Relatives of the victims of Anders Behring Breivik wept and hugged each other in court yesterday as the Norwegian mass killer described in harrowing detail how he shot dead scores of teenagers who "begged for their lives" as he hunted them down at a Labour Party summer camp on an idyllic fjord island.
Lawyers had warned in advance that day five of Breivik's trial on charges of carrying out Norway's worst acts of violence since the Second World War would be the hardest so far for survivors and relatives of the dead. The far-right killer exceeded their worst expectations. He left out none of the chilling details in his grisly account of the mass slaughter he inflicted on his 69 terrified, mostly teenaged victims at the Utoya summer camp on 22 July last year.
Recalling how he used an automatic pistol and hunting rifle with a telescopic sight to gun down his prey – sometimes at point-blank range – he fell into the present tense when describing the horror he induced as, gun in hand, he walked into a café on the island where a group of terrified teenagers had sought refuge.
"Some of them are completely paralysed. They cannot run. They stand totally still. Two of them are curled up. This is something they never show on TV," Breivik said. "It was very strange." He explained how he had to reload after running out of ammunition: "They were begging for their lives. I just shot them in the head."
Many of the victims' relatives were sitting only a few feet behind the 33-year-old as he described the massacre. His words brought several of them to tears. A father who lost his son closed his eyes and squeezed them shut.
Breivik described how, disguised as a policeman, he took a ferry to the Utoya summer camp some 45 minutes by car from Oslo, after he had detonated a bomb in the centre of the Norwegian capital which killed eight people.
Remembering how he had taken along a supply of drinking water to cope with the "dry throat" he would suffer through stress, he said he was plagued by doubt and feelings of revulsion when confronted by his first two victims, Monic Boesei, a camp organiser, and Trond Berntsen, the island's security guard. "My whole body tried to revolt when I took the weapon in my hand. There were a hundred voices in my head saying 'Don't do it. Don't do it,'' he said. Breivik first shot Mr Berntsen in the head and then opened fire and killed Ms Boesei as she tried to run away.
Breivik said he targeted the teenagers because many of them would be future politicians who espoused the "Marxist multiculturalism" the far-right fanatic so detested. He spent over an hour on the island murdering the remaining 67 victims.
Several were gunned down as they strolled along Utoya's idyllic "Love Path". Others were shot dead in the water as they tried to swim to safety. In most cases the killer used one shot to immobilise his victims and another, aimed at the head, to kill them.
Two psychiatric reports have drawn contradictory conclusions about Breivik's sanity. Judges are expected to rule on the issue at the end of the trial. Their verdict will determine whether he is sent to prison or spends the rest of his life in psychiatric care.
Yesterday Breivik insisted he was not a psychiatric case as one doctor's report found. "I am a very likeable person under normal conditions," he told the court. He said he spent years deliberately dehumanising himself to prepare for the slaughter. "You cannot send an unprepared person into war." he said.
Breivik's testimony was considered too disturbing to be broadcast on Norwegian television. But friends and relatives of those he murdered and those who survived were able to watch the proceedings at 17 courthouses across the country where TV monitors of the Oslo trial had been set up.
Many were clearly devastated by what they saw and heard. "I'm going back to my home town tonight and I live by the sea," said Christin Bjelland, a spokeswoman for the victims' support group. "I have arranged with my husband to drive me out to the sea. I'm going to take a walk there and scream my head off."