Germanwings crash pilot ‘may have been psychopath’

French police searching the crash site yesterday. Picture: Getty
French police searching the crash site yesterday. Picture: Getty
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GERMANWINGS air 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, and this rate is stable over time. For obvious reasons we cannot know the perpetrator’s mental state at the time of the homicide.

“Among cases of murder suicide in general, the rate of previously diagnosed depression varies from 40 per cent to 60 per cent, 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.”

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