Page last updated at 11:00 GMT, Saturday, 30 July 2011 12:00 UK

Norway shooting: 'The Anders Breivik I knew'

Anders Breivik with unidentified classmates
As a schoolboy, Anders Breivik betrayed no signs that he would go on to be a mass murderer

Anders Breivik has admitted killing 77 people in two attacks in Norway. Peter Svaar from Norway's broadcaster NRK was one of the first reporters at the scene of the Oslo bomb blast, and describes finding out that it was a former classmate who carried out the attacks.

It was my last day at work before the summer holiday, and I had been planning to leave the office early.

Plumes of black smoke rose from the trade ministry, and in the street there were several dead and injured.

Anders Breivik
Breivik was often well turned out

As we stood there, we heard news of shooting at the Labour Party summer camp at Utoeya. I first dismissed it as a rumour, but it was not.

At 10 o'clock that night I finally headed home, on foot, as all of central Oslo had by now been sealed off by the police.

Just a block away from my apartment there were shattered shop windows, and an eerie, ghostly silence.

Back home, I got a message from a friend.

"This is him," he said. "This is the guy. The guy they just arrested at the summer camp."

There was a link, to a Facebook page. Three to four pictures, clearly professionally taken, shot in a studio. Almost like a press kit.

They were pictures of a guy I knew.

Pictures of a guy whose name many people will not even speak out any more, as they do not want to contribute to his fame.

Anders Behring Breivik was a friend of mine. He was my classmate for four years.

I have never felt the kind of rage or hate he must have had inside him

We went to secondary school and the first part of the college together, and grew up on the same side of Oslo.

I saw him most days during those years, we went on school excursions together, and occasionally, we would see each other at weekends.

At first I could not really believe it was true.

Was he really the blond-haired attacker at Utoeya, the guy who just killed so many people, youngsters?

The man who had toyed with them, telling them they were safe, urging them to come closer, before he shot them dead, point blank, with a machine-gun.

Was that my friend, my schoolmate? It was. And he did that.

He was a man not all that different from me. We were the same age, we went to the same schools.

Neither of us has lacked anything materially or been the victim of any major social injustice in this country's wide-ranging welfare state.

Of course, I have never spent years in front of my computer researching bomb recipes or far-right websites.

Flowers left near Utoeya
Peter Svaar had been on the island shortly before Breivik

And, more importantly, I have never felt the kind of rage or hate he must have had inside him.

I still cannot understand the source of all that hate.

Most people think of him now as a monster.

I still remember his smile and his jokes.

I remember how Anders would sometimes come up to you from behind, and jokingly yell "Kra!" in your ear - just for a good-hearted scare.

It was his signature greeting in the school yard back then.


I also remember his increasing fixation with weightlifting and hip-hop, and how he always kept himself very well presented.

Towards the end of our school days together, I knew he was taking steroids to grow more muscle. But he was not a complete loner, or a person you could not hang out with.

Basically, he was not that much out of the ordinary.

Our paths almost crossed not just once but twice last week.

Unfortunately, I do not think he is crazy - rather, he is cold, intelligent and calculating

The first time was in central Oslo, where I assume he left some minutes or perhaps an hour before I arrived - him setting off the bomb, and me arriving a while later to report on it.

Our paths almost crossed on Utoeya. I was also there, only this time before him.

On Thursday morning, the day before the attack, I waited patiently for the ferry to take us over with the minister of foreign affairs, Jonas Gahr Store, who was going there to give a speech.

Known simply as Jonas on the island, he arrived in his black Mercedes, alone, with no security detail, no assistants, no press secretary, nothing.

It was just him and his driver, who stayed with the car.

Jonas had dressed casually in jeans and a sweatshirt, and made small-talk on the short ferry ride over.

As we arrived on the island, I sat down on the grass in front of a small red wooden hut, and with several hundred other campers listened to Gahr Store making a short speech about the hunger crisis in east Africa and the prospects for Palestinian statehood.

Afterwards, he changed into a football kit and joined in a friendly match - which his team subsequently lost.

Many of the other players in that football match are now dead. And several dozen of those who were cheering on the sidelines are dead, too.

Shot, not just once, but twice, to be sure. Kids. I remember their faces.

I do not know what drove Anders. But, unfortunately, I do not think he is crazy.

It would have created a comfortable distance between us if I thought he was.

Nothing I know about him from our school days or what I have read in his so-called manifesto suggests that.

Rather, he is cold, intelligent and calculating.

The Anders I knew was not a monster.

And as the saying goes, he was not an island. He was product of our society. He was one of us.

How to listen to From Our Own Correspondent

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Read more or explore the archive at the programme website .

Profile: Anders Behring Breivik
12 Apr 12 |  Europe
Manifesto details Norway attacks
25 Jul 11 |  Europe

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