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Christian Bale humbled by visit to Batman shooting victims in hospital

The Dark Knight Rises leading man Christian Bale has visited survivors of the Aurora movie theatre massacre, and thanked hospital staff and police officers who responded to the attack that killed 12 people and injured 58 others.

Bale visited with little advance warning and also stopped by a makeshift memorial to victims near the cinema that was showing The Dark Knight Rises when the gunfire erupted.

Carey Rottman, one of those injured in Friday's shooting, posted two photos of himself with Bale on his Facebook page.

Janie Bowman-Hayes, assistant vice president of surgical services at sister hospital Swedish Medical Centre, said she and co-workers were attending a luncheon at The Medical Centre of Aurora to thank staff who tended to victims. "When we got there, then we found out he was there," she said.

Bale, humble and dressed casually in a black T-shirt and jeans, thanked the staff, shook hands and agreed to have his photo taken with employees, Ms Bowman-Hayes said.

"He just said he wanted to come to thank all of us because he has been thinking about this. He knows the whole world has been thinking about this," she said. "He took it upon himself to come and thank us."

An online campaign had urged Bale to visit survivors of the shooting.

Bale, joined by his wife Sibi Blazic, also stopped by a growing memorial near the cinema and walked among the 12 crosses erected for each of the slain victims. Many people there did not appear to realise who he was or chose to leave him alone.

A Warner Bros spokeswoman told The Denver Post that Bale was representing himself, not the film studio.

Bale, who stars as Batman in The Dark Knight Rises, previously issued a written statement saying: "Words cannot express the horror that I feel.

"I cannot begin to truly understand the pain and grief of the victims and their loved ones, but my heart goes out to them."

President Barack Obama and members of the Denver Broncos also have made hospital visits to some of the survivors.

Ms Bowman-Hayes and her staff cared for patients at both Swedish Medical Centre and The Medical Centre of Aurora after the shootings, whether it was in the operating room or intensive care unit, or by washing medical instruments.

She said the staff appreciated Bale's visit.

"He did this out of his heart, and you could really tell. It was so sincere," she said. "It was just, 'Thank you."'

James Holmes, the man accused of the shootings, appeared in court for the first time yesterday, his brown hair dyed a shocking shade of orange.

Unshaven and appearing dazed, James Holmes sat virtually motionless.

It was the world's first glimpse of the 24-year-old since Friday's massacre which also left 58 injured in one of the worst mass shootings in US history.

Holmes did not say a word during the hearing in Centennial, Colorado.

Prosecutors said later they did not know if Holmes was on medication. Authorities have said he is being held in isolation.

His demeanour appeared to anger the relatives of some of the victims who attended the hearing and stared at him the entire time.

Holmes, whom police say was clad in body armour and armed with an assault rifle, a shotgun and handguns during the attack, was refusing to co-operate in the investigation, authorities said. They said it could take months to learn what prompted the attack.

He is expected to be formally charged next Monday. He is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder, and he could face additional counts of aggravated assault and weapons violations.

Prosecutor Carol Chambers said her office is considering pursuing the death penalty against Holmes. She said a decision will be made in consultation with victims' families.

Relatives of the shooting victims leaned forward in their seats to catch their first glimpse of him. Two women held hands tightly, one shaking her head.

David Sanchez, who waited outside the courthouse during the hearing, said his pregnant daughter escaped uninjured but her husband was shot in the head and was in critical condition.

Asked what punishment Holmes should get if convicted, Sanchez said: "I think death is."

His daughter was delivering her baby today.

As investigators tried to piece together Holmes' life and apparent breakdown, his family was scheduled to speak later.

A lawyer representing members of Holmes' family, Lisa Damian, planned to hold a news conference in San Diego.

Police have said Holmes began buying guns nearly two months before the shooting and that he received at least 50 packages in four months at his home and at school.

Holmes recently bought 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the internet, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said.

Holmes' apartment was filled with trip wires, explosive devices and unknown liquids, requiring police, FBI officials and bomb squad technicians to evacuate surrounding buildings while spending most of Saturday disabling the booby traps.

Investigators found a Batman mask inside his apartment, an official said.

Soon after the shooting, some reports said Holmes' hair was red and he called himself "The Joker" when he was arrested. "The Joker" is one of Batman's enemies in the fictional Gotham and has brightly coloured hair.

Officials at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus were looking into whether Holmes used his position in a neuroscience graduate programme to collect hazardous materials.

His reasons for quitting the programme in June remained a mystery.

Holmes recently took an intense oral exam that marks the end of the first year. University officials would not say if he passed, citing privacy concerns.

Meanwhile, the owner of a gun range said that Holmes applied to join the club last month but never became a member because of his behaviour and a "bizarre" message on his voicemail.

When owner Glenn Rotkovich called to invite Holmes to a mandatory orientation, he said he heard a message on Holmes' voicemail that was " guttural, freakish at best".

Rotkovich told his staff to watch out for Holmes at the orientation and not to accept him into the club.

The pastor for the suspect's family recalled a shy boy who was driven to succeed academically.

"He wasn't an extrovert at all. If there was any conversation, it would be because I initiated it, not because he did," said Jerald Borgie, who last spoke with Holmes about six years ago.

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