In Brief

Las Vegas shooting: psychology of a mass murderer

Police anxious to discover motive behind attack that left 59 dead

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Las Vegas police found 23 guns in Stephen Paddock’s hotel room, along with explosives and more weapons at his home, but detectives have yet to discover the gunman’s motives.

There is no obvious reason why Paddock, a 64-year-old accountant with no history of violence, opened fire on revellers at a country music festival from his room in the  Mandalay Bay hotel, killing at least 58 people, before committing suicide.

Was Paddock, as Donald Trump put it, “pure evil”?

“The psychological autopsy” is under way, according to James Alan Fox, a US law professor and co-author of Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder, writing in USA Today.

Mass murderers have characteristics in common, including social isolation, repeated failures, and the tendency to blame others for their own misfortune, says Fox.

Police interviewed the Vegas shooter’s brother almost immediately in a bid to get an insight into the killer’s character. 

“There is nothing,” Eric Paddock told investigators and reporters on Monday, comparing the shock of learning his brother was a mass murderer to seeing a meteor land on his street. “Where the hell did he get automatic weapons?”

“Some investigators have suggested psychological issues, but there is no confirmation of this,” the BBC says.

The gunman was a high-stakes gambler who mainly kept to himself, The Washington Post says. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, “casino records suggest that Stephen Paddock might have won tens of thousands of dollars in the weeks before” the attack, and police are seeking to establish whether he had also lost money - but so far officers are “stumped”.

He had a girlfriend who liked karaoke, lived in a retirement community, and had held steady jobs as a postman, accountant, auditor and apartment manager. His father was a bank robber on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, The Independent says, but Paddock himself had no criminal record.

Police found no link to international terrorism, despite a claim of responsibility from Islamic State.

Paddock also bought firearms, but shop owner David Famiglietti told the BBC that the killer passed the FBI background checks when purchasing weapons from his store this spring. Celebrity news website TMZ says Paddock had a hunting licence, but didn't fit the usual mass murderer profile.

“We are completely dumbfounded,” said his brother Eric yesterday, before breaking down in tears in front of his home in Orlando, Florida. “We can’t understand what happened.”

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