GREY haired, checkered shirt. At 64 years old, Stephen Craig Paddock would probably have fitted in perfectly well with the 22,000 people who had gathered for the Route 91 Harvest country music festival.

Instead he watched them enjoy themselves from his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, before unleashing a barrage of bullets in what would quickly become the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

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Photo credit: AP

By the time he had turned the gun on himself, at least 50 people – some of them police officers - were dead on the ground below. More than 400 were injured, many of them seriously. Some of them suffered gunshot wounds in the indiscriminate fire from Paddock’s stash of at least 10 assault rifles, others were crushed and hurt in the terrifying chaos as a panicked crowd scrambled for cover.

Today investigators probing why Paddock turned his arsenal of lethal weapons on hundreds of concert-goers enjoying a warm evening of entertainment on Las Vegas’s famous Strip were trying to unravel what prompted a man with no previous history of gun violence, who was unknown to local enforcement agencies and who lived in a peaceful, upmarket retirement estate, set out to kill.

Within hours of the shooting investigators had used a search warrant to sift through Paddock’s home around 80 miles north east of Las Vegas at Babbling Brook Court in Sun City Mesquite, a sedate community of around 1400 homes occupied by mostly over-50s, with private golf course, swimming pools at recreation centre.

As the scale of the massacre sank in, President Donald Trump paid tribute to law enforcement agencies, and branded the Las Vegas shooting “an act of pure evil”.

He said: “He brutally murdered more than 50 people and wounded hundreds more. It was an act of pure evil.

“The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are working closely with local authorities. I want to thank the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and all of the first responders for their courageous effort and for helping to save the lives of so many.

“To have found the shooter so quickly after the first shots were fired is something of which we will always be grateful and thankful.”

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President Donald Trump. Photo credit: Evan Vucci/AP

Crowds were still screaming for cover when armed police officers stormed the room at the Mandalay Bay hotel to find Paddock lying dead surrounded by his weapons.

He had booked in five days earlier, apparently taking time to gather his stash of at least ten assault rifles. Nevada has some of the most relaxed gun laws in America, with a state constitution that gives ‘every citizen’ the right to keep and bear arms for ‘security and defence’, as well as for lawful hunting, recreational use and other purposes. Virtually anyone can buy a rifle, shotgun or handgun without a permit.

In the aftermath, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo described Paddock as "a distraught person intent on causing mass casualties."

He added: “We have no idea what his belief system was.”

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Photo credit: AP

Paddock’s family were equally confused. His brother, Eric Paddock, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he was struggling to understand what could have driven his brother to become the man behind the worst mass killing in American modern history.

"There is no reason we can imagine why Stephen would do something like this," Paddock said. “We have no idea how this happened. It’s like an asteroid just fell on top of our family.”

The festival crowd had gathered in an open area in the shadow of the Mandalay hotel on the famous Las Vegas Strip for the climax of a three day, sell out country music festival. It was just after 10pm, headline act Jason Aldean was on stage in mid-song, when the first barrage of bullets rang out.

For ten seconds the sharp crack of rifle fire pierced the Las Vegas night before Aldean, suddenly realising what was happening, stopped singing and fled the stage.

Several seconds later, came another long round of gunfire, causing chaos among the crowd.

In harrowing scenes, concert goers threw themselves to the ground, unsure if the loud cracks were fireworks or shots. “It was the craziest stuff I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” said concertgoer Kodiak Yazzie, 36. “You could hear that the noise was coming from west of us, from Mandalay Bay. You could see a flash- flash- flash- flash.”

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Photo credit: AP

Ivetta Saldana told The Las Vegas Review-Journal she hid in a sewer after the shooting began. “It was was a horror show,” she said. “People were standing around, then they hit the floor.”

"Tonight has been beyond horrific," Aldean last posted on Instagram. “I still don’t know what to say but wanted to let everyone know that me and my crew are safe. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved tonight.

“It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night."

President Trump, who is scheduled to visit Las Vegas tomorrow (WED), paid tribute to the victims’ families, adding: “We cannot fathom their pain, we cannot imagine their loss.

“In times such as these I know we are searching for some kind of meaning, some light in the darkness. The answers do not come easy.”

Nevada’s mayor, Carolyn Goodman, added: “This is a crazed lunatic full of hate. We don’t know much about his background. But it’s certainly not an extension about what we believe in.”