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Thomas Watt HAMILTON

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 


A.K.A.: "Mr Creepy"
 
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: School shooting
Number of victims: 17
Date of murders: March 13, 1996
Date of birth: May 10, 1952
Victims profile: Sixteen children and one adult
Method of murder: Shooting (two 9 mm Browning HP pistols and two Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolvers)
Location: Dunblane, Stirling, Scotland, United Kingdom
Status: Committed suicide by shooting himself the same day
 
 
 
 
 
 
photo gallery
 
 
 
 
 
 
Transcripts of Proceedings at the Public Enquiry into
Incident at Dunblane Primary School on 13 March 1996
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Dunblane massacre was a multiple murder-suicide which occurred at Dunblane Primary School in the Scottish town of Dunblane on 13 March 1996.

Sixteen children and one adult were killed, in addition to the attacker, Thomas Watt Hamilton who committed suicide. It remains the deadliest single targeted mass homicide on children in the history of the United Kingdom.

Course of events

On 13 March 1996, unemployed former shopkeeper and former Scout leader Thomas Watt Hamilton (born Thomas Watt 10 May 1952) walked into the school armed with two 9 mm Browning HP pistols and two Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolvers. He was carrying 743 cartridges, and fired 109 times.

The subsequent police investigation revealed that Hamilton had loaded the magazines for his Browning with an alternating combination of full metal jacket and hollow point ammunition.

After gaining entry to the school, Hamilton made his way to the gymnasium and opened fire on a class of five- and six-year-olds, killing or wounding all but one person. Fifteen children and a teacher, Gwen Mayor, died at the scene.

Hamilton then left the gymnasium through the emergency exit. In the playground outside he fired a number of shots into a mobile classroom. A teacher in the mobile classroom had previously realised that something was wrong and told the children to hide under the tables.

A number of bullet holes were found in the children's chairs. He also fired at a group of children walking in a corridor, injuring one teacher. Hamilton went back into the gym and fired one shot with one of his two revolvers pointing upwards into his mouth, killing himself instantly.

A further eleven children and three adults were rushed to the hospital as soon as the emergency services arrived; one of these children was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

List of those killed

  • Victoria Elizabeth Clydesdale

  • Emma Elizabeth Crozier

  • Melissa Helen Currie

  • Charlotte Louise Dunn

  • Kevin Allan Hasell

  • Ross William Irvine

  • David Charles Kerr

  • Mhairi Isabel MacBeath

  • Brett McKinnon

  • Abigail Joanne McLennan

  • Gwen Mayor (schoolteacher)

  • Emily Morton

  • Sophie Jane Lockwood North

  • John Petrie

  • Joanna Caroline Ross

  • Hannah Louise Scott

  • Megan Turner

A memorial service conducted by James Whyte, the former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, was held on 9 October 1996.

Notable survivor

British tennis player Andy Murray was a pupil at the school at the time of the massacre, but was in a higher year group than the one which fell victim to Hamilton.

The aftermath

Hamilton's exact motives remain unknown, though it is a matter of record that there were complaints to police regarding his suspicious behaviour towards the young boys who attended the youth clubs that he ran.

There were suspicions prior to the massacre that Hamilton's interest in boys was paedophilic, with more than one complaint being made regarding him having taken photographs of semi-naked boys without the parents' consent.

He claimed in letters that rumours about him led to the collapse of his shop business in 1993, and in the last months of his life he complained again that his attempts to set up a boys' club were subject to persecution by the police and the scout movement. Among those to whom he complained were local MP Michael Forsyth and the Queen.

In the 1980s, another MP, George Robertson, who lived in Dunblane, had complained to Forsyth about Hamilton's local boys' club, which his son had attended. On the day following the massacre, George Robertson spoke of having argued with Hamilton "in my own home".

There has been unfounded speculation about the relationship between Hamilton and Robertson, and the latter launched a landmark 'e-libel' action against the Sunday Herald in 2003 after comments made on the newspaper's message board. He won an apology and damages.

On 19 March 1996, just six days after the incident, the body of Thomas Hamilton was cremated in private. The gym where the massacre took place was demolished on 11 April 1996, and within two years the whole school was rebuilt.

Cultural impact

The Home Affairs Select Committee concluded in 1996 that a ban on handguns would be "panic legislation" and would do little to prevent a repeat of the Dunblane incident. It also said that rules governing gun ownership must be changed to prevent people such as Thomas Hamilton from owning weapons.

The Cullen Inquiry recommended tighter control of handgun ownership as well as other changes in school security and vetting of people working with children under 18. However because the Hungerford massacre also involved a legal gun owner killing with his legally-held guns, public feeling had turned against private gun ownership, allowing a much more restrictive ban on handguns to pass.

Security in schools, particularly primary schools, was improved in response to the Dunblane massacre and two other tragedies which occurred at around the same time - the murder of London headmaster Phillip Lawrence and the wounding of six toddlers and a nursery nurse at a Wolverhampton nursery school.

A month later, Martin Bryant killed 35 people in the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania, Australia. The chief defence psychiatrist in the case has revealed that the Dunblane massacre, and in particular the early treatment of Thomas Hamilton, was the trigger in Bryant's mind for the Port Arthur massacre.

