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US school massacre victims identified


• Pope saddened by ‘senseless’ attack

The head teacher at Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Dawn Hochsprung, is listed among the dead, along with adults Rachel DaVino, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Russo, Mary Sherlach and Victoria Soto.

Eight boys and 12 girls were killed – all but four of them were aged six.

The youngest, Noah Pozner, celebrated his birthday only last month.

A woman who worked at the school was the only person to be shot and survive.

President Barack Obama was expected to visit Newtown yesterday to meet families and speak at an interfaith vigil at the town’s high school.

After the attack, he urged “meaningful action” against gun crime in the US.

“As a country we have been through this too many times,” he said in an emotional White House address.

Lt Paul Vance of Connecticut state police said on Saturday that the gunman had forced his way into the school, contradicting earlier reports that he had been let in voluntarily.

Lt Vance said investigators had gathered “good evidence” in the search for a motive, without elaborating.

The gunman killed his mother at their home before driving to the school in her car and opening fire. Reports say the guns used in the attacks were registered to her.

There are conflicting reports about whether she had worked at the school in the past.

The killings took place in two rooms within a single section of the school, police have said. The shooting lasted just a few minutes.

Meanwhile, Pope Benedict XVI told pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square yesterday that he is praying for the families of the 20 children and six adults who were killed during a shooting rampage at a U.S. school.

Speaking in English, Benedict said he was “deeply saddened by Friday’s senseless violence in Newtown, Connecticut.”

“I assure the families of the victims, especially those who lost a child, of my closeness in prayer,” the pope said in his first public comments on the massacre by a lone gunman. “May the God of consolation touch their hearts and ease their pain.”

On Saturday, the Vatican said that Benedict was promptly informed about the shootings and that he sent a condolence message to the diocese involved to convey “heartfelt grief” over “the shocking event.”

In that message, the pontiff prayed that God “sustain the entire community with spiritual strength which triumphs over violence by the power of forgiveness, hope and reconciling love.”

As they heard the shots, teachers in other parts of the building tried to protect children by locking doors and ushering them into closets.

Library clerk Maryann Jacob described telling 18 children to crawl into a storage room, before barricading the door with a filing cabinet.

Connecticut Chief Medical Examiner H Wayne Carver said the gunman shot all the victims at the school with a semiautomatic rifle, at least some of them from close range.

Asked how many shots were fired, he replied: “I’m lucky if I can tell you how many I found.”

The suspected gunman’s father, Peter Lanza, said his family was “struggling to make sense of what has transpired”.

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