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Atlanta killer's wife went in fear of her life feared for her safety

MASS KILLER Mark Barton's first victim last week - his estranged wife, Leigh Ann, 27 - had been worried for her safety but loved Barton's children and wanted to remain involved in their lives, her sister said at the weekend.

"I'm sorry it happened to my sister but I'm not surprised," said Dana Reeves. "I've felt that this has been coming for a couple of years."

When Barton killed his wife with a hammer on Tuesday, it was the beginning of the bloodiest mass killing in Atlanta's history. The next night he killed his two children from a previous marriage as they slept in the family's suburban apartment.

The slayings were discovered on Thursday after Barton, a chemist who had become a day-stock trader, walked into the offices of two brokerage firms and fired randomly at traders and employees. Nine died and 13 were wounded, with four still in critical condition on Saturday. Hours later, Barton killed himself as police stopped his van.

Ms Reeves said her sister left Barton last October, in part because she was frustrated after supporting her jobless husband for about a year. She worked as a sales representative for a company that sells cleaning supplies.

Ms Reeves said she was wary of Barton after learning that his first wife and her mother had been hacked to death in Alabama in 1993. Barton was the prime suspect in the slayings, but police said they never had enough evidence to charge him. "There was never really a comfortable feeling with him after that," Ms Reeves said.

Barton and Leigh Ann were having an affair at the time of the Alabama slayings. If he killed his first wife, Ms Reeves said, her sister knew nothing of it. "She's just an innocent victim that something terrible has happened to."

Police found Mrs Barton's body covered with a blanket in a bedroom closet of the apartment. In a computer-printed suicide note Barton said he was sorry for his wife's murder. Services for Mrs Barton were scheduled for yesterday.

The first funeral was Friday for Allen Charles Tenenbaum, 48, a grocer, who was gunned down while trading at All-Tech Investment Group.

Dean Mohammed Delawalla, 52, was buried Saturday after an Islamic service. Zeenat Hussain, a family spokeswoman, estimated that 2,000 people attended the service.

Ten of Barton's victims remained hospitalised after one woman was discharged Saturday from Grady Memorial Hospital. Four were in critical condition, including a 38-year-old woman shot in the temple who may have been permanently blinded. (AP)