OSLO: Anders Behring Breivik, on trial for killing 77 people in Norway last year, was “tolerant” and “nice” when he was young and had a nose job to make himself look more Aryan, his childhood friends said Tuesday.
Testifying on the 26th day of the 33-year-old right-wing extremist’s trial, four childhood friends described Breivik as a person very concerned about his appearance, who used makeup and was effeminate.
They also spoke of how he broke off all contact in 2006 as he became increasingly obsessed with politics, in particular Norway’s immigration policy.
It was at this apparently crucial point in his life that Breivik, then 27, returned home to live with his mother and spent entire days playing video games.
His friends, who had until then considered him very sociable, cheerful and easy-going, did not understand the change they saw in him.
“I thought he had fallen into a deep depression or that he had become a homosexual and that he didn’t want to come out of the closet,” said a friend who has known him since secondary school and is now a lawyer.
Breivik’s flatmate, whose name was not disclosed, described the gunman as vain, saying he was very concerned about his looks, did not have a lot of girlfriends and was effeminate.
“He presented himself as a metrosexual, like David Beckham,” said the witness, who shared an apartment with Breivik for a while and who noted that he used make-up.
None of Breivik’s former friends wanted him present during their testimony, nor did they want their identities disclosed.
Breivik, who listened to their testimonies from an adjacent room, disputed their claims.
“I’ve never ever been depressed in my whole life,” he stressed.
“I’ve never been feminine,” he added, explaining that he used concealer to cover up pimples before going out to town.
Another witness, the former girlfriend of one of Breivik’s friends, meanwhile testified that she thought the killer had become “addicted to video games” in 2006.
After quitting school and launching several mostly short-lived start-ups, Breivik dedicated an entire year to playing the online role-playing fantasy wargame World of Warcraft.
He has told the court that in addition to being a hobby, the video games were “a cover” enabling him to work on his 1,500-page anti-immigration and Islamophobic manifesto that he published online just before carrying out his twin attacks on July 22, 2011.
That day, Breivik first bombed a government building in Oslo, killing eight people, before massacring 69 others on the small island of Utoeya, northwest of the capital, where the ruling Labour Party’s youth wing was hosting a summer camp.
Most of those killed during his more than hour-long shooting rampage on the island were teens. The youngest victim had just celebrated her 14th birthday.
Breivik has claimed to be on a “crusade” against multiculturalism and a pending “Muslim invasion” of Norway and Europe.
The witnesses also testified on Tuesday about the nose job Breivik underwent in 1999 at the age of 20.
His closest childhood friend, a fireman, said Breivik wanted to make his nose look “more Aryan”, while another explained that the killer was tired of being mocked for his “Arab nose.”
But none of them saw it as a political message, perceiving it simply as an act of vanity.
“I’ve never in my life used the word ‘Aryan’ because it’s an expression that comes from an ideology I do not support: national socialism,” Breivik said.
He claimed he had the surgery for esthetic reasons but also because his nose was broken when he was attacked by a Pakistani.
But none of the friends he claims were there at the time recalled the event, nor two other clashes with Muslims which he said took place in his youth.
“He was rather tolerant and never looking for trouble,” the fireman testified, adding: “I never saw him as extreme.”
According to his former friends, Breivik — who had become such a recluse that he had his mother turn them away when they showed up at his door on his birthday — resumed contact again with them in early 2011.
Several of them said they thought he was “good old Anders”. He was heavily into sports “to get into shape for the summer,” one of them told the court.
The group of friends had a barbecue party together in late April, less than three months before the attacks.
“I didn’t notice anything in particular,” the fireman said.