The fatal shooting of an elderly woman by an eight-year-old in America has been blamed on the youth’s exposure to Grand Theft Auto IV.

According to an official release by the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s department in Louisiana, the woman, 87-year-old Marie Smothers, was the boy’s primary caregiver, and the two had a “normal, loving” relationship.

The boy, who has name suppression, told authorities he was playing with Ms Smothers’ Colt .38-calibre Detective Special revolver when it accidentally went off, but police believe the shooting was intentional. Smothers appeared to have been deliberately shot in the back of the head while watching television, and died at the scene.

The Sheriff’s department made the link to the M-rated game, saying, “Although a motive for the shooting is unknown at this time investigators have learned that the juvenile suspect was playing a video game on the Play Station III ‘Grand Theft Auto IV’, a realistic game that has been associated with encouraging violence and awards points to players for killing people, just minutes before the homicide occurred.”

Under Louisiana law, children under the age of 10 are exempt from criminal responsibility, and the boy will not be identified or charged with any crime. He is now in the custody of his parents.