Metro - Monday 14.10.2002

Shopping mall bomber described as a loner

 Chemistry student frequent contributor to bomb-making web sites

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Police believe that a 19-year-old chemistry student, Petri Erkki Tapio Gerdt, set the bomb which exploded on Friday evening at the Myyrmanni shopping mall in Vantaa, just north of Helsinki. Seven people, including the suspected bomber, were killed in the blast and more than 70 were injured. The other six victims ranged in age from seven to 39.
    The suspected bomber had begun his studies at the Espoo-Vantaa Institute of Technology (EVITech) in late August this year. He lived with his parents in the Tikkurila district of Vantaa.
    His fellow students described him as a quiet and withdrawn young man who would sit at the rear of the classroom and who rarely took part in student events.

During weekends he spent much time surfing the Internet. He is believed to have used the pseudonym RC on a number of message boards. RC was a frequent contributor on a message board known as the Forum for Home Chemistry, focusing on pyrotechnics. RC appeared to be something of an expert in the field, and police are still investigating whether or not RC and the bombing suspect are, in fact, one and the same individual.
    On Tuesday, three days before the explosion, RC asks other members of the forum to write in to say if they have had any "conflicts with explosives/officials".
    "The idea would be to write about accidents, officials, and other fun events. No major accidents have happened to me, but once I had a dream that a police car drove to a detonation site. Good thing I was 'floating' in another direction", wrote RC. The same person used an ominous tag-line or "signature" for his posts: "I ain't a killer but don't push me", and also addressed the question of scatter-bombs in one thread.
    After the shopping mall bombing other members of the forum posted messages speculating that RC may have been the bomber.
    The forum operates on a server maintained by the Finnish computer magazine Mikrobitti. The magazine's head of new media, Jouni Heikniemi, said that the pages were shut down on Sunday afternoon.
    "The pages are closed for now. We do not know yet if the bomber really was one of those involved in the discussion. We will look into the matter on Monday", Heikniemi said.

Police said on Sunday that the explosive used in the bomb, which weighed two to three kilos, was not of a conventiuonal type, nor was it familiar from military use.
    Police learned little new information on Sunday, and have not ruled out the possibility that the explosion may have been accidental.
    In a search of the suspect's home on Saturday the police found material suggesting that he was involved in the construction of explosives.

The bomb appeared to have been built specifically to cause maximum injury: it was packed with metal pieces, either shot or ball-bearings, causing appalling shrapnel wounds to many of the victims.
    Hospital spokesmen have said that none of the more than 30 persons still in care is in any immediate danger, but at the same time many of the injuries are very grave, with the likelihood of some permanent impediment. A number of people lost limbs. The location and timing of the explosion (a clown show was in progress on the main concourse) meant that many families were together at the moment of the blast, and a number of small children are among those still in hospital. A seven-year-old girl was among the dead.

Further details of the incident and how things unfolded are provided in our coverage from over the weekend.

The International Edition is also grateful for messages of condolence that have been received by e-mail from all over the world. It is a reflection of the relatively peaceful nature of Finnish society that an occurrence such as this is one of the rare occasions when the country crosses the international news threshold. Given other recent events in Bali, we are indeed fortunate that this incident in Vantaa, horrific though it was, was not a manifestation of organised terrorist activity, in spite of the persistent belief to the contrary held by one online news outlet, CNN, who continued to headline their story "Terrorists blamed for Helsinki blast" until well into Sunday afternoon.

Previously in HS International Edition:
 Bomb confirmed as cause for shopping mall blast (11.10.2002)

Helsingin Sanomat

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