A man dressed as Father Christmas walked into a Christmas Eve party in Los Angeles and opened fire with a handgun, leaving at least five people dead and several others injured.
Witnesses to the killing spree, which was apparently prompted by a marital dispute, said the gunman, Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, knocked on the door of a house in Covina, 25 miles east of the city, and began shooting soon after it was opened. After setting the building ablaze using Molotov cocktails, Pardo took his costume off and fled the scene in a car. Police said he was found dead from a single gunshot.
Three bodies were discovered at the burnt house, and the local coroner believes "several" more are in the ashes. "We have multiple bodies inside," said a spokesman yesterday. "They are extremely charred and burnt."
A further three injured guests remained in hospital. One, a 20-year-old woman, broke her ankle jumping to safety from an upstairs bedroom. The other two, girls aged 13 and eight, sustained gunshot wounds.
Neighbours saw a teenage boy running from the building at midnight, screaming: "they shot my family".
The house is believed to have been the home of Pardo's estranged wife, who was hosting the party for about 30 friends. It is not clear whether she was among the victims.