|Utoya witnessed a mix of emotions as survivors confronted the painful memories of the shooting spree[Reuters]|
Survivors of the shooting in Norway last month that left 69 people dead have returned to the island site.
Many lit candles and laid handwritten notes on Saturday in memory of their friends who were shot dead on Utoya during a summer camp for the youth wing of Norway’s Labour Party.
Up to 1,000 survivors and relatives were expected on the island, accompanied by police and medical staff, to confront the painful memories of the shooting spree.
Anders Behring Breivik has admitted to killing 77 people on July 22 when he first detonated a truck bomb outside government offices in the capital Oslo, and then went on a lethal rampage on Utoya, some 40km away.
Breivik denies criminal guilt because he believes the massacre was necessary to save Norway and Europe.
He said the attacks were an attempt at cultural revolution, aimed at purging Europe of Muslims and punishing politicians who have embraced multiculturalism.
The press were not allowed access to the heavily guarded island where Breivik spent 90 minutes killing his victims, many of whom were shot in the water as they tried to swim away.
From a distance, ferries and a pontoon could be seen shuttling survivors to the forested island used by the ruling Labour Party for political functions, camping and celebrations.
Per Brekke, logistics chief of the return visit, said 400 health care workers, police and other officials were on hand.
“But, of course, the challenge for each individual to re-enter the island is much bigger,” Brekke said.
Some 500 friends and family of the victims killed in the shooting spree visited Utoya on Friday.
On Sunday, a national memorial service is to be held at Oslo Spektrum arena, marking the end of a month of mourning in Norway.
Utoya was “filled with flowers, candles, pictures, poems”, said Jon Stalle Stamnes, Norway’s criminal police chief, who said survivors had “very different” reactions.
“Some had, of course, traumatic experiences and it’s clear to us that it’s a really tough time for them,” Stamnes said.
“But also there’s laughter, there’s good stories, so there’s a total mix and blend of emotions today.”
On Friday, the Oslo district court extended Breivik’s isolation detention by another four weeks, saying authorities still do not know if he acted alone.
Breivik’s case is not expected to be heard in court until next year. If found guilty on terrorism charges, he could be sentenced to 21 years in prison.
If he is still considered a danger to the public, an alternative arrangement could keep him behind bars for life.