By Calvin Palmer
A lone gunman today killed his ex-girlfriend and then shot four more people dead at the shopping mall where she worked in Espoo, Finland’s second largest city.
Ibrahim Shkupolli, 43, an ethnic Albanian from Kosovo, fled the scene and sparked a massive manhunt before police found his body several hours later in his apartment. He had apparently commited suicide.
The shooting spree began at 10:00 a.m. when shots rang out at the crowded Sello mall in Espoo, 10 miles west of Helsinki.
Witnesses said Shkupolli opened fire with a 9 mm handgun and sparked panic among New Year’s Eve shoppers in the mall, with many rushing for the exit.
“Everyone was in a panic. They didn’t know what was happening and some were crying,” one witness reported.
Armed police and paramedics found the bodies of three men and a woman, employees at the Prisma supermarket where Shkupolli’s girlfriend had been working.
The victims were aged 27, 40, 42 and 45. Two were shot on the shop’s first floor, the other two on its second floor, police said.
Shortly afterwards, his girlriend was also found shot dead in her home nearby.
Shkupolli was known to police and had been issued with a restraining order to stop him approaching his former partner.
The most likely trigger for the shooting spree was “a domestic dispute”, said chief investigating officer Jukka Kaski.
“The ex-girlfriend seems to have been the gunman’s main target and the whole shooting is tied up with the relationship between her and the gunman,” Kaski added.
Authorities in Serbia confirmed that Shkupolli was a Kosovo Albanian but that he was not known to police there.
Finland is among the top five nations in the world for civilian gun ownership.
Politicians and religious leaders have called for tighter gun laws in a country which is known for heavy drinking and domestic violence and high rates of suicide.
In September 2008, Matti Juhani Saari a 22-year-old gunman killed nine fellow students and a teacher at a college in the western town of Kauhajoki before turning the gun on himself.
A year earlier, an 18-year-old student shot eight people at a high school in in Jokela, north of Helsinki, before killing himself.
Eleven people were killed in September 2008 when a 22-year-old gunman burst into a school classroom, shooting dead eight female students and one male classmate as well as a male teacher, before turning the gun on himself.
An 18-year-old student also shot six students, a headmistress and a nurse before killing himself in a school in Jokela, north of Helsinki in November 2007.