YouTube gunman slaughters 10 students

Monday - police quiz Finn over violent web video but allow him to keep his gun; Tuesday - he opens fire in exam room attack that has left nation in shock

Peter Popham
Wednesday 24 September 2008 00:00

Matti Saari was in police custody answering questions on Monday. Just 24 hours later the 22-year-old was dead, along with 10 other people he gunned down in a killing spree at acollege in the small provincial town of Kauhajoki in the west of Finland.

At around 11am yesterday, Saari arrived at the town's School of Hospitality, the vocational college where he was a culinary arts student. He walked into a class where an exam was in progress and opened fire. Mayhem broke out, and a short while later 10 students lay dead.

He then started two fires in the school before turning the gun on himself. He failed to kill himself outright but yesterday evening died in hospital – dashing hopes that he might shed light on his motives.

Last night Finland was in shock, and Kauhajoki, 200 miles north of thecapital Helsinki, was struggling to come to terms with its grief.

Jukka Forsberg, the college caretaker, had been on the campus when the shooting broke out. "Within a short space of time I heard several dozen rounds of shots, in other words it was an automatic pistol," he told YLE, the Finnish broadcaster. "I saw some female students who were wailing and moaning and one managed to escape out of the back door. He also shot towards me, he didn't say anything, and once the bullets started to whiz by I started running for my life."

The disclosure that Finnish police had called Saari in for questioning on Monday came as the extent of the carnage in the college emerged, and added to the sense of trauma. The police had been acting on a tip-off that videos of Saari firing a gun at a range had been posted on the internet. "Police reached him [Saari] on Monday 22 September," Finland's Interior Minister, Anne Holmlund, admitted, "and asked him to be interviewed regarding the shooting video".

Authorities checked his temporary pistol permit, which was in order. He had obtained it, along with his first pistol, only last month. The police let him go without taking any other action.

A YouTube page believed to have belonged to Saari has clips showing him shooting a .22 calibre automatic pistol at a firing range.

One of the clips is believed to have been uploaded just five days before the atrocity. In it the gunman – wearing a black leather jacket and black jeans – is seen shooting a handgun several times at an off-screen target. In a different clip he is shown looking down at the camera and pointing a gun towards it. "You will die next," he says in English before shooting four times.

The page also includes what seem to be lyrics from a song called "War" from the work of the German electronic music producer Wumpscut. One part reads: "Whole life is war and whole life is pain, And you will fight alone in your personal war. War, this is war!"

The YouTube profile was removed yesterday. It appears that the user last logged in to the website only about an hour before the shooting took place.

It was chillingly similar to a video posted on YouTube by Pekka-Eric Auvinen, 18, before he went on to kill six students, his headmistress and a nurse at his school in Jokela, north of Helsinki, last November. A detective superintendent at Kauhajoki, Urpo Lintala, told The Independent: "It's a very great shock, a very sad case.

"This is a small, quiet town with about 14,000 inhabitants. There's not much crime, it's very quiet around here. It's very peaceful, this is a very shocking case."

Matti Saari was training to be a chef at the school. Susanna Keranen, a fellow student, told AP that he "was just a regular and calm guy. Nothing outstanding. He had lots of friends. Nothing that would have given an idea that something like this would happen".

According to one report, the gunman lived alone with no company except for his cat, and following the event police were having trouble getting in contact with relatives. The massacre bore strong similarities to the Jokela killings. And both Finnish shootings also had strong echoes of the V-Tech massacre in Virginia in the US in April last year, where a student recorded clips of himself with a pistol before killing 32 people.

Finland, with a population of five million, has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world after the US and Yemen, with 1.6 million weapons in private hands. Most are used for hunting in the sub-Arctic wilderness, the national passion. Many others are held by army reservists: the country's history, in which it fought bitterly during the Second World War first against the Soviet Union then against Nazi Germany, has left a legacy of militarisation. After the Jokela massacre the Interior Ministry promised to tighten up on gun permits.

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