The last testament of Mohamed Merah, the Toulouse gunman killed last week, suggests that he was a psychopath as much as a terrorist, someone who found an "infinite pleasure" in killing.
Disturbing extracts from his boasts and confessions, recorded by police while he was under siege last week, were leaked to a newspaper yesterday. Merah, 23, remained calm and courteous throughout the 32-hour siege, but showed no remorse for killing seven people, including three small children.
He said that his only regret was that he arrived too late to kill more Jewish children outside the Lycée Ozar Hatorah.
He said each of his seven killings, had given him "infinite pleasure". He had no interest in being a suicide bomber, he said, as he wanted to "see" his victims, "touch them" and "film them".
Merah's words reinforce suggestions by senior French security officials that he was an "atypical" terrorist, fitting the social and psychological profile of a serial killer, rather than a political extremist or religious fanatic.
These comments were intended partly to respond to criticism that the French security apparatus "missed" Merah or wrongly dismissed him as a harmless "wannabe".
But they also fit descriptions by friends of the killer's chaotic childhood and his disconnected lives. On the one hand, Merah was a motorcycle-loving, small-time criminal and car-mechanic, and on the other, he was a consumer of radical videos showing executions of women.
Most of the European recruits to Islamist terrorism, say security experts, are well-educated and are potentially successful people.
Bernard Squarcini, head of the French internal security service, told Le Monde newspaper: "He [Merah] resembles no other pattern we have seen until now... What he did points more to a mixture of medical problems and fanaticism than the usual career of a jihadist." According to the transcript of his siege conversations, Merah said that he wanted to "have the honour of dying with a gun in my hand like a mujaheddin."
A post mortem found his body was "riddled" with police bullets when he resisted arrest last Thursday. Initially, the authorities had spoken of a single sniper shot to the head.
But despite apparently professing grand aspirations, a police source who leaked short extracts of Merhat's "confessions" to the Journal du Dimanche, said that Merah seemed more obsessed with himself than with his cause. "He wanted to give himself a starring role," the source said. "He had a narcissistic need to seem important."
Mysteries and confusions remain. Did Merah act as a lone sympathiser of al-Qa'ida as he claimed, or under orders of an al-Qa'ida splinter group? He told the negotiators he had "personal training" in Waziristan on the Afghan-Pakistan border. But investigators are sceptical.They hope some uncertainties will be solved by the questioning of Mohamed Merah's older brother, Abdelkader Merah, 29.
A magistrate from the judicial anti-terror unit yesterday extended the older Merah's custody. Abdelkader Merah faces formal accusations in the next few days of "complicity in assassination" and of "associating with wrongdoers who were planning acts of terrorism".
Investigators believe the brother was present when Mohamed Merah stole the Yamaha scooter he used in attacks.