Music

With the consent of Bob Dylan, a Dunblane musician named Ted Christopher wrote a new verse for "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" in memory of the Dunblane school children and their teacher. The recording of the revised version of the song, which included brothers and sisters of the victims singing the chorus and Mark Knopfler on guitar, was released on December 9, 1996 in the UK, and reached number 1. The proceeds went to charities for children.

The Living End have a song on their self-titled album about the Dunblane massacre. It is called "Monday". The band's Chris Cheney said, "It was such a senseless act. I just felt compelled to write a song about it." Also, the UK band History Of Guns got their name from one of their earliest songs, inspired by the Dunblane shootings.

On their 1997 album Quintessentials, English punk band U.K. Subs feature a song simply titled "Dunblane". Lead singer Charlie Harper laments in the chorus: "After Dunblane, how can you hold a gun and say you're innocent?"

Pipe Major Robert Mathieson of Shotts and Dykehead also composed a slow air for the Highland Bagpipes in memoriam of the event, entitled "The Bells of Dunblane".

James MacMillan wrote a tribute piece, "A Child's Prayer", using the words "remembered by the composer from childhood". It was first performed in Westminster Abbey in July 1996 and recorded on the album 'ikon' by The Sixteen, conducted by Harry Christophers, in 2005.

Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) sang "The Little Ones" at the Voices for Darfur gala performance at the Royal Albert Hall, London, in December 2004, a song which he said he wrote for the children of Dunblane and Bosnia.

Eric Bogle, a Scotsman who has lived for many years in Australia, wrote and recorded "One Small Star" in tribute.

The Nationalist rock band Brutal Attack released a song titled The Angels of Dunblane on their album, When Odin Calls.

Books

Two books - Dunblane: Our Year of Tears by Peter Samson and Alan Crow (Mainstream, 1996) and Dunblane: Never Forget by Mick North (Mainstream, 2000) - both give accounts of the massacre from the perspective of those most directly affected.

Another book, Dunblane Unburied by Sandra Uttley (Book Publishing World 2006), whose publication was funded by a shooters' organisation, the Sportsman's Association, examines Hamilton's relationship with members of Central Scotland Police and presents a disturbing alternative account to the events leading up to the massacre. Uttley alleges a major high-level cover-up and calls for a new Public Inquiry to establish the truth.

Television

On the Sunday following the shootings the morning service from Dunblane Cathedral, conducted by Rev. Colin MacIntosh, was broadcast live by the BBC. The BBC also had live transmission of the Memorial Service on 9 October 1996, also held at Dunblane Cathedral.

A documentary 'Dunblane: Remembering our Children' (produced by Chameleon Television), which featured many of the parents of the children who had been killed, was broadcast by ITV at the time of the first anniversary.

At the time of the Tenth Anniversary in March 2006 two documentaries were broadcast. Channel 5 screened 'Dunblane - a decade on' (made by Hanrahan Media) and BBC Scotland showed 'Remembering Dunblane' (made by iwcmedia).

Episode 1,954 of Australian soap opera Home And Away, in which the estranged father of a Year 7 student of Summer Bay High brought a rifle into the school and held headmaster Donald Fisher hostage all afternoon and overnight (throughout the episode), was not shown at all in the UK. References to the siege in other episodes were edited out by ITV, the then UK broadcaster of the show.

Flowers

At least three flowers have been named after victims of the shootings. Two roses, developed by Cockers of Aberdeen, were named "Gwen Mayor" and "Innocence" in memory of the teacher and the children. A variety of snowdrop, discovered ten years earlier in the garden of a house close to Dunblane Primary School, has been named after Sophie North.

Memorials

Dunblane Primary School gymnasium was demolished shortly afterwards and replaced by a small garden: a simple plaque bears the names of the victims.

A Memorial Garden was created at the town's cemetery, where most of those who were killed are buried. The central feature of the Garden is a fountain designed by Maggie Howarth. The Garden was dedicated at a ceremony on 14 March 1998.

Stained glass windows in memory of the victims were placed in three local churches, St Blane's and the Church of the Holy Family in Dunblane and the nearby Lecropt Kirk. A Clashach standing stone was later erected in Dunblane Cathedral.

Gardens and trees were planted, and cairns built at various locations, especially schools, throughout the UK in remembrance of the children and their teacher.

The National Association of Primary Education commissioned a wooden sculpture, 'Flame for Dunblane', created by Walter Bailey, which was placed in the National Forest, England.

The Dunblane Youth and Community Centre, funded by donations made after the shootings, was opened in September 2004.

Political impact

Mrs. Ann Pearson, a friend of some of the bereaved families, founded a very widely supported campaign, named the Snowdrop Petition (because March is snowdrop time in Scotland), which gained 705,000 signatures in support, and was successful in pressing Parliament, and the then-current Conservative government, into introducing a ban on all cartridge ammunition handguns with the exception of .22 calibre single-shot weapons in England, Scotland and Wales.

