Atlanta shootings: 'I don't plan to live much longer, just long enough to kill the people that greedily sought my destruction'

MARK BARTON meant to be a helpful murderer. He left a neatly typed, detailed letter with the bodies of his wife and children. It was meant as an explanation for what he had done. It hinted at revenge against unnamed greedy people who wanted to destroy him, it talked of his depression, of the downward spiral his life had taken, of his fear that the dark moods he had inherited from his father would be passed on to his children. But no explanation, not even from his own hand, will be adequate to make the world understand.

"For all intents and purposes, I think this case has been concluded," said Jimmy Mercer, the Atlanta police chief, yesterday morning, his voice still shaking from reading out the letters.

But the shock of Barton's killings will not dissipate quickly. Nor will the disbelief.

One more time, a prosperous community in America is coping with a bloody tragedy - this time leaving 13 dead, including Barton, and 20 injured.

The death trail began slowly and deliberately at the suburban apartment he had taken with his second wife, from whom he was estranged, and the two children from his first marriage. They were his first victims. But it ended in a mad and terrifying massacre on Thursday afternoon at the offices of two stocks and shares day-trading businesses on a gleaming business campus in Buckhead, a northern suburb of Atlanta.

In a spray of bullets from that the guns he held in each hand, he killed nine people before fleeing and later committing suicide.

What he left behind was one of the worst killing sprees in America's history and the bloodiest in the city of Atlanta.

It was also another first - an apparent massacre driven by fears about the stock market.

It left a tangle of questions and concerns, in particular about the pressures of "day-trading" on the stock exchange - a very mid-Nineties world, born of Internet technology and the bull market, to which Barton was deeply devoted. On Tuesday a cheque he wrote for $50,000 (pounds 31,000) to cover stock exchange losses bounced. He recently took a loss of at least $80,000.

Barton, 44, might have been the quintessential boring suburbanite. He was known for his broad smile but a private demeanour. He was a former scoutmaster. This week he had promised to buy his son a lizard so he could earn his cub scouts' reptiles badge. But there was something else out of the ordinary about Barton: in 1993 his first wife and her mother were hacked and beaten to death in a camping resort in Alabama. Barton was there and was the prime suspect. But charges were never brought.

Barton always asserted his innocence in those murders. This week he did so again in the first letter found by investigators in the living room of his family apartment in suburban Stockbridge.

"There is no reason ... to lie now," he wrote. But he was responsible for the unspeakable scene that awaited the police officers in the humble two- bedroom unit.

He directed them to the bodies, told them how he had killed them. And, again, he tried to explain why.

First, on Tuesday night, after she was asleep, he bludgeoned his wife, Leigh Ann. He wrapped the body in a blanket and stuffed it in a cupboard.

He then waited until Wednesday night to do the same to the children, Matthew, 11, and Mychelle, 7. He left them under blankets on their small beds with toys placed around them. He used a hammer on them, he explained, because it seemed a polite way to kill.

In addition to the longer letter, Barton left a short note with each of the bodies, expressing his love for them. He said he hoped to meet them in the after life. Reading them yesterday, police chief Mercer could not hold back his tears, and reporters also sobbed.

Of Leigh Ann, from whom he was separating, Barton said he killed her because she was "one of the main reasons for my demise". But there was regret after she was dead. Leigh Ann was then Barton's "honey, my precious love".

There was nothing to explain, however, what drove Barton to take the bloodshed so much further on Thursday. Wearing a shirt and khaki shorts he arrived at the All-Tech Investment Group shortly after 2pm, where he was heard to observe that it was a bad trading day (the New York stock market was indeed plummeting) and that "it was going to get worse".

Shortly before 3pm he opened fire. First he shot the manager and his secretaries before turning his weapons on the clients who were in to do their instant trades. Someone heard him exclaim: "I hope I'm not upsetting your trading day." Four people were killed.

Barton then fled across the busy, six-lane Piedmont Road to another building which housed the offices of Momentum Securities, where he had also been a client. There, after again commenting on the fact that it had been a bad trading day and that it was about to get worse, he continued the carnage, killing five more people and wounding several others.

"I saw a lot of blood in the hallway," said Chris Carter who works in the building. "There was a trail of blood leading from one end of the hallway to the other". An All Tech trader, Nell Jones, was at her computer when she heard the shots. He was, she said, "very calm and determined, no feelings". Officials said three of those hurt remained in a critical condition.

For Atlanta, it was another gruesome intrusion into high summer. In July alone, 23 of its citizens have died in mass killings. The worst incident, before this week, occurred on 12 July, when police found three adults, including the gunman, and three children shot dead in a family house in the city.

No one yet knows the precise nature of the depression that Barton said was afflicting him. It may have stemmed from the killings of his former wife and mother-in-law, but speculation continued to centre yesterday on his passion for day-trading.

Day-trading can be a heady combination of video poker and serious investing. Its practitioners play the markets minute by minute, shuffling stock holdings when they shift in price by just a few cents in a bid to accumulate profits.

The industry, of which All-Tech was a pioneer, has attracted about 5,000 users across the United States, some of whom do it from home and others in offices like the ones that became bloodbaths on Thursday. Experts have long warned that it is a risky pastime that can bring large losses and generate huge stress.

For a few desperate hours the authorities had no idea of Barton's whereabouts. In his letter to detectives he said he did not plan to live much longer and asked police to catch him and kill him. But that was not necessary.

At 7.45pm a police patrol car spotted his green Ford van in a town to the north-west of Atlanta and pulled it over into a petrol station. When they approached it, they saw that Barton had already killed himself.

A Time/CNN poll yesterday revealed that more than three- quarters of those interviewed were in favour of mandatory handgun registration, while some 61 per cent favoured stricter gun control laws.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Soft Developer (4.0, C#, Windows Services, Sockets, LINQ, WCF)

£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer (4.0, C#, Windows ...

C# Developer -Winforms, VB6 - Trading Systems - Woking

£1 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading financial software house with its He...

C #Programmer (.Net 4.0/4.5/ C#) -Hertfordshire-Finance

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: C #Developer (.Net 4.0/4.5/ C#, A...

JQuery Developer JQuery, UI, Tomcat, Java - Woking

£1 per annum: Harrington Starr: JQuery Developer JQuery, UI, Tomcat, Java - Tr...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home