Norway police admit Utøya lives “could have been saved”

Despite seven months of public criticism, Norwegian police this week admitted for the first time that lives could have been saved if they had responded to last year’s terror attacks faster.

By the time officers reached Utøya Island on 22nd July 2011, right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik, 33, had been on an hour-long shooting rampage, leaving 69 people, mostly teenagers, dead.

Police say they were hampered by technical failures and that they were distracted by the bomb Breivik had set outside government offices in Oslo, which killed eight people earlier in the day. After an internal investigation, the Norwegian police have finally apologised for key failures.

“Every minute was one minute too long,” said State Police Director Øystein Mæland. “It is a burden to know that lives could have been saved if the gunman had been arrested earlier.”

After detonating the bomb outside government offices, Breivik drove 40km to Utøya Island, where a youth camp for the ruling Labour Party was taking place. He was finally arrested an hour and 20 minutes after the island massacre began, as police failed to deploy a helicopter that was at their disposal and had to turn back when their overloaded boat started to take on water.

Speaking to Aftenposten, Unni Espeland Marcussen, whose 16-year-old daughter is thought to have been the last person killed by Breivik, welcomed the police apology.

“I think it’s good that they’re self-critical. We’ve waited for a long time for an apology,” she said.

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