The families of the victims were active in the lobbying campaign as was the Gun Control Network, also set up in the aftermath of the shootings, and whose members included parents of victims at Dunblane and of the Hungerford Massacre. The campaign was also supported by a number of newspapers, including the Sunday Mail, a Scottish tabloid whose own petition to ban handguns had raised 428,279 signatures within five weeks of the massacre.

Following the 1997 General Election, the Labour government of Tony Blair introduced the Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1997, banning the remaining .22 cartridge handguns in England, Scotland and Wales, and leaving only muzzle-loading and historic handguns legal, as well as certain sporting handguns (e.g. "Long-Arms") that fall outside the Home Office Definition of a "Handgun" due to their dimensions. The ban does not affect Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, or the Channel Islands.

Conspiracy theories

Since the massacre, questions have been raised about the actions of Central Scotland Police in the case, and numerous Internet conspiracy theories have arisen regarding alleged involvement by Freemasonry, George Robertson, MI6, the supporters of the Snowdrop Petition and Northern Ireland terrorist organisations.

These were, to some extent, fuelled by the 100-year restriction on publication of parts of the Cullen Inquiry into the massacre. The partial lifting of these restrictions on 3 October 2005 quelled some of the more outlandish theories. One of the victims' parents, who read the full version of all the documents before they were released, concluded there was no evidence for any conspiracy, but they do include some sensitive information. Dunblane conspiracy sites still persist on the web.

Dunblane Unburied, the book written by Sandra Uttley who was a paramedic at the time of the Dunblane Massacre in Scotland, argues that Central Scotland Police were more culpable in the case than was officially admitted.

Police activity

Prior to the events of 13 March, 1996, Hamilton was already well known to Central Scotland Police. There were a number of investigations and reports compiled, the exact number and content cannot be verified as they are still unavailable. However, some police involvement with Hamilton is known.

In October 1994, Hamilton was cautioned by Lothian and Borders Police in Calton Hill, Edinburgh, when he was found with his trousers down in a "compromising position" with a young man.

In 1991, following Hamilton's Loch Lomond summer camp, complaints were made to Central Scotland Police and were investigated by the Child Protection Unit. Hamilton was reported to the Procurator Fiscal for consideration of 10 charges, including assault, obstructing police and contravention of the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act of 1937. No action was taken.

References

  • 'Dunblane Unburied' by Sandra Uttley. ISBN 1-905553-05-6.

Wikipedia.org

 
 

Massacre in Scotland

The Columbian

13 March 1996

DUNBLANE, Scotland: A man burst into a Scottish elementary school with four handguns today and opened fire on a class of kindergartners, massacring 16 children and one teacher in "a slaughter of the innocents." The gunman then shot and killed himself.

Thirteen of the 29 children in the class were killed instantly in the attack in Dublane, a 13th-century cathedral town on the edge of the Scottish Highlands. Three more died later in a hospital, police said.

 
 

Killer's Likes: Boys and Guns

The Cincinnati Post

14 March 1996

For years, Thomas Hamilton nurtured a grievance.

The Boy Scouts movement expelled him in 1974 for what the association called ''unstable and possibly improper behavior following a scout camp,'' and he was determined to get back.

 
 

Massacre shatters Scot town

Detroit Free Press

14 March 1996

DUNBLANE, Scotland -- One sobbing child leaned heavily against a car door. Another, her eyes glazed, stumbled through the panicked, jostling crowd at the school gate.

Nearby, a woman darted down the main street, shrieking, "Victoria! Victoria!"

 
 

'A slaughter of the innocents'

Gunman kills 16 children, teacher, himself

The Miami Herald

14 March 1996

This tranquil cathedral town at the foot of the Scottish Highlands was plunged into horror Wednesday when a disgraced former Boy Scout leader armed with four handguns walked into a school gymnasium and killed 16 kindergartners and their teacher.

 
 

Locked away in a dingy apartment

San Antonio Express-News

15 March 1996

STIRLING, Scotland - Locked away in a dingy apartment with his loner's bitterness, his pictures of young boys and his beloved guns, Thomas Watt Hamilton was a disaster waiting to happen.

He was a social misfit nobody trusted. He was an angry man, resentful, a crank who felt he was being persecuted. He wrote letters to the editor, badgered his representative in Parliament and last week appealed to Queen Elizabeth with a letter asking to be allowed to rejoin a scouting movement that had fired him.

 
 

'Evil visited us . . . and we don't know why'

Lexington Herald-Leader

15 March 1996

DUNBLANE, Scotland -- "I thought I had seen death in all its forms, but I was wrong," paramedic Thomas Urquhart said yesterday.

"Some of the children were lying in a circle; it looked as if they had been shot while playing a game. The way the dead teacher was lying, it looked as if she was trying to protect the children."

 
 

Loner troubled town

Few in Dunblane trusted him

Detroit Free Press

15 March 1996

DUNBLANE, Scotland -- For years, local politicians said Thursday, they had been trying to get someone to do something about Thomas Hamilton.

Hamilton, 43, a shambling loner whose obsessions were guns, boys and photography, was well-known to children and their parents in this tiny community, even before he killed 16 children, their teacher and himself in a burst of gunfire Wednesday.

