Danish man to appear in court over bow-and-arrow attack

Attack in Norwegian town of Kongsberg leaves five dead and three injured

 

A Danish man will appear at a custody hearing on Friday morning in connection with Wednesday’s bow-and-arrow attack in Norway that left five dead, three injured and the country in shock at what police have called an “act of terror”.

Police in the southeastern town of Kongsberg said the man charged with the killings, a 37-year-old Danish citizen living locally and named as Espen Andersen Bråthen, was known to them since his conversion to Islam. Friends of the man said he had a history of mental illness.

“We had previously been in contact with him regarding fears linked to radicalisation... we hadn’t any reports about him in 2021 but earlier,” said Ole Bredup, a regional police chief, at a press conference.

He gave details of the 37-minute attack on Wednesday in the town of 28,000 people that claimed the lives of four women and one man, all aged between 50 and 70. The three people wounded, including one off-duty police officer shot in the back, are expected to make a full recovery.

Police say the first emergency call was made on Wednesday at 6.12pm, with a caller reporting seeing a man in a grocery store with a quiver full of arrows on his shoulder and a bow in his hand.

As he shot arrows at passersby, a local woman told Norwegian television that “people ran for their lives”.

Police confronted the man six minutes after the first emergency call but he shot at them with arrows and evaded arrest until 6.47pm, during which time the deaths took place.

When he was finally detained after a 35-minute manhunt involving 22 police units, police discovered a second weapon. They declined to give further details about this. Images from immediately after the attack show arrows sticking out of wooden building facades in the town.

Mental health evaluation

The Danish man’s court-appointed lawyer, Fredrik Neumann, said the suspect was undergoing a mental health evaluation and would appear in court on Friday.

“He is co-operating and is giving detailed statements regarding this event,” said Mr Neumann to Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

He declined to comment on the broadcaster’s claims that the man had confessed to the killings. NRK also claimed the man had previous convictions for burglary and possession of a small quantity of hashish and was the subject of a restraining order.

An unnamed friend of the suspect told NRK the man had a history of mental illness and had threatened to kill a family member last year. “I think he was a ticking time-bomb for several years, he needed help but didn’t get it,” according to the friend.

Local man Thomas Nilsen witnessed the attack, which he first assumed to be a family quarrel.

“Then I heard a scream, the likes of which I have never heard before,” he told NRK. “It was a scream that burned into the soul, I’ll never forget it, it sounded like a death cry.”

Wednesday’s attack has triggered shockwaves across a largely peaceful country of five million that registered just 31 murders last year.

It was the worst such incident since 2011, when a far-right extremist killed 77 people, mostly teenagers, at an island camp resort. The attack overshadowed Thursday’s swearing in of a new centre-left government, which includes two survivors of that attack.

New Labour Party prime minister Jonas Gahr Støre said his thoughts were with the families of victims and “those who live with the shock” of what he called a “cruel and brutal” attack.

Norwegian King Harald, in a letter of condolence to the town’s mayor, wrote: “The rest of the nation stands with you.”