Gunman has the classic profile of mass murderer  

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Richard Durn has many aspects of the classic profile of a mass murderer with a real or imagined grudge against the world.

He joins a long list of mass killers including Jean-Pierre Roux Durrafort, who shot dead four people in Tours last year, Mark Barton, a day trader in Atlanta who killed his family and then nine others at his office in 1999, James Huberty who killed 21 people in a McDonald's restaurant in San Diego in 1984, and Charles Whitman who shot dead 16 people from a tower at the University of Texas in 1966.

Mass murderers tend to strike in their local community, use automatic or semi-automatic weapons, plan their attacks and often finally kill themselves or hope the police will kill them. After shooting his victims, Durn urged people around him to kill him.

Durn, 33, is unusual, however, in having been involved in ecological and human rights activities. The political tastes of psychopaths usually turn to the far right or far left. For a mass killer to be an official in a human rights movement is certainly a new twist. Durn became treasurer of the Nanterre branch of the League of Human Rights last year.

Christian Demercastel, a Green councillor in Nanterre who left the chamber half an hour before yesterday's shootings, said: "He used to say that he was not really an ecologist but he was opposed to taking orders from America."

Durn was on the dole but had previously worked as a "surveillant" or monitor in a secondary school in Nanterre. A pupil there told the French newspaper, Le Monde, yesterday: "Richard always came over as stupid and wicked but I would never have imagined he would kill so many people."

Durn had been a volunteer in the late 1990s on French humanitarian missions to Bosnia and Kosovo. Although he never belonged to the French ecological party, Les Verts, he was an activist on the fringe of green movements and volunteered as a vote checker.

Officially, he has no police record but it was reported yesterday that he had once threatened people with a gun in a Nanterre chemist's shop with a gun. The weapons used in yesterday's slaughter, two 9mm Glock pistols, were purchased and licensed by Durn in 1998. He was a member of a shooting club in Garenne-Colombs, close to his home in Nanterre and attended regularly.

After being taken into custody for questioning, Durn said he felt "very awkward in his skin" and "marginalised", according to police sources.