Norway bow-and-arrow attack suspect assessed by psychiatrists

Espen Andersen Braathen, a 37-year-old Danish citizen, was arrested on Wednesday night over the killings in Kongsberg.

Norway Bow and Arrow Attack
Norway Bow and Arrow Attack

The suspect in a bow-and-arrow attack that killed five people and wounded three others in a quiet Norwegian town is being assessed by psychiatrists.

Espen Andersen Braathen, a 37-year-old Danish citizen, was arrested on Wednesday night 30 minutes after a deadly rampage which apparently targeted random people in the town of Kongsberg.

Police have described the attack as an act of terror.

Tributes left at the scene
Five people died in the attack (AP)

Senior police officer Per Thomas Omholt said on Friday that three weapons were used in the attack but he declined to identify the types or to reveal how the five victims were killed, saying investigators need to interview more witnesses.

Officers who responded to the first alert encountered the perpetrator in the supermarket.

That is where an off-duty police officer who was shopping was injured, reportedly hit by an arrow in the shoulder.

Police were shot at twice with arrows, and as they sought shelter and called for reinforcement they lost visual contact with the suspect who managed to escape. Investigators believe the five victims were killed after the suspect encountered the police.

Norway Bow and Arrow Attack
People gather around flowers and candles (Pal Nordseth/AP)

“The killings were committed both outdoors and indoors. Among other things, (the suspect) has visited private addresses. In addition, arrows were fired at people in the public space,” Mr Omholt told a press conference.

The regional prosecutor leading the investigation has said that Braathen confessed to the killings after his arrest, and police said they think he acted alone.

Norway’s domestic intelligence agency said Thursday that the case appeared to be “an act of terrorism” but cautioned that the investigation was ongoing.

Mr Omholt said that as of Friday, investigators were continuing to explore possible motives or reasons for the attack but their ”strongest hypothesis for motive is illness”. Braathen’s “health has deteriorated” the officer said, declining to give specifics.

“We work with several hypotheses. They are weakened and strengthened during the investigation,” Mr Omholt said. “We will find out what has happened, and why it has happened,”

Braathen has been transferred to a psychiatric facility and “now the ball lies with the health authorities” on when police can question him.

Bow and arrow attack scene
Police cordon off one of the sites where a man killed several people on Wednesday afternoon in Kongsberg (AP)

Mr Omholt added that “at least” two experts will observe and evaluate Braathen to determine if he was legally sane at the time of the attack.

The suspect’s mental health meant that “it is important to obtain information about the accused’s past,” Mr Omholt said and called for witnesses. Police said they wanted to map the suspect’s activities in recent years, including on social media.

Four women and a man between the ages of 50 and 70 were killed, and three other people were wounded.

During an initial hearing on Friday, a court in Kongsberg ordered Braathen to be held in custody for four weeks, including two weeks in isolation plus a ban on communicating with others.

“Reference is made to the extremely serious nature of the case, which has also led to great media interest both nationally and internationally. If the accused is not shielded from this and from other prisoners, important evidence could be lost,” the ruling read.

He was being held on five counts of preliminary murder and three counts of preliminary attempted murder. Preliminary charges are a step short of formal charges, and a terror-related charge could be brought later if the evidence supports it, Mr Omholt said.

Braathen did not appear in court. His defence lawyer, Fredrik Neumann, told Norwegian news agency NTB he had no comment, saying of his client: “He has agreed to imprisonment, so then this really speaks for itself.”

The suspect has been described by police as a Muslim convert, with officers adding that there had been earlier worries of the man having been “radicalised”.

According to Norwegian media, Braathen has a conviction for burglary and drug possession, and last year a court granted a restraining order for him to stay away from his parents for six months after hethreatened to kill one of them.

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