Anders Behring Breivik's massacre in Norway was partly inspired by an "English mentor" who ranked among the most "brilliant political and military tacticians" in Europe, the killer declared yesterday.
During a meeting with this founding member of the "Knights Templar" in London, Breivik scribbled 50 pages of notes on how they would, together, "seize power in Western Europe".
The third day of Breivik's trial in Oslo heard him set out the ideological roots of the carnage he inflicted on 22 July last year, claiming 77 lives. But the flustered and perplexed killer wilted under cross-examination, eventually declaring that he wanted either freedom or the death penalty, because that was the only sentence he could "respect".
The turning point in Breivik's transformation into a "militant nationalist" with a "crusader identity" was a meeting with three men in London a decade ago. "I did not fully comprehend at the time how privileged I was to be in the company of some of the most brilliant political and military tacticians of Europe," he wrote in his manifesto. "Some of us were unfamiliar with eachother beforehand, so I guess we all took a high risk meeting face to face."
On Wednesday Breivik adamantly refused to name any of the participants. However, his statement to the police identified the Briton who hosted the gathering as "Richard".
The real "Richard" - at least in Breivik's mind - could be Paul Ray, a founder of the far-right English Defence League, who now lives in Malta and used to blog under the name "Lionheart". Mr Ray has denied ever meeting Breivik, but acknowledged that he might have had some influence over the Norwegian.
Yet the prosecution suspect that Breivik invented this London gathering. They believe the "Knights Templar" may be nothing but a figment of his imagination.
Under questioning, the killer could not remember when this supposedly seminal encounter had taken place, saying that it could have been April 30 or 1 May 2002. His credit card records show that he did visit two London cafes over that period.
Inga Bejer Engh, the prosecutor, asked him flatly whether he had invented the meeting. "No, I haven't made up anything," replied Breivik, while conceding that his manifesto contained a "pompous" description of the gathering, which he had earlier described as "four sweaty guys in a basement".
His statement to the police said the other participants were an "English Christian Atheist" and a "French Catholic". Five others were said to have attended "by proxy". This meeting supposedly created the "Knights Templar" with the aim of saving Europe from Islamic colonisation. The crusading group's definition of a Christian is someone who celebrates Christmas - believing in God is optional.
Earlier, Breivik had travelled to Liberia to meet another member of this supposed network. This journey to West Africa required him to pose as an aid worker with Unicef and later as a "blood diamond" dealer.
There Breivik met a Serb ultra-nationalist who was hiding from international justice. "From our point of view, he was a military hero, but from the point of view of the international criminal tribunal, he was a war criminal," said the killer. He declined to name the man, but said that he travelled directly from Liberia to London to represent the Serb at the meeting.
The aim was to form one-man cells which would carry out "spectacular" attacks every "5 - 12 years" before taking over Europe in "50 - 100 years", according to Breivik's manifesto. There would be no small assaults, only bloodstained atrocities, in order to achieve maximum psychological impact.
Al-Qaeda was the inspiration, said Breivik, adding that his goal was to form "the al-Qaeda for Christian nationalists in Europe".
As the day went on, Breivik was increasingly discomfited by Ms Engh's questioning. Suddenly he burst out: "There are only two logical outcomes to this trial: one is acquittal and the other is the death penalty."
Ms Engh, visibly astonished, asked whether he wanted Norway to change the law to allow him to suffer capital punishment. "I don't want that, but I would have respected it," replied Breivik, adding that prison was a "pathetic punishment" for his crimes.
A lay judge stood down on Tuesday after calling for the death penalty. This, added Breivik, had been "a shame". If a prosecutor's job is to cause a defendant to hang himself, Ms Engh succeeded beyond her own expectations yesterday. The case continues with another three days of testimony from Breivik.