Mass murderer, 25 years old, who shot forty-six people from the 300-foot-high observation tower of the Austin Campus of the University of Texas.
Whitman became unstable when, after years of ill-treatment, his mother left his father in March 1966. He began acting strangely, and this was put down to the strain of intensive studying. He complained of headaches and exhibited sudden bouts of violent temper.
On 31 July, Whitman typed a note in which he declared, ‘I am prepared to die. After my death, I wish an autopsy on me to be performed to see if there is any mental disorder.’
Late that night Whitman stabbed, then shot, his mother.
Then he stabbed his wife, and in a note wrote, ’12.00 a.m. - Mother already dead, 3 o’clock - both dead.’ There followed further outpourings against his father, and the cryptic finale, ‘Life is not worth living.’
On 1 August, armed with several pistols, and ammunition, Whitman climbed the observation tower, taking with him sandwiches, peanuts, toilet paper and a transistor radio. He killed the receptionist on the 27th floor with a crushing blow from his rifle butt, and then barricaded the stairway. Two people climbing up to the observation level were shot down in their tracks.
At 11.40 a.m Whitman began shooting at students; he was an expert ex-Marine marksman. In the next ninety-six minutes he shot and killed 16 persons and wounded 30 others. Police failed to dislodge him, as did an attempt from a low-flying aircraft. Eventually, police decided on a charge over the barricaded stairway and in the fusillade, Whitman was shot to pieces.
An autopsy showed Whitman had a tumour in the hypothalamus region of the brain. Doctors doubted whether his behaviour was caused by this.