A masked student gunman who killed 10 people at a Finnish college today had been questioned then released yesterday by police over violent videos he posted on the internet.
Matti Juhani Saari ,22, turned the gun on himself and died in hospital after the rampage in Kauhajoki, the country’s second school massacre in less than a year.
Saari had been taken in by police yesterday over YouTube postings in which he is seen firing a .22 calibre Walther automatic pistol and naming videos from America’s Columbine school massacre as among his favourites, Interior Minister Anne Holmlund admitted.
She said Saari, who got his first firearms licence only last month, was released because there were no legal grounds to hold him.
The YouTube clips showed a young man wearing a leather jacket firing several shots in rapid succession with a handgun at what appears to be a shooting range.
The posting was made five days before the shooting and the location was given as Kauhajoki – the same town as today’s shooting.
It included a message saying: “Whole life is war and whole life is pain. And you will fight alone in your personal war.”
The person who posted the clip identified himself as a 22-year-old with the name “Mr Saari.” He also posted three other clips of himself firing a handgun in the past three weeks.
Clips from the 1999 Columbine school shootings in Colorado where two youths killed 13 people then themselves were listed among his favourite videos.
Last November a pupil at a Finnish high school killed eight pupils and staff before committing suicide. He too had posted disturbing videos and comments on the internet before the attack.
Witnesses said panic broke out as Saari entered Kauhajoki School of Hospitality, about 200 miles from Helsinki, and began firing.
Around 150 people were in the building at the time.
“I heard several dozen rounds of shots, in other words it was an automatic pistol,” school janitor Jukka Forsberg said. “I saw some female students who were wailing and moaning and one managed to escape out of the back door.”
The gunman shot himself in the head and was taken to a hospital in Tampere where he died a few hours later along with a woman victim he had also shot in the head.
“We have experienced a tragic day,” Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said as he expressed condolences to the families of the victims and declared tomorrow a day of mourning.
The last school attack in November 2007 saw eight people and the gunman die and triggered a fierce debate about firearms laws in the Nordic nation with deep-rooted traditions of hunting in the sub-Arctic wilderness.
Pekka-Eric Auvinen, described by police as a bullied 18-year-old outcast, opened fire at his high school killing six students, a school nurse and the principal before ending his own life with a shot to the head.
Finnish investigators have said Auvinen left a suicide note for his family and foreshadowed his attack in YouTube postings.
With 1.6 million firearms in private hands, Finland is an anomaly in Europe, behind only the United States and Yemen in civilian gun ownership.
After Auvinen’s rampage, the government said it would raise the minimum age for buying guns from 15 to 18, but insisted there was no need for sweeping changes to Finland’s gun laws.