SERIAL killers and mass murderers such as Thomas Hamilton share at least two of the same psychological problems, mental health specialists at a leading Scots university have found.

In the first study of its kind, researchers at Glasgow University studied the complex interplay between mental health problems and traumatic past experiences, such as physical or sexual abuse, of prolific killers to understand what causes people to commit mass murder.

They reviewed the neurodevelopmental problems and psychosocial stressors of more than 100 serial killers or mass murderers, including British doctor Harold Shipman, one of the most prolific serial killers in history with up to 250 murders to his name.

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They found that 28 per cent of killers were suspected to suffer from Autism Spectrum Disorder, and 21 per cent had suffered a definite or suspected head injury in the past.

Lead researcher, Dr Clare Allely, from the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow, said: "New research is urgently required to understand the mechanisms underlying these extreme forms of violence so that preventative strategies can be developed."