Denver gunmen set out to kill 500 pupils, then hijack a plane

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The Independent Online
THE TWO teenage killers who rampaged through their suburban high school in Colorado a week ago intended to kill at least 500 students, and fantasised about blazing their way through the neighbourhood, hijacking a plane and crashing it on New York City, according to the detailed diary of their plans seized by investigators.

John Stone, the Jefferson County Sheriff, told the Denver Post and NBC's Dateline programme that only a mixture of luck, quick thinking by teachers and students, and the intervention of Swat teams who put the attackers on the defensive prevented a far greater calamity in the Denver suburb of Littleton. In the end, 15 people died, including the gunmen, and 23 were wounded seriously enough to be kept in hospital.

A large propane bomb planted in the cafeteria kitchen at Columbine high School by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold was meant to go off at the peak of the school lunch hour and start a blaze strong enough to burn down the school. It is not clear why the bomb, made from a barbecue-type propane canister and a petrol can packed in broken glass, ball-bearings and nails, did not detonate as planned. "Once they burnt the school down, then they were just going to start ravaging the neighborhood, killing as many people as they could," Sheriff Stone said.

The diary lists details of bomb-making and gun purchases and outlines plans for the final assault. It is not clear how much of the later stages of their scheme, such as the plane hijacking, was realistic and how much fantasy, but Harris and Klebold certainly did not expect to survive.

Sheriff Stone said an 18-year-old female friend of Klebold was being investigated on suspicion of providing a gun used in the attack, timed to coincide with Hitler's birthday. He did not name her, and investigators are still trying to establish if she knew why Klebold wanted the weapon. Unconfirmed reports say another friend of the two boys might be the subject of investigation and has retained a lawyer.

The sheriff also blamed the parents of the pair for failing to suspect what the boys had been planning. There was a sawn-off shotgun piece in the bedroom of one boy, and explosives- making equipment elsewhere in the house.

Sheriff Stone said there was not enough evidence to press charges of criminal negligence against the parents, but he expected there would be "a raft" of civil lawsuits.