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Lubitz may have been a psychopath: Mental illness guru

By John Von Radowitz

Crash pilot Andreas Lubitz was a two-in-a million rarity and may have been a psychopath, an expert has said.

What made him so unusual was his willingness to kill others when he committed suicide, Dr Paul Keedwell said.

Dr Keedwell, a consultant psychiatrist and specialist in mood disorders, said: "Murder-suicide is extremely rare: it is committed by two to three people in every million per year (0.0002-0.0003% of the population per year), and this rate is stable over time. For obvious reasons we cannot know the perpetrator's mental state at the time of the homicide in these cases.

"Among cases of murder-suicide in general, the rate of previously diagnosed depression varies from 40% to 60%, depending on the context. Of those who are depressed, very few are being treated for it.

"It is important to realise that most murder-suicide involves a man and his spouse so this is where most of the data will come from. Murder-suicide in pilots or in gun massacres is vanishingly rare."

Dr Keedwell added that risk factors for murder-suicide included personality disorders, especially impulsivity or psychopathy, and ready access to a deadly weapon.

Among others were being male, recent or impending divorce or separation, and a history of alcohol and/or drug abuse.

"In the vast majority of cases of depression, suicide is the main risk, not violence," said Dr Keedwell.

"So, depression is not in itself a sufficient explanation for murder-suicide, but early detection and adequate treatment might reduce the risk."

Other experts warned against jumping to conclusions about Lubitz's mental state.

Seena Fazel, professor of forensic psychiatry and Wellcome Trust senior research fellow at Oxford University, said: "It is very difficult to comment on this particular case as the information is so limited, and speculation about underlying causes could be stigmatising and damaging.

"But it is important to bear in mind that depression is a treatable disease, and the presence of a depressive illness in the past does not necessarily tell us anything about someone's current mental health."

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