OSLO, Norway – Former friends of confessed Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik said that some years before the massacre he came across as depressed, expressed feminine tendencies and led some to believe he might be gay.
Four of the right-wing fanatic's old male friends told the Oslo District Court on Tuesday that five years before he killed 77 people in 2011, he moved back in with his mother and cut down on his social contacts. The friends testified at Breivik's trial as the defendant watched in an adjoining room.
One former friend who is now a lawyer in the military said Breivik had shown "feminine behavior and used makeup," and did not have many long-lasting relationships with women.
"I believed he was in a deep depression or that he was a homosexual who did not want to come out in public about it," he said.
Breivik has confessed to the July 22 massacre, in which he gunned down 69 people at a youth retreat on Utoya island after setting off a bomb in central Oslo that killed eight others. But he denies criminal guilt, saying the victims had betrayed their country by embracing immigration.
His mental state is the key issue to be resolved during the trial. If found guilty and criminally sane, he would face 21 years in prison, though he could be held longer if deemed dangerous to society. If declared insane, he would be committed to compulsory psychiatric care.
Breivik's ex-friends, all the same age as the 33-year-old defendant, told the court that Breivik had been a sharp and social person before. They had all known him from school and some of them had occasional contacts with him until a few months before he carried out the attacks.
They recalled that Breivik was very conscious about his appearance.
After being teased for having an "Arab" nose, he had surgery on it — at the age of 20 — conceding that it was too big, one of the witnesses said. In 1,500-page rambling manifesto, which Breivik posted on the Internet before the massacre, he said the surgery was carried out after he broke his nose in a fight with a Muslim immigrant.
His former friends said they could not recall that fight nor several other confrontations Breivik claimed he had had with Muslims. One friend from primary school recalled Breivik as "quite a tolerant" person.
The court asked the media not to name those who testified Tuesday.
When Breivik withdrew to his mother's house, his friends tried to contact him several times but with no success until 2008, when he unexpectedly got in touch with some of them again. He met them occasionally and just three months before the rampage Breivik went to a barbecue at a friend's house, where he appeared sociable and gave no hint of his plans.
A 27-year-old woman and former girlfriend of Breivik's "best friend" said he changed dramatically in the year before he moved to his mother's. She hinted that the reason was his failed business and unsuccessful female relationships.
The woman described him as "ill," and dependent on Internet games. "He needed help, as I understood it," she said.
At the end of Tuesday's hearing, Breivik responded to the claims, insisting that he had "never, ever been depressed" and rejecting the notion that he had behaved in a feminine manner, saying it was common for men to cover pimples with makeup. He did not comment on suggestions he may be gay.
Breivik described himself as a successful businessman before he moved in with his mother, and said that playing Internet games was his cover for writing his manifesto and planning the attacks. He said he did not want to involve his friends, who did not support him ideologically.
Last week, Breivik told the court that he would not appeal the verdict if the court deems him sane. Two psychological examinations carried out before the 10-week trial started reached opposite conclusions on whether he is psychotic. The trial is scheduled to last until the end of June.