them," Stamnes said. "But also there's laughter, there's good stories, so there's a total mix and blend of emotions today."

Up to 1,000 survivors and relatives were expected on Utoya, accompanied by police and medical staff, to face the painful memories of the shooting spree by a right-wing extremist.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said he would visit "to take part in their mourning and be there for them (the survivors)."

"I will be there as a friend, as a prime minister," he said.

Anders Behring Breivik has admitted killing 77 people on July 22 when he first detonated a truck bomb outside government offices in the capital, Oslo, and then went on a meticulously planned shooting spree on the island, some 25 miles (40 kilometers) away.

Breivik denies criminal guilt because he believes the massacre was necessary to save Norway and Europe. He said the attacks were an attempt at cultural revolution, aimed at purging Europe of Muslims and punishing politicians that have embraced multiculturalism.

On Friday, the Oslo District Court extended Breivik's isolation detention by another four weeks saying it still does not know if he acted alone.

Police said they wanted to keep Breivik in isolation because they didn't want him to talk to other inmates, although they still believe he planned and committed the attacks on his own.

Breivik's case is not expected in court until next year. If found guilty on terrorism charges, he could be sentenced to 21 years in prison. An alternative custody arrangement — if he is still considered a danger to the public — could keep him behind bars indefinitely.

Near Utoya, ferries and a pontoon shuttled survivors, in bright orange life vests, to the forested island used by the ruling Labor Party for political functions, camping and celebrations.

Media were not allowed access to the heavily guarded island where Breivik spent 90 minutes executing the 69 people. Many of the victims were shot in the water as they tried to escape by swimming.

Norway's General Director of Health Bjoern Inge Larsen said he hoped the visits would help survivors and families of the victims come to grips with the deaths.

"The people going there today ... have a lot of anxiety," Larsen said. "They were life-threatened on this island four weeks ago in a very traumatizing manner, so what we are prepared for is to help them to overcome that anxiety."

Per Brekke, logistics chief of the operation, that included 400 health care workers, police and other officials, said planning the visits had been a big challenge.

"But, of course, the challenge for each individual to re-enter the island is much bigger," he said.

Families and friends of the victims killed in the shooting spree visited Utoya on Friday.

On Sunday, a national memorial service is to be held at Oslo Spektrum arena, marking the end of a month of mourning in the Scandinavian country.