NORWEGIAN police have defended their response to the massacre on Utoya island on Friday, as it emerged it took them more than an hour to reach the scene.
Despite being informed at 5.26pm that a gunman was killing scores of people indiscriminately on the small island, just 40 kilometres from Oslo, police did not reach killer Anders Behring Breivik until 6.27pm.
Police defended the delay, claiming they did not have quick access to a helicopter and that police helicopters are only useful for observation and not for transporting groups of officers.
The police also admitted to a sizeable delay as they tried to find a boat to take them to the island. When a boat was found, it proved too small and began to take on water when loaded with people and equipment. As a result, they decided to wait for a special unit from Oslo.
While these delays were occurring, Breivik was continuing his rampage several hundreds yards offshore. He surrendered immediately when police finally reached him, but not before he had killed 86 people. Police said Breivik still had a lot of ammunition left when he surrendered. A further seven people were killed in an earlier bomb blast in downtown Oslo.
The chief surgeon at a hospital treating victims said the killer used dum-dum bullets designed to disintegrate inside the body and cause maximum internal damage.
Authorities also revealed that one of the attacker’s first victims on the island was an off-duty police officer who had been hired by the camp directors to provide private security in his spare time.
Norway’s King Harald V, his wife, Queen Sonja, and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg joined mourners at Oslo Cathedral yesterday. The king and queen both wiped tears from their eyes during the service for “sorrow and hope”.
Buildings around the capital lowered their flags to half-mast and people streamed to the cathedral to light candles and lay flowers.
Mr Stoltenberg called the tragedy peacetime Norway’s deadliest day. “This is beyond comprehension. It’s a nightmare. It’s a nightmare for those who have been killed, for their mothers and fathers, family and friends,” he said.
Police were yesterday investigating the background of Breivik, who has been charged with terrorism following the blast and gun attack. He is understood to have acted alone.
Asked if they were exploring reports of Breivik’s links to British extremist groups, a police spokesman said they were checking “everything he might have been associated with”.
Reports suggested that Breivik had connections and sympathies with the right-wing English Defence League (EDL). The EDL denied he had any links with it and said it “vehemently” opposed his actions. The Nordic Defence League also distanced itself from the killings.
Breivik’s lawyer, Geir Lippestad, told Norwegian media his client felt the killings were “necessary”.
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