 
 

Scots mourn children

Grief, emptiness replace the horror

Detroit Free Press

16 March 1996

DUNBLANE, Scotland -- As shock at the massacre of 16 kindergartners gave way to grief Friday, parents spoke about the sons and daughters whose young lives were cut short by a crazed gunman, and of their own grief and emptiness.

Lynne McMaster, pregnant with her sixth child, sobbed as she recalled the last moments with her daughter Victoria, one of the children killed when Thomas Hamilton opened fire on a class of 5 and 6 year-olds and their teacher in a school here Wednesday.

 
 

Queen shares town's grief

Sun Herald

18 March 1996

Queen Elizabeth II came with flowers and sympathy, and a nation paused in silence Sunday to mourn 16 murdered children and their teacher. "She obviously felt for us," said Dr. Jim Herbert, a local physician who was one of the first on the scene Wednesday after Thomas Hamilton opened fire on a kindergarten gym class. Hamilton later killed himself.

 
 

Killer in school massacre in Scotland is cremated

Philadelphia Enquirer

20 March 1996

LONDON - Thomas Hamilton, the vengeful misfit who massacred 16 children and their teacher at a Scottish school, was cremated yesterday during a secret family service.

 
 

Scottish school reopens doors

The Columbian

22 March 1996

DUNBLANE, Scotland: The laughter of children resounded through the halls of Dunblane Primary School today for the first time since a gunman killed 16 kindergarten students and their teacher nine days ago.

Some parents who escorted their children to class emerged wiping away tears. School staff admitted it was a difficult day.

 
 

Blood-spattered gym torn down

St. Paul Pioneer Press

11 April 1996

Workers began Wednesday to tear down the Dunblane Primary School gym, where gunman Thomas Hamilton killed 16 little children and their teacher. The demolition is expected to take several days and be finished before pupils return Monday from their Easter vacation. A garden of spring flowers will be planted on the site. The bereaved community on the edge of the Scottish Highlands has asked to media to stay well away.

 
 

Gunman had long plotted

School massacre, inquiry hints

The Miami Herald

6 June 1996

Evidence at a special inquiry in Scotland suggests the man who shot to death 16 children and a teacher at Dunblane Primary School in March had contemplated his crime for months and had come prepared to kill many more children, perhaps hundreds more.

 
 

Gunman shoots himself after killing 17 in school gymn massacre

Killer was ex-Scout leader with grudge

A DISGRACED Scout leader walked into a school gym yesterday armed with four handguns and opened fire on a class of five and six-year-olds taking part in a PE lesson. Within three minutes all but one of the 29 children were left wounded, dying or dead.

Fifteen boys and girls and their class mistress died in the gym of Dunblane primary school, Perthshire. A sixteenth child died soon after arriving at hospital. In his final act, Hamilton, 43, who was forced to quit the Scouts amid abuse allegations, turned a gun on himself and committed suicide. Most of the murdered children died huddled together. Many had been hit by more than one bullet.

John McEwan, divisional manager of the local ambulance service, said: "One of the images I think will stay with me is, not so much the dying, although that is bad enough, but there were five-year-old children looking unbelievingly at bullet holes in their arms and legs. They just could not comprehend what had happened to them." Thirteen classmates survived the attack. Two others were off school sick. The dead teacher was named as Gwenne Mayor, 44, the mother of two student daughters aged 20 and 21.

Hamilton, unemployed from Stirling, had run a twice-weekly boys' club, the Rovers, at Dunblane High School but was barred from the group after a series of allegations.

"I cannot tell you what stopped him shooting. Whether he ran out of bullets I could not tell you"

Locals claimed that the motive for the attack could have been revenge on a community that had shunned him. However, police said the shootings were "totally random" with no motive known at this stage. William Wilson, chief constable of Central Scotland, told a press conference in Dunblane: "I cannot tell you what stopped him shooting. Whether he ran out of bullets I could not tell you."

One boy described to his father how he had watched his teacher and classmates die in front of him. Robert Weir said his son, Stewart, now recovering in hospital from his injuries, thought the gunman was aiming at him. "He got hit in the leg so he took a run and just hid with another wee girl," said Mr Weir. "It is lucky the man turned the gun on himself before he got the rest of the kids. Stewart knows they have been shot but I don't think he really knows the extent of the damage yet."

Steven Hopper, 11, a pupil in another class, told of diving for cover under his desk as the gunman appeared to turn one of his weapons on his classroom. As he left the school with his parents, Steven said that his classroom, a converted hut, was only a few yards from the gym.

"It was pretty scary when he started firing at our classroom window because all the glass smashed in and I got hit by a piece"

He said: "I looked over and saw the gunman. He seemed to come out of the gymnasium and he was just firing at something. "He was coming towards me, so I just dived under my desk when he turned and fired at us. "The firing was very fast, like someone hitting a hammer quickly. Then there was a few seconds of a pause and he started again. "It was pretty scary when he started firing at our classroom window because all the glass smashed in and I got hit by a piece."

As news of the slaughter spread, parents hurried to the 700-pupil school. Mothers and fathers, some weeping inconsolably, sought reassurance about their children. One woman repeatedly called out: "Victoria, Victoria."

