Judge rules Espen Andersen Brathen, a Danish citizen, can be held in custody for an initial four weeks while a probe into the bow-and-arrow attack continues.

Police at the scene of the Extra store involved in the bow-and-arrow attack, in Kongsberg, Norway, October 15, 2021.
Police at the scene of the Extra store involved in the bow-and-arrow attack, in Kongsberg, Norway, October 15, 2021. (Terje Bendiksby / AP)

The man who killed five people in a bow-and-arrow attack in Norway this week has been handed over to health services fuelling doubts about his mental health.

"He was handed over to health services on Thursday evening after an evaluation of his health condition," prosecutor Ann Iren Svane Mathiassen said on Friday. 

Doubts have arisen about the mental health of the attacker, identified as Danish citizen Espen Andersen Brathen, and whether he can be held legally responsible for his actions.

He has confessed to the killings.

Meanwhile, a judge ruled Brathen can be held in custody for an initial four weeks while the probe continues.

Motive unclear

While police have said the attack was probably an act of terror, authorities have not ruled out the possibility of mental health problems.

"There is no doubt that the actual act appears as if it could be an act of terror, but it's important that the investigation continues and that we establish the motive of the suspect," the head of Norway's intelligence service PST, Hans Sverre Sjovold, told a news conference on Thursday.

"This is a person who has been in and out of the health system for some time," Sjovold said.

He has confessed to killing five people and injuring three in the south-eastern town of Kongsberg, using a bow and arrows and other undisclosed weapons before police managed to arrest him.

READ MORE: Several killed in Norway bow-and-arrows attack

'No smile, just staring'

The suspect was known to PST, which is in charge of Norway's anti-terrorism efforts, but few details have emerged about why.

"There were fears linked to radicalisation previously," police official Ole Bredrup Saeverud told reporters. 

Those reports were before this year, and police had followed up at the time. 

Norwegian media reported that Brathen was subject to two prior court rulings, including a restraining order against him regarding two close family members after threatening to kill one of them, and a conviction for burglary and purchasing narcotics in 2012.

Local media also unearthed a video Brathen allegedly posted to social media in 2017, in which he issued a "warning" and declared his faith.

Brathen is believed to have acted alone when he killed four women and a man, aged between 50 and 70, in several locations in Kongsberg where he lived.

Speaking anonymously, one of Brathen's neighbours described the suspect as a big person with a crew cut and a serious demeanour, who was always seen "alone".

"No smile, nothing in the face. He was just staring," said the neighbour.

Source: AFP