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Virginia Tech killer had a troubled past

Theories about Cho Seung-Hui's unrequited love and depression abound, reports Pramit Pal Chaudhuri.

india Updated: Apr 18, 2007 23:09 IST

The South Korean student Cho Seung-Hui responsible for the Virginia Tech massacre had a record of stalking women and had even been referred to a mental health facility two years ago, police admitted. He had also written play scripts so violent that a professor had recommended he seek counseling.

The failure of police or the university authorities to take more serious notice of Cho has added to the mounting criticism of Virginia Tech’s handling of the shooting rampage which claimed 32 lives, the worst in the US history.

In late 2005, Cho had sent “annoying” phone calls and instant messages to two female students. Cho’s roommate then reported that “he might be suicidal,” leading the university to get him evaluated at a mental health facility.

Fellow students said Cho was a quiet and troubled loner.

Said Chetan Mogal, treasure of the Indian Students Association at Virginia Tech, “I have had training as a student counselor, like many students here. We are taught to look out for this sort of behaviour. “I don’t know why they didn’t take action given this sort of record.”

Cho’s immigrant South Korean parents, who live near Washington DC, have been hospitalized for shock. Reports they had attempted suicide were denied.

There is still no clear understanding of what triggered Cho’s homicidal rampage. The theories about unrequited love, depression or delusions of violence continue to make the rounds.

Cho had written the words “Ismail Ax” in red ink on his arm. Hundreds of bloggers worldwide have been speculating as to what the phrase meant. Some search engines said “Ismail Ax” had become one of the ten most searched phrases in the internet.

On Wednesday morning, the university had a nasty reminder of what it had just gone through when a hoax bomb threat led armed police to evacuate Burruss Hall, a building which includes the university president’s office.

For the time being, Virginia Tech’s students and faculty are more focussed on grieving for the dead.

The Indian Students Association held a prayer-cum-condolence meeting at the university on Tuesday and plans to hold more in the coming week. About 600 to 700 people attended.

The bodies of the two victims of Indian origin will be released by police to their relatives along with those of the other victims in a few days time.

At least two Indian consular officers from the Washington embassy were at the university. "They met us and said that if we needed anything, they were there to help," said Mogal.

First Published: Apr 18, 2007 22:36 IST