Dunblane, a prosperous cathedral town of 7,000 inhabitants, is within easy commuter reach of Glasgow and Edinburgh and many parents were at work during the massacre. Last night, 15 people, were being treated in hospitals in Stirling, Falkirk and Glasgow. Among these were two teachers slightly hurt in bursts of fire as Hamilton walked to the gym. The shootings were the worst single act of mass murder in Britain since Michael Ryan killed 16 people in Hungerford, Berks, nine years ago.

 
 

Bachelor accused over pictures

Hamilton, who had run a number of groups for boys, recently pushed leaflets through the doors of every house in Dunblane complaining that allegations stretching back 20 years, which included claims that he took photographs of young boys in their underwear, were untrue.

The 43-year-old bachelor, who had a fascination with firearms, was also involved in bitter rows with the local council over the allegations, which he blamed for the collapse of his business.

Hamilton started a DIY store specializing in fitted kitchens in Dunblane in 1970 and three years later became leader of the 4th Stirling Scout Group. But in March 1974 he was forced to hand back his warrant in disgrace, a spokesman for the Scout Association said.

"We asked him to resign because there were complaints about inappropriate behavior following a Scout camp," the spokesman said.

Hamilton had subsequently made a number of attempts to rejoin the Scouts at different places around the country but had been picked up by the organization's central computer.

In the early Eighties, he set up the Dunblane Rovers, a group which appeared to base itself on the old Rover Scouts. "We publicly expressed a number of reservations," the Scouts' spokesman said.

Central Regional Council subsequently prevented the group from using Dunblane High School for its meetings after complaints from parents. However the Local Government Ombudsman backed Hamilton, saying that the council had been wrong to act on the basis of "implications too vague to be counted".

Hamilton said that the affair had left him very bitter and claimed that the allegations led to the collapse of his 14-year-old business.

He failed in a further attempt to rejoin the Scouts in 1988, and in 1993 and 1994 was the subject of police inquiries. He continued to run a number of clubs for boys, coaching a weekly football club at the high school and taking children on week-long summer camps.

In an apparent effort to clear his name, Hamilton wrote to Buckingham Palace last Friday highlighting his work with boys over the past 20 years. In his letter to the Queen, who is patron of the Scout Association, Hamilton is understood to have claimed that the organization had tarnished his name. He also alleged maladministration within the Scout movement and complained that his local council prevented him from carrying out "valuable" youth work.

Central Regional Council last night refused to confirm or deny that Hamilton had ever run a youth organization in any of its schools.

But one councilor said that the council never had any reason to suspect that Hamilton was violent. "It was just suspicions on the part of the parents whose children were members of his clubs. They were unhappy with the gentleman.

"There was nothing to make us suspect him of violence. He was just an unusual man."

Another councilor, Frena Davidson, recalled that Hamilton had been in dispute with the council over an attempt to reduce the number of hours he worked with the children. He had called at the homes of councilors to lobby for their support.

"I remember it well because it was Hogmanay and I couldn't believe that anyone would call round at that time," she said.

Mrs Davidson, who lives in Dunblane, said that some parents had expressed growing concern about Hamilton's activities. "Apparently, what he did latterly was to make the boys strip to the waist and change into striped underpants and then he would take photographs of them before they embarked on their sports activities."

She said that the regional council and the police were aware of the disquiet surrounding Hamilton's activities, "but we couldn't prove anything and there was nothing we could do".

Hamilton used to take boys on adventure trips to an island in Loch Lomond, she said.

John Robertson, a former warden at the Loch's Millarochy campsite, said that he had banned Hamilton from bringing boys to the site five years ago after a visit from the police. "He would teach them football and gymnastics and he especially liked photographing them all the time. He said he had to take all these photos of the boys in every circumstance to prove that he was being a good boy.

"To my knowledge the police turned up to question him at least twice. They also spoke to the boys he had in his charge. When the CID came on the site they were quite angry with him. They were gunning for him."

Neighbours in Kent Road, Stirling, where Hamilton had one room of his home converted into a photographic darkroom, said they were never able to understand him.

Hamilton was polite, quietly spoken, reasonably dressed and yet in the six years he lived there, something about him struck them as weird.

A clean shaven, bespectacled, balding man, he would never look them in the eye and kept his head held down as he walked along the street. His demeanor would only change when he was around young people and a few neighbours said that they had been worried about his unhealthy obsession with the area's children.

Grace Ogilvie, 62, was among those concerned. "There was one time when he invited me into his house saying he would show me something. I went inside and saw he had videos of children, 20 or 30 of them in swimming trunks. He said they were the boys he trained. "There was a video camera in the living room and pictures of boys in the bedroom and living room. The house was a tip and I couldn't wait to get out of there," she said.

 
 

One man's massacre

About 8.15 am Thomas Hamilton was seen by a neighbour to be scraping ice off a white van outside his home at 7 Kent Road, Stirling. They had a normal conversation. Some time later he drove off in the van in the direction of Dunblane. At about 9.30 am he parked the van beside a telegraph pole in the lower car park of Dunblane Primary School. He took out a pair of pliers from a toolwrap and used them to cut the telephone wires at the foot of the telegraph pole. These did not serve the school but a number of adjoining houses.

