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Three dead in Milan court shooting

A man on trial for fraudulent bankruptcy opened fire in Milan's courthouse in a "cold, premeditated" spree, killing his lawyer, a co-defendant and a judge before being captured nearly 25 kilometres (15 miles) away as he fled on a motorbike.

Italian premier Matteo Renzi promised a robust investigation into how the gunman, Claudio Giardiello, managed to bring a pistol into the fortress-like tribunal, where metal detectors are used for visitors but not for employees, magistrates and accredited lawyers.

"Our commitment is that this never happens again, and that those responsible pay," Mr Renzi said.

He praised the "heroism" of police who finally identified and disarmed Giardiello in a shopping centre near his home town, where prosecutors said he planned to kill others related to his failed property venture.

Prosecutors said Giardiello, who was in court for a hearing on the bankruptcy, fired a total of 13 shots during four minutes in the courthouse, moving from a courtroom to the hallway and finally a judge's chambers downstairs.

He had two spare cartridges and the pistol was loaded when he was apprehended.

"He acted with cold premeditation," said prosecutor Tommaso Buonanno of Brescia, who is leading the investigation.

As the shots rang out, court employees barricaded themselves inside their offices and took cover under their desks while police hunted for the gunman, who according to video surveillance cameras fled out of the same entrance he used to enter the building.

"There was a lot of panic at the beginning when people came running towards us saying there was a person with a pistol who had been shooting," said lawyer Mirko Ricetti, who said he locked himself in a first-floor courtroom with 15 others after hearing a shot.

The shooting immediately raised questions about how Giardiello gained entrance to the Fascist-era building. Prosecutors said Giardiello entered via an entrance intended for exclusive use by accredited personnel bearing proper ID, where there was no metal detector.

Prosecutor Edmondo Bruti Liberati hypothesised that he may have used a false ID. Security at the courthouse is provided by a private firm, Secure Police.

Deputy interior minister Filippo Bubbico said an investigation would determine who was to blame for any security lapse.

"There's no doubt that this episode signals a non-functioning of the protection mechanisms," he told Sky TG24.

Giardiello was eventually caught about half an hour after the spree by police at a shopping centre in Vimercate, near Monza, some 25 kilometres from the scene.

He was taken in for questioning at the Vimercate police station but was later taken to hospital for an undisclosed ailment, prosecutors said.

Mr Bruti Liberati said the gunman first fired on his lawyer and co-defendant in a courtroom, killing both and then seriously injured a second co-defendant. He met a business consultant in the hallway and shot him in the leg.

Afterwards, he "walked through the building, going down a floor, and killed the judge", Mr Bruti Liberati told the Associated Press.

He said it was not clear if there was a relationship between Giardiello and the judge, Fernando Ciampi, who worked in the civil section of the bankruptcy court.

The gunman was on trial with two others for fraudulent bankruptcy concerning the collapse of their property venture. Prosecutors said, however, that the bankruptcy was not a particularly significant one.

Carbineri Cmdr Maurizio Stefanizzi said surveillance cameras registered Giardiello's motorbike licence plate as he fled, enabling police to identify him, his family and address and pass the information to squads around the area.

The incident raised fears about Italy's ability to protect visitors at the Expo world's fair in Milan, which opens on May 1.

Interior minister Angelino Alfano was in Milan to preside over a public security co-ordination meeting for Expo when the shooting erupted. Officials insisted the courthouse shooting was an isolated event.

"This has nothing to do with Expo," Mr Bruti Liberati said. "This was a personal crisis."

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