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Belgium gunman Nordine Amrani 'feared going back to prison'

By John Lichfield, Vanessa Mock in Brussels

Fear of returning to prison may have unbalanced the gunman who killed three people in a gun and grenade attack on Christmas shoppers in Liège, his lawyer said yesterday.

Belgian police earlier announced that they had found the body of a cleaning woman in her 40s in a garage next to the home of Nordine Amrani. It is believed that Amrani shot her just before he left for his attack in Liège city centre on Tuesday, which resulted in the killing of two teenage boys and a toddler and injured 123 people. The killer then turned one of his guns on himself.

Children laid flowers by the bus shelter on the square where the attacker had aimed his gun and fired into the crowd of commuters at lunchtime. Two teenage boys and one 17-month old toddler were killed, and over 120 others were injured. A handful remain in a critical condition.

Sixteen-year old Sonya Jabri attended the same school as one of the teenage victims, Pierre. "One boy in our school was killed, that's why we're lighting the candle as a sign of homage. He was only 15-years old, it could have happened to anyone, he was innocent, he was just trying to take a bus home. We wanted to remember him right here where it happened."

A trio of 14 year-olds brought a white cuddly toy to the site, with one girl saying: "We just want to let the parents know we are thinking of them."

Others, including Belgium's new Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, poured into Liège's town hall to express their shock and sympathy in a book of condolences. "My heart weeps with those families. We'll have to learn lessons from this once we know more about the circumstances," Di Rupo said.

Amrani, who had previous convictions for drugs and arms offences, had been ordered to go to a police station in Liège to answer questions about an alleged sexual crime at the time of the attack on Tuesday.

"He was worried about the possibility of going back to prison," his lawyer Jean-François Dister said. "I think that is what was preying on his mind." But Mr Dister said that he had given no indication that he was preparing such a murderous act when he telephoned him on Monday and again on Tuesday.

The condition of a 75 year-old woman, initially listed as dead, is so grave that she is expected to succumb to her injuries.

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