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13 Nov 2007 08:10
The Finnish teenager responsible for a school massacre last week in which eight people were killed was in direct contact with an American pupil who has admitted planning a similar shooting spree near Philadelphia last month, a lawyer for the United States boy confirmed on Monday.
The two chatted online and one of the topics was the infamous Columbine massacre in Colorado in 1999, in which two pupils killed 13 people. The confirmation will raise questions about whether American police, with access to the computer of the US teenager, Dillon Cossey, could have picked up on the exchanges and warned the Finnish police.
Cossey (14) was arrested in October.
David Farrell, Cossey’s lawyer, said on Monday that his client had remembered chatting to the Finnish teenager and exchanging videos they had found on the internet.
Farrell said Cossey did not encourage Pekka-Eric Auvinen to carry out the attack in which he shot six pupils, a nurse and the head teacher before killing himself at the school in Tuusula, 48km north of Helsinki.
“My client didn’t encourage him in any way. He had no indication that somebody he was communicating with actually was formulating an intent to commit a violent act,” Farrell insisted.
The revelation adds another technological dimension to Auvinen’s crime, which imported the phenomenon of US-style school shootings to Finland for the first time. Investigators had already drawn parallels with a video posted on YouTube by Auvinen before his murderous spree and the multimedia package of confession and invective recorded by the Virginia Tech killer Cho Seung-hui.
Cossey is accused of preparing for a possible attack at the Plymouth Whitemarsh high school, in Pennsylvania. He was arrested after a tip-off by a boy he allegedly tried to recruit. A rifle and videos about Columbine were found at his home.
Police who investigated the Cossey case said they could not yet confirm any link between him and the Finnish shooter, but a task force was looking into the possibility.
Finnish police found the exchanges with Cossey on Auvinen’s computer and said they would be contacting their American counterparts.
In Pennsylvania, Bruce Castor, the Montgomery county district attorney, speaking before Cossey’s lawyer confirmed the link, saying he had heard about a possible connection through the media and had told US detectives to run Auvinen’s name through Cossey’s computer. But Castor’s initial response was sceptical: “None of us think that there’s going to be a lot here, but we’re going to check it out.”
Cossey was shown Auvinen’s on-screen name by his lawyer on Monday. “They discussed video games and shared videos with each other. Obviously, Columbine was a shared topic of interest,” Farrell said.
Detectives on both sides of the Atlantic will look at whether Cossey encouraged Auvinen to carry out the murders. But Farrell said that despite Cossey having allegedly attempted to recruit another boy for the Pennsylvania school attack, he doubted that his client would have been involved in planning the attack on the Finnish school.
“Knowing my client as I have gotten to know him, I would be surprised if he were engaged in any true planning or encouraging behaviour to an individual in Finland who was planning some sort of school attack,” Farrell said.
Two weeks after his arrest, Cossey admitted to three charges in a juvenile court. He is now in juvenile custody, where he could remain for up to six-and-a-half years.
US authorities have accused Cossey’s mother, Michele, of helping him to build his weapons stash. She is charged with illegally buying him a rifle with a laser scope and a .22-calibre handgun. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for December 13.—Guardian Unlimited Â
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