Jealous ex-lover’s spree fires Finland gun debate
Helsinki — Finland was in mourning Friday after a jealous ex-lover shot dead his former girlfriend and four of her work colleagues in the latest armed rampage which has reignited debate on the country’s gun controls.
Ibrahim Shkupolli, a father of three who was originally from Kosovo, ended his killing spree on Thursday by turning his weapon on himself, bringing the overall toll from the tragedy in the Helsinki suburb of Espoo to six.
As relatives tried to come to terms with their loss, investigators indicated they believed Shkupolli may have selected his targets after suspecting his former girlfriend of being romantically involved with a workmate.
"We are sure that relationship issues such as jealousy or some other such relationship problems which go back several years are behind what has happened," said Tero Haapala, chief investigator of Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
"That is definitely the main reason for the murder of the girlfriend, but we still don’t know for sure why he shot the other four," he told AFP.
In separate comments to Finnish media, Haapala said that Shkupolli appeared to have deliberately sought out his victims in the mall, all of whom worked at the same supermarket where the former girlfriend worked.
"The injuries of the victims indicate that the shooter wanted to shoot just them. There were no bullets shot in the direction of bystanders," he said in comments to the online edition of the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper.
Newspapers asked pointed questions about how the shooter had been able to get his hands on a weapon even though alarm bells had already been sounded.
As well as run-ins with the law over illegal firearms, he was also subject to a restraining order issued by a court over harassment of his ex-girlfriend.
Police acknowledged lessons had to be learned but defended their performance when asked if they could have done more to prevent the shootings.
Speaking at a press conference, NBI investigator Esa Groenlund said police searched Shkupolli’s home last year after the ex-girlfriend received threatening phone calls and text messages but no weapon had been found.
Groenlund also confirmed Shukupolli did not have Finnish nationality, although he had been living in the country for more than a decade.
Finland, one of Western Europe’s most sparsely populated countries with a long tradition of hunting, has one of the largest per capita gun ownerships in the world.
But debate about the level of gun ownership has become a hot political topic in the wake of two shootings at schools in 2007 and 2008 which left a total of 18 pupils and staff dead as well as the two shooters.
A new firearms law, intended to tighten up licensing requirements, is due to be put before parliament in the spring.
Investigators said that the gun used by Shkupolli was not licensed.
The 43-year-old was fined by the Helsinki District Court in 2007 for firearm violation for illegal possession of a 9 mm handgun and ammunition.
The Espoo District Court had also fined Shkupolli for illegal possession of a 7.65 calibre handgun and ammunition in 2003.
Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen acknowledged the shooting raised new questions about firearms laws.
"The incident draws attention to the large amount of handguns in our country," Vanhanen said in a statement.
"Broad-based cooperation within our society is necessary to avoid such tragedies in the future."
Witnesses said the shooting sparked panic among the around 4,000 New Year’s Eve shoppers in the mall in mid-morning, with many charging headlong for the exit.
Armed police and medics who rushed to the scene found the bodies of three men and a woman at the Prisma supermarket and then later found the ex-girlfriend’s body at her home.
After an extensive search of the mall proved fruitless, officers found the gunman’s body several hours later.