He then crossed the car park, carrying the weapons, ammunition and other equipment and entered the school by way of a door on its north west side which was next to the toilets beside the gym. Had he used the main entrance to the school it was more likely that he would have been seen as there were many persons in the vicinity of the entrance at that time.

The school day had started at 9 am for all primary classes. Morning assemblies were held in the school's Assembly Hall which was situated between the dining area and the gymnasium. The school had 640 pupils, making it one of the largest primary schools in Scotland. The Assembly Hall was not large enough to accommodate the whole school at one time, with the consequence that assemblies were limited to certain year groups in rotation.

On 13 March all primary 1, 2 and 3 classes had attended assembly from 9.10 am to 9.30 am. They consisted of a total of about 250 pupils, together with their teachers and the school chaplain. They included Primary 1/13 which was a class of 28 pupils, along with their teacher Mrs Gwen Mayor. This class had already changed for their gym lesson before attending assembly. 25 members of the class were 5 years of age: and 3 were 6 years of age. Mrs Mayor was 47 years of age.

At the conclusion of assembly all those present had dispersed to their respective classrooms, with the exception of Primary 1/13 who with Mrs Mayor had made their way to the gymnasium, passing the entrance which Thomas Hamilton used to gain access to the school, and entering the gymnasium by the doorway at its north end. A physical education teacher, Mrs Eileen Harrild, had already arrived there along with Mrs Mary Blake, a supervisory assistant, who was to relieve Mrs Mayor in order to enable her to attend a meeting.

The children had been instructed to go to the centre and away from the equipment which was at the south end. Mrs Harrild had been talking to Mrs Mayor for a few minutes. As she was about to attend to the waiting class she heard a noise behind her that caused her to turn round. This was probably the sound of Thomas Hamilton firing two shots into the stage of the Assembly Hall and the girls toilet outside the gym.

He then entered the gym. He was wearing a dark jacket, black corduroy trousers and a woolly hat with ear defenders. He had a pistol in his hand. He advanced a couple of steps into the gym and fired indiscriminately and in rapid succession. Mrs Harrild was hit in both forearms, the right hand and left breast. She stumbled into the open-plan store area which adjoined the gym, followed by a number of the children. Mrs Mayor was also shot several times and died instantly. Mrs Blake was then shot but also managed to reach the store, ushering some children in ahead of her.

From his position near the entrance doorway of the gym Hamilton fired a total of 29 shots in rapid succession. From that position he killed one child and injured others. During this shooting four injured children made their way to the store. In the store Mrs Blake and Mrs Harrild tried to console and calm the terrified children who had taken refuge there. The children cowered on the floor, lying helplessly in pools of blood hearing the screams and moans of their classmates in the gym, and waiting for the end or for help.

Thomas Hamilton walked up the east side of the gym firing six shots. At a point midway along it he discharged 8 shots in the direction of the opposite side of the gym. He then advanced to the middle of the gym and walked in a semi-circle systematically firing 16 shots at a group of children who had either been disabled by the firing or who had been thrown to the floor. He stood over them and fired at point-blank range.

Meanwhile a child from Primary 7 class who had been sent on an errand by his teacher, and was walking along the west side of the gym heard loud banging and screaming. He looked in and saw Thomas Hamilton shooting. Thomas Hamilton shot at him. The child was struck by flying glass and ran off. It appears that Thomas Hamilton then advanced to the south end of the gym. From that position he fired 24 rounds in various directions. He shot through the window adjacent to the fire escape door at the south-east end of the gym. This may have been at an adult who was walking across the playground. Thomas Hamilton then opened the fire escape door and discharged a further 4 shots in the same direction from within the gym.

He then went outside the doorway and fired 4 more shots towards the library cloakroom, striking Mrs Grace Tweddle, a member of the staff, a glancing blow on the head. A teacher, Mrs Catherine Gordon, and her Primary 7 class who were using hut number 7 which was the classroom closest to the fire escape door saw and heard Thomas Hamilton firing from that direction. She immediately instructed her class to get down on the floor, just in time before he discharged 9 shots into her classroom. Most became embedded in books and equipment. One passed through a chair which seconds before had been used by a child.

Thomas Hamilton then re-entered the gym where he shot again. He then released the pistol and drew a revolver. He placed the muzzle of the revolver in his mouth, pointing upwards and pulled the trigger. His death followed quickly.

Mrs Mayor and 15 children lay dead in the gym and one further child was close to death. They had sustained a total of 58 gun shot wounds. 26 of these wounds were of such a nature that individually they would have proved fatal.

In the result the deaths of the victims were caused by gunshot wounds caused by Thomas Hamilton's actions in shooting them. All of these victims died within the gym, with the exception of the sixteenth child, Mhairi Isabel MacBeath, who was found to be dead on arrival at Stirling Royal Infirmary at 10.30 am. While it is not possible to be precise as to the times at which the shootings took place, it is likely that they occurred within a period of 3-4 minutes, starting between 9.35 am and 9.40 am.

