Howard Unruh hated his neighbours. Every one of them. A 28-year-old recluse, he live in East Camden, New Jersey, and on the morning of SEPTEMBER 6th, 1949, he walked into a cobbler’s shop near his home and shot the shoemaker, killing him.
There was a barber’s shop next door, and that was his next target. Two more shots killed the barber and the six-year-old boy whose hair he was trimming. Inexplicably, the gunman spared the child’s mother, who looked on in horror.
Unruh’s next call was at the chemist’s, next door to his home. There he shot the chemist, his wife and mother, and a customer. In less than six minutes he had killed seven people, and he hadn’t finished.
Walking up and down the street, he took pot-shots at anyone in sight, killing a delivery-man as he got out of his van, a young woman in her husband’s tailor’s shop, and a two-year-old boy who stopped a bullet when he went to the window of his parents’ home.
A cafe owner shot Unruh in the back, causing him to limp but failing to stop him shooting. His next murder victims were three people in a car waiting at traffic lights – the woman driver, her elderly mother and her nine-year-old son.
Then Unruh barricaded himself in the apartment he shared with his mother, who he had tried to kill earlier that morning. As he crouched at his bedroom window, spraying the street with bullets, police threw tear-gas bombs into his room and he finally surrendered.
“I knew that some day I would kill them all,” he told the district attorney. He had no previous convictions, and had served as a machine-gunner in France and Italy in the Second World War. Now, with just a Luger pistol, he had killed 13 people in 15 minutes.
Found to be insane, Unruh was committed to an asylum. Thirty-four years later he applied to be released, claiming he was cured. To nobody’s surprise, his application was turned down. He died in 2009, after a lengthy illness, at the age of 88.