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Wednesday, 27 March, 2002, 20:23 GMT
Paris gunman 'often talked of killing'
Richard Durn
Durn's mother described him as suicidal
The gunman behind a shooting incident at a Paris council meeting often spoke of killing, according to quotes attributed to his mother.

Eight people died and 19 others were injured, at least five seriously, when 33-year-old Richard Durn opened fire on councillors in the western suburb of Nanterre.


He was very calm, he didn't look like a crazy person at all

Witness

Mr Durn, who was known to have psychological problems, has been arrested.

Four years ago he was reported to social services after threatening a psychologist. But as an amateur marksman he still held licences for his guns.

His mother reportedly said that he was suicidal, frequently talked about killing and was disappointed by his lack of recognition.

Mr Durn is described as well educated, and was an active member of both the Socialist Party and the Greens.

Crime is the number one issue in France's forthcoming presidential election, and the two main candidates, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and incumbent President Jacques Chirac, rushed to the scene.

'He just kept shooting'

Mr Durn was reported to have sat in the public gallery for the six-hour meeting before standing up and calmly spraying the councillors with automatic weapon fire.

"He just kept shooting and shooting," said Deputy Mayor Lucien Batard.

"It lasted a long time. He replaced the cartridges and must have shot 40 or 50 rounds. People panicked. Some jumped under their tables.

Council members threw chairs in an attempt to stop the attack, which happened at about 0115 local time (0015 GMT) after the late-night meeting.

"After he was overpowered, he yelled 'kill me, kill me'," Mr Batard added.

Regular attendee

Mr Durn was a familiar face in the public gallery at council sessions and witnesses said some councillors had chatted with him before the debate on the local budget.

Council employees check the list of victims
All of those who died were councillors

"I knew him, he helped out at the last election (the 2001 municipal vote)," Mr Batard said.

"It was a real nightmare, I saw everyone around me crumpling to the ground," another official said, who asked to remain anonymous.

"He was very calm, he didn't look like a crazy person at all."

Police said most of those killed were elected councillors of Nanterre.

Mr Jospin described the killings as a "a terrible tragedy", and a case of "horrifying dementia".

Mr Chirac, who arrived shortly afterwards, denounced the shootings as an "act of murderous folly".

Shooting enthusiast

Police said Mr Durn, who lives in Nanterre with his mother, was a sports shooting enthusiast who had no criminal record.

They said that the man, in custody in central Paris, was "very down and not inclined to talk".

Green party councillor Christian Demercastel said Mr Durn was not a party member but "he was a sympathiser of left wing and ecological causes... he told us that he thought there was a problem with democracy at the town hall".

French crime fears

There is a general feeling in France that crime is on the increase.

Last October, a masked gunman killed four people in the central French city of Tours.

But Mr Jospin, noting that Mr Durn was "speaking incoherently" when he was arrested, warned his conservative rivals from seizing on Tuesday's incident as further proof that his left-wing coalition is soft on crime.

"One mustn't, I think, compare events which are not the same. It will always be extremely difficult to deal with an act of madness," he said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jon Sopel
"This is the worst mass shooting that France has ever seen"
The BBC's James Coomarasamy
"It has left at least eight people dead"
See also:

27 Mar 02 | Europe
Witnesses describe calm killer
27 Mar 02 | Europe
In pictures: Paris shooting
29 Oct 01 | Europe
French rail worker in gun rampage
08 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: France
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