The survivors of the incident were taken to Stirling Royal Infirmary. They consisted of the remaining 12 members of the class; two pupils aged 11 who were elsewhere than in the gym when they were injured; and Mrs Harrild, Mrs Blake and Mrs Tweddle. 13 of them had sustained gunshot wounds, 4 being serious, 6 very serious and 3 minor. Of the remaining 4, 2 had sustained minor injuries and 2 were uninjured.

 
 

The response to the incident

The school staff

Mrs Agnes Awlson, the Assistant Headmistress, was making her way across the playground from her classroom when she heard several sharp metallic noises and screaming coming from the gym. She ran along a corridor and saw what she thought were cartridges lying outside its doorway. Realising that something dreadful was happening she ran back to the office of the Headmaster, Mr Ronald Taylor, who was making a telephone call.

The call began at 9.38 am. He was conscious of hearing noises like indistinct bangs. This puzzled him and his reaction was to think that there were builders on the premises about whom he had not been informed. Mrs Awlson entered his office in a crouched position saying that there was a man in the school with a gun. Mr Taylor cut short his call and made an emergency call to the police, which was received at 9.41 am.

He then ran along the corridor to the gym. On the way he heard no further noises. A student teacher told him that he had seen the gunman shooting himself. Mr Taylor's estimate was that some 3 minutes had lapsed between his first hearing the noises and being told this by the student teacher.

Mr Taylor burst into the gym. He was met by what he described in evidence as "a scene of unimaginable carnage, one's worst nightmare". He saw a group of children on the right hand side of the gym who were crying and obviously less injured than the others. He asked the student teacher to take them out of the gym and give them comfort. He then ran back to his office and instructed the Deputy Headmistress, Mrs Fiona Eadington, to telephone for ambulances. That call was made at 9.43 am.

He then ran back to the gym calling for adults, and in particular the kitchen staff, to come and help. He moved through the gym along with the janitor Mr John Currie. He noticed Thomas Hamilton lying at the south end of the gym. He seemed to be moving. He noticed a gun on the floor beside him and told Mr Currie to kick it away, which he did. He also removed the revolver from Thomas Hamilton's hand and threw that aside. By this time the Assistant Headmaster, Mr Stuart McCombie, and members of the kitchen staff were in the gym endeavouring to help the injured children until the arrival of the police. When Mr Taylor went to the store area he discovered the injured who were there. Other members of staff arrived and endeavoured to attend to the injured, who were taken to the Assembly Hall.

By this time the police and medical teams had arrived. Attention was turned to the difficult problem of identifying the children. Since Mrs Mayor was dead, help was sought from members of staff, including nursery staff, who had looked after the children during the previous year. However, not all of the children had been through the nursery. This was an extremely harrowing experience for all the members of staff who were involved. They had to be taken into and out of the gym on several occasions.

The record cards were consulted in order to aid identification. Unfortunately the class register had not been marked for Mrs Mayor's class as the class had proceeded directly to the gym after assembly. A further difficulty was encountered when it was discovered that one child was wearing clothing with the name tag of another child. The record card for another child was not in its expected place but this did not delay identification. Mr Taylor and his staff did everything that they possibly could to assist, far beyond what might reasonably have been expected of them.

Emergency Services

The first ambulance arrived at the school at 9.57 am in response to the call at 9.43 am. It left at 10.15 am with the first patient for Stirling Royal Infirmary, and returned later for more patient transfers.

A team of doctors and a nurse from the Health Centre at Dunblane arrived on the scene at about 10.04 am, followed shortly thereafter by a community nursing sister from the Health Centre. They were involved in immediate resuscitation of injured teachers and children. They were joined by doctors from the Doune Health Centre and from Callander.

At 9.48 am the accident and emergency department at Stirling Royal Infirmary was notified of the incident and within a few minutes it was known that multiple casualties or fatalities were possible. A major incident was declared and the planned response to such an event was put into operation.

At 10.15 am the first of a number of teams from Stirling Royal Infirmary arrived at the school and took up the process of triage which had been initiated by the doctors from Dunblane. This involved working out the priorities according to an assessment of each victim's needs. A decision was then taken as to fitness for evacuation and the order in which evacuation should take place. At the Infirmary operating theatres had been cleared of planned surgical cases.

On their arrival at hospital the victims were handed over to the care of teams of surgeons and anaesthetists. Four of the children had sustained potentially fatal wounds. A team from Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary also arrived about 10.35 am. All of the injured victims had arrived at Stirling Royal Infirmary by about 11.10 am. After initial examination some were sent to the Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary and others required to be transferred to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Yorkhill, Glasgow, for specialist treatment.

 
 

Events in the life of Thomas Hamilton

Family, education and livelihood

Thomas Hamilton was born in Glasgow on 10 May 1952. He was the son of Thomas Watt and Agnes Graham Hamilton or Watt. He was named Thomas Watt. Shortly after his birth his parents separated and in 1955 they were divorced. He and his mother moved to the home of his maternal grandparents in Cranhill, Glasgow.

