The dark motor scooter pulled up and a man described as "determined and athletic" dismounted. Without removing his helmet or saying a word, he opened fire.
Witnesses described how the gunman aimed at whoever was in his path, first shooting Jonathan Sandler, 30, a rabbi and teacher, along with his two sons, Aryeh, six, and Gavriel, three, as they waited for a minibus to take them to their nursery. All three are dead.
Then, when his 9mm weapon jammed, the killer switched to a .45-calibre gun, entered the school gates and chased children as they fled for cover.
He shot a 17-year-old pupil, who is now fighting for his life in hospital, and then cornered eight-year old Miriam, the daughter of the school principal, Yaacov Monsonego. He put the gun to her head and shot her.
As pupils ran from the large courtyard into salmon pink school buildings, the killer turned, mounted his scooter and sped off, plunging a nation into shock at the worst anti-Semitic atrocity on French soil in decades.
"He was calm and determined. In cold blood he assassinated them as if he was killing animals," said Nicola Yardeni, the regional president of CRIF, France's Jewish organisation, after viewing CCTV footage of the shootings from surveillance cameras.
"You see a man park his motorcycle, start to shoot, enter the school grounds and chase children to catch one and shoot a bullet into her head. It's unbearable to watch. He was looking to kill."
Police began a huge manhunt, erecting roadblocks across Toulouse, and put extra security outside religious schools across France. The attack is being linked with two other shootings in the Toulouse area in little more than a week, prompting fears that France is dealing with a racist serial killer.
Flowers are laid at the site of the shooting in Montauban, where three French soldiers were gunned down by a man on a motorbike (AFP/Getty Images)
Last Thursday, three soldiers were shot as they stood by a cash machine in Montauban, 30 miles north of Toulouse, by a gunman dressed in black and riding a motor scooter. Two of the victims, aged 26 and 24, died immediately. They were of north African descent. The third, 28, who is in a coma in hospital, is from the French overseas region of Guadeloupe.
A witness described how the gunman approached one soldier who was wounded and attempting to crawl away, turned him over with his foot and fired three more shots into him before getting back on his scooter and making his escape.
Four days previously in Toulouse a 30-year old soldier from the 1st Parachute Logistics Regiment was shot dead – again by a gunman on a motor scooter. The victim was also of north African origin.
One of the weapons used at the school was the same calibre as that used in the attacks on the soldiers – a .45 calibre automatic pistol.
There were reports in France that police were looking for three former soldiers of the logistics regiment sacked for "neo-Nazi" activities. The men were all ejected from the army in 2008 after a photograph emerged of them making Nazi salutes in front of a swastika. "Police are interested in locating those men to see if there may be some connection," said a source close to the investigation.
The prospect of a serial killer targeting religious and minority groups spread fear across the nation and is likely to raise questions over controversial remarks made during the presidential campaign relating to faith and immigration.
President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is seeking re-election with votes in April and May, has come under attack by religious leaders and from within his own party for veering to the Right.
Presidential campaigning was suspended yesterday as Mr Sarkozy visited Toulouse, followed later by his socialist challenger, François Hollande."Our thoughts are with these shattered families, with this mother who at the same moment lost her children and her husband, with the director of the school who saw his daughter die before his eyes," he said. "Barbarism, savagery, cruelty cannot win. Hate cannot win."The president said he was putting the Toulouse region on its highest terrorist alert level. In a televised address last night, Mr Sarkozy said the same gunman was responsible for the shootings.
"We know that it is the same person and the same weapon that killed the soldiers, the children and the teacher," he said. "This act is odious and cannot remain unpunished."
Parents and students gathered at the school throughout the afternoon to console each other. "I saw two people dead in front of the school, an adult and a child. Inside, it was a vision of horror – the bodies of two small children," said a father whose child attends the school.
Another man who lived near the school said he had spoken with Rabbi Sandler just before he was killed.
"I said 'bonjour' to him like normal," said the 29 year-old, asking to be identified only by his first name, Baroukh. "Then he went into the school entrance. I heard the shots and I turned around and saw him on the ground. He looked dead. I panicked and started running away."
The bodies were brought in hearses to the school last night for an evening vigil. A spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry said it would honour a request for the burials to take place in Israel.