Finland gunman wanted to kill 'as many as possible'

The Finnish massacre gunman left notes saying he wanted to kill as many people as possible, it emerged today.

Matti Saari, who shot dead nine students, eight of them women, and a male tutor, "really went out with the intention of killing", police chief Jari Neulaniemi said.

"He left at home a message saying he wanted to murder as many people as possible. He tried to shoot fatal shots."

The murders led the country's prime minister to call for stricter gun laws today.

The attack yesterday at the Kauhajoki School of Hospitality was Finland's second deadly school shooting in less than a year.

Prime minister Matti Vanhanen said it was time to consider restricting access to guns in a country with more than 1.6 million firearms in private hands. Finland has deeply-held hunting traditions and is in the top five nations in the world when it comes to civilian gun ownership per head of population.

"After this kind of behaviour, my personal opinion is that we need to study if people should get access to handguns so freely," Mr Vanhanen said.

"I'm very, very critical about the guns and during next few months we will make a decision about it."

Solemnly leading his nation in a day of mourning, Mr Vanhanen and other ministers visited Kauhajoki, a town of 14,000 people, as flags flew at half-mast. Grieving residents placed candles and flowers outside the town's School of Hospitality, an adult training college.

Saari, 22, a student at the school was questioned by police a day before the attack about YouTube.com clips showing him firing a handgun. He was released because police said they found no reason to keep him in custody.

His release prompted the government to call for an investigation into police handling of the case.

"It was a good and an important thing that the police got these hints in advance and that they reacted to the hints and the person was interviewed," Mr Vanhanen said. "We will obviously investigate what the foundation was for the decision to let him keep his weapon."

A police spokesman said Saari, who shot himself in the head after the attack, had go a permit for his .22-calibre automatic pistol last month.

"With this weapon and plenty of ammunition, he came into the school yesterday morning and he also had a largish bag which apparently had flammable liquids or something to start fires," he said.

Witnesses said panic erupted at the school, which offers courses in catering, tourism, nursing and home economics, as the masked gunman entered just before 11am and started firing in a classroom where students were taking an exam.

The rampage was similar to another school massacre in Finland last year in which an 18-year-old gunman killed eight people and himself.

Both gunmen posted violent clips on YouTube prior to the shootings, were fascinated by the 1999 Columbine school shootings in Colorado and died after shooting themselves in the head.

A video clip posted on the internet by the alleged gunman showed him pointing his gun to the camera and saying: "You will die next" before firing four rounds.

After last year's massacre, the government promised to raise the minimum age for buying a gun from 15 to 18, but that legislation was never passed.

That change would not have stopped either of the recent school shooters, who were 18 and 22 years old respectively.

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