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Darkest night as Batman gun nut kills 12

THE masked gunman who killed 12 movie goers told police: "I'm The Joker."



Neuroscience graduate James Eagan Holmes dyed his hair red and dressed completely in black combat gear before carrying out the brutal massacre.



After the shooting spree during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises he calmly walked out of the Century 16 cinema in Aurora, Colorado and told police that he was Batman's nemesis, The Joker.



Holmes (24) is a well-educated university student whose only previous offence was a single speeding fine. The 6ft 3ins gunman was armed with a Remington pump action shotgun, an AR15 assault rifle and two Glock handguns.

Police are baffled as to the motive behind the attack but discovered his entire apartment was booby-trapped with bombs ready to be detonated by trip wires.

An Irish actor who is in the movie alongside Christian Bale told the Herald last night that it was a very sad day for everyone connected to it.

Kevin Kiely (26), who plays a Gotham city thug, said: "For what my condolences are worth, I send them to the people and the families of those affected. It is not nice to hear anybody being injured in the hunt for entertainment."

Officers are trying to establish if Holmes was replicating a scene from a Batman comic.

In one Dark Knight comic, The Joker kills an entire late-night television audience with gas and a deranged loner carries out a mass shooting in an adult movie cinema.

Holmes, who dropped out of a PhD at the University of Colorado School of Medicine last month, shot 71 people, including at least one person in an adjacent cinema who was hit as the bullets penetrated the walls.

Survivor Jamie Rohrs (25) described how he jumped 20ft from a balcony with his four-month-old baby to escape the madman.

"I thought he was going to shoot the baby so I just jumped over the side. There were gunshots flashing to my right and people were falling, it was like a dream."

The 250-seater cinema was packed with families and young people, some of whom were dressed as characters from the movie.

Police commissioner Ray Kelly said: "It clearly looks like a deranged individual. He had his hair painted red, he said he was The Joker, obviously the enemy of Batman."

In June last year he enrolled in a PhD course in neurosciences at the University of Colorado, Denver, but began the process of withdrawing last month.

Shortly before he dropped out he had taken a class on psychiatric disorders.

Speaking at the family home in San Diego, his mother, Arlene told reporters: "You've got the right person."

The family released a statement saying: "Our hearts go out to those who were involved in this tragedy and to the family and friends also involved."

Holmes began building up his arsenal in May, buying his guns legally from two shops.

He offered no resistance as he was arrested next to his Hyundai car in the car park.

Aurora police chief Dan Oates said Holmes talked about "possible explosives in his residence".

When police got to his third-floor flat they removed the window and found the booby trap Holmes had left for them.



devices

"His apartment is booby-trapped with various incendiary and chemical devices and tripwires," Mr Oates said, adding that it may take days to defuse the devices.

Witnesses have recounted how he seemed determined to kill as many people as possible.

"Every few seconds it was just boom, boom, boom," said Jennifer Seeger, who was in the theatre. "He would reload and shoot and anyone who would try to leave would just get killed."

Cinemas across America and in many EU cities are now upping security checks at their premises.

In Paris, the film's French premiere, which had been due to take place last night, was cancelled.

The cast, including lead actor Christian Bale, pulled out of publicity interviews immediately.

kdoyle@herald.ie