There were tears in court 250 this morning, as two witness testified about the loss of loved ones during Anders Behring Breivik's killing spree on 22nd July 2011.
Tor Østbø lost his wife Tove Åshill Knutsen (56) to the bomb explosion in the government quarter. Knutsen, an administrative secretary for The Electricians' and IT Workers' Union, was beside the fountain on Einar Gerhardsen Square when Breivik's bomb went off.
Østbø described his wife as a lover of life, who was never sarcastic or mean. He spoke clearly but haltingly as he described how by chance his wife had taken a different route from the one she normally took, leading her into the blast zone of the bomb.
Looking stressed and drawn, Østbø spoke about trying to live as normal a life as possible, despite his grief. “For me,” he said, “the right thing to do was to take my life back.”
When asked about his feelings towards Breivik, Østbø spoke of the importance of sharing grief with other people in the same situation. His support group allowed him to speak freely about his feelings.
“I want Breivik to burn in a dark corner of hell... That's not a feeling I'm proud of,” he said, “but it's important to talk about it.” Breivik looked on impassively, showing no sign of remorse during Østbø's testimony.
Facing Østbø were four empty chairs, where until yesterday the four specialists who wrote psychiatric reports on Breivik had sat. Østbø was highly critical of the weight given to psychiatry during the trial. The core of this case, he reminded the court, was that Breivik wanted to damage Norwegian society. That had been forgotten in the last few weeks, he said.
Judge Wenche Arntzen appeared deeply moved by Østbø's testimony. She watched him intensely throughout, nodding in agreement as he described all of Breivik's victims as "chance victims."
The second witness was Kirsten Vesterhus, mother of Håvard Vederhus (21), who died on Utøya on 22nd July. Håvard was leader of Labour Party Youth (AUF) in Oslo. His body was found by the pumping house. He had been shot four times and died of bullet wounds to the head and chest.
Vesterhus had been sitting in the public benches during Østbø's testimony. As she moved forward to take the stand, people took her by the hand and wished her luck.
The trial had taken a major toll on her and her family, Vesterhus told the court. She had been off work for a long time, and had only recently begun to work part time again.
She spoke in the most difficult imaginable of circumstances. Breivik stared at her unremittingly throughout, never dropping his gaze. Vesterhus delivered her testimony facing the counsel for the bereaved, her body angled away from Breivik. Only once did she appear to glance in his direction, only to look quickly away again.
Vesterhus's testimony was delivered to a near-silent courtroom. Here and there, stifled sobs could be heard, and prosecutor Inga Bejer Engh repeatedly wiped away her tears with a small white handkerchief.
Vesterhus told the court that the most important thing as far as she was concerned was that Breivik should be locked up and never re-emerge into Norwegian society. Her family's lives had been ruined, she said.
“We don't know if life can ever be good again.”
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