The bow and arrow ‘terrorist’ who killed five people in Norway has been sent for psychological evaluation ahead of his first court appearance today.
Espen Andersen Bråthen, 37, was handed over to the Norwegian health services early on Friday, police told local media, ahead of a 9am court appearance to decide where and for how long he will be locked up while the investigation continues.
It came as childhood friends spoke out about him – describing him as a normal child who developed mental health problems in his teens, disconnected from society, and then became a ‘ticking time bomb’.
One man, who reported Bråthen to police over a 2017 YouTube video in which he spoke of converting to Islam, says he knew immediately after hearing news of the attack who the perpetrator would be.
‘He has been mentally ill for many years,’ the man told Norwegian media.
Meanwhile Oussama Tlili, imam of the mosque in Kongsberg where Bråthen lived and carried out his attack, confirmed that he had visited three times about four or five years ago but ‘seemed to know nothing about Islam.’
Espen Andersen Bråthen, 37, is due in court today after Norway bow massacre that killed five as police said he has been sent to health services for a psychological evaluation
Bråthen has admitted to being the one who attacked the town of Kongsberg with a bow and arrow late Wednesday, killing five (pictured, the scene of one of the murders)
Police say Bråthen opened fire on locals and officer with a bow and arrow, then switched to a second – as-yet unidentified weapon – which he used to kill an artist at this studio
Tili says Bråthen spoke incoherently about ‘a message’ he had been passed by some higher power, saying he needed help to deliver it.
‘I explained to him that I could not help him with that,’ he told Norwegian broadcaster NRK. ‘I said that Kongsberg is not the place to do it.’
Tlili said he had concerns about Bråthen’s mental health and thought about telling the police, but he quickly stopped coming to mosque so the incident was forgotten.
Hanne Englund has been named locally as one of the five people murdered by the Norwegian bow and arrow killer during his horrific ‘terror’ rampage
Four friends who knew Bråthen throughout his childhood and into his teenage years also spoke to local outlet VG, saying he was a normal child who liked to play football.
In primary school he was a popular child, and was even ‘coveted’ by women as he started getting older.
But he also developed a ‘wild’ side and became impulsive, friends said – on one occasion breaking into school through a reinforced glass window that smashed – cutting his hand and leaving him covered in blood.
The impulsive behaviour got worse as he entered his teenage years, friends added, and became particularly acute when he was 17 or 18.
Having left school, Bråthen was by this time working a ‘promising’ apprenticeship at a local restaurant.
But his mental health issues caused him to drop out, a friend said, and after that he struggled to hold down even ‘small’ jobs.
It was previously reported that Bråthen has not held meaningful employment since the early 2000s.
After dropping out of work, Bråthen ‘withdrew’ from society – spending almost all of his time alone at home where his behaviour became ever-more alarming.
According to neighbours, he amassed a collection of weapons – including ‘clubs stick and batons’ – that he could be seen practising with in the garden.
Court documents show he also started running into trouble with the law, amassing convictions for aggravated theft and drug possession.
He also started harassing his parents, with a Danish relative telling local journalists that they ended up ‘living in terror’ of their own child.
Kongsberg residents gathered and placed tributes in the town centre this evening after five people were killed and three more injured in a bow and arrows rampage in the town yesterday
Police say they have arrested a 37-year-old Danish man, who has admitted being the attacker. They say he is a convert to Islam and had been flagged for radicalism (pictured, arrows in a wall near the scene)
Police say the suspect was known to officers for ‘several different issues’ and had also ‘been in contact with… the health service several times’ (pictured, arrows at the scene of the attack)
‘They have fled to the neighbors several times and have called the police when he has passed by, and they almost locked themselves in for fear that he would pass by.
‘In the end, the mother had to run away,’ the relative told Danish newspaper BT.
Then, in 2017, Bråthen’s one remaining friend broke ties with him when he spotted the YouTube video in which he spoke of converting to Islam.
He reported Bråthen to police, describing him to officers as a ‘ticking time bomb’, and warned them he was potentially dangerous.
Looking back now, he says he does not believe Bråthen’s conversion to Islam was sincere, and was likely just a symptom of his deteriorating mental health.
He told TV2 that Bråthen was ‘confused’ when it came to ideology and that it was ‘coincidental’ that he chose Islam.
Never-the-less, police have described Bråthen as a ‘radicalised’ Muslim and say his attack ‘appears to be an act of terror’.
It remains to be seen whether he will be charged with terrorism offences.
Police say he has admitted to the killings, but has not yet been formally charged or entered an official plea. The court hearing later today will decide custody arrangements for Bråthen while the case is investigated further.
Friends said Bråthen had almost completely withdrawn from society in recent years, spending most of his time alone at this address before launching his attack
The attack began at a Coop Extra supermarket on the west side of Kongsberg at 6.13pm as the man opened fire with a bow and arrow, then walked through the streets apparently firing at random. It ended half an hour later and 400 yards away as police confronted the man after he crossed the Numedalslågen river
Kongsberg is a small town in southern Norway that straddles the Numedalslågen river with a population of about 26,000. It is known as the home of the Royal Norwegian Mint, houses the headquarters of a major arms manufacturer, and serves as a satellite campus for the University of South-Eastern Norway