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Page last updated at 15:20 GMT, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 16:20 UK

US' first mass killer dies at 88

Howard Unruh, centre, after his capture in New Jersey (6 September 1949)
Unruh never went on trial after being declared criminally insane

Howard Barton Unruh, who shot and killed 13 people as he walked the streets of New Jersey 60 years ago, has died at the age of 88.

Diagnosed as mentally ill, he never stood trial. He is widely regarded by many as the first single-episode mass murderer in the United States.

Unruh, who was confined in a state psychiatric hospital after the rampage, died on Monday after a long illness.

Unruh had planned whom he was going to shoot for up to a year beforehand.

Howard Unruh, who was 28 years old at the time of the massacre on the morning of 6 September 1949, openly confessed.

Although judged mentally competent he never stood trial, after being diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic.

Murder journal

He was categorised as criminally insane, becoming immune from prosecution.

In total Unruh killed five men, five women as well as three young children in New Jersey's Camden area.

An honourably discharged World War II combat veteran and pharmacy student, he had kept a journal of his intended victims for up to a year before the shootings.

Those he killed were either intentionally targeted, or were merely unlucky enough to have been in his way.

An expert marksman, Unruh executed his massacre plot in the blue-collar neighbourhood with calm precision.

Those he gunned down included a cobbler, a barber, some neighbours who had complained about him playing loud music, and a three-year-old boy peeking out of a window.

A tailor on Unruh's death-list had left his shop on an errand, so he shot the man's bride of six weeks instead, ignoring her pleas for her life.

Unruh - who had been sharing an apartment with his mother at the time of the massacre - told police he was convinced his neighbours were plotting against him.

"[The neighbours] had been making derogatory remarks about my character," Unruh told detectives at the time.

He was described as a recluse who liked to read the Bible and had a passion for guns.

The pistol used in the shootings was a German Luger, a souvenir Unruh had kept following his time in the US armed services as a tank gunner.



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