On 26 March 1956 he was adopted by them and his name was changed to Thomas Watt Hamilton. In 1963 he accompanied his adoptive parents when they moved to 11 Upper Bridge Street, Stirling. He grew up in the belief that his natural mother was his sister. In 1985 she moved to live in a house of her own.

In 1987 Thomas Hamilton and his adoptive parents moved to 7 Kent Road, where he continued to live until 13 March 1996. In August 1987 his adoptive mother died; and 5 years later his adoptive father moved into sheltered housing, so leaving Thomas Hamilton in sole occupation. He remained in contact with his natural mother, visiting her about twice a week.

After a primary education in Cranhill and Stirling Thomas Hamilton attended Riverside Secondary School, Stirling and Falkirk Technical College, obtaining a number of O Grades in 1968. In that year he became an apprentice draughtsman in the County Architect's Office in Stirling.

In 1972 he opened a shop at 49 Cowane Street, Stirling known as "Woodcraft", which specialised in the sale of DIY goods and supplies, ironmongery, and latterly the sale of fitted kitchens. After about 13 years he gave up the shop and registered as unemployed. He received state benefits until November 1993. However, at the same time he carried on the activity of buying and selling cameras and camera equipment and carrying out some free-lance photography.

Thomas Hamilton's involvement with the Scouts

In July 1973 Thomas Hamilton, who was then a Venture Scout, was appointed as Assistant Scout Leader of the 4th/6th Stirling Troop. This followed the normal checks into an appointee's suitability. He seemed very keen and willing and did not present any problems. On one occasion he volunteered to take some boys on his boat on Loch Lomond for their proficiency badge work but this was not permitted as the boat had insufficient lifejackets and no distress flares or oars, and he had inadequate knowledge of the waters. In the autumn of 1973 he was seconded to be leader of the 24th Stirlingshire troop which was to be revived at Bannockburn.

A number of complaints were made about his leadership, the most serious of which were concerned with two occasions when the boys who were in his charge were forced to sleep overnight in his company in a van during very cold weather at Aviemore. His excuse on the first occasion was that the intended accommodation had been double-booked and he was warned of the need to double-check such arrangements.

On the latter occasion it was found that no booking had been made by him on either of these occasions. The County Commissioner, Mr Brian D Fairgrieve had a discussion with the District Commissioner, Mr R C H Deuchars, in which they agreed that Thomas Hamilton should be asked to resign.

Thereafter Mr Fairgrieve had a meeting with him. He did not think that Thomas Hamilton was a particularly stable person. He said in evidence "I formed the impression that he had a persecution complex, that he had delusions of grandeur and I felt his actions were almost paranoia". He was doubtful about his moral intention towards boys. Thomas Hamilton was informed that in view of his lack of qualities in leadership his warrant was being withdrawn. On 13 May 1974 Mr Deuchars wrote to him requiring that he return his warrant book. Despite repeated requests he did not do so for some months.

Mr Fairgrieve wrote to the Scottish Scout Headquarters in order to give them his views about Thomas Hamilton as he considered that he should not be a member of the Scout movement. In this letter dated 29 June 1974 he wrote:

"While unable to give concrete evidence against this man I feel that too many 'incidents' relate to him such that I am far from happy about his having any association with Scouts. He has displayed irresponsible acts on outdoor activities by taking young 'favourite' Scouts for weekends during the winter and sleeping in his van, the excuse for these outings being hill-walking expeditions. The lack of precautions for such outdoor activities displays either irresponsibility or an ulterior motive for sleeping with the boys...... His personality displays evidence of a persecution complex coupled with rather grandiose delusions of his own abilities. As a doctor, and with my clinical acumen only, I am suspicious of his moral intentions towards boys".

Mr Deuchars also submitted a form to Scout Headquarters to the effect that Thomas Hamilton was not considered to be a suitable applicant due to his immaturity and irresponsibility. This resulted in his name being entered on the "blacklist" which is intended to ensure that unsuitable applicants are denied an appointment in the Scout Association. Such a record is also consulted on occasions when an outside enquiry is made as to whether a former Scout leader has provided satisfactory service. In the case of Thomas Hamilton it was effective in preventing him in his attempt to become a Scout leader in Clackmannanshire.

During the Inquiry reference was made to a copy of what purported to be a letter written by Thomas Hamilton, dated 28 April 1974 and addressed to Mr Deuchars. In that letter he tendered his resignation as Scout leader of the 24th Stirlingshire troop, criticised the conduct of Mr Deuchars and stated his intention to transfer to another district. Mr Deuchars had no recollection of receiving the letter and there is no record of it on the Scout files. The copy was retrieved from the records of Central Regional Council. Thomas Hamilton did not write or send the letter on the date which it bears and that it was written by him in order to create a false impression that through his own resignation he had anticipated the withdrawal of his warrant.

In February 1977 after making a number of attempts to return to Scouting Thomas Hamilton requested the Scout Association to hold a Committee of Inquiry into his complaint that he had been victimised. This request was denied.

After some correspondence he stated in April 1977 that he was discontinuing the thought of holding a warrant "as I do not want my good name to be part of this so-called organisation in this district". However, his letters of complaint continued. The response of the Scout Association was that the warrant had been withdrawn on the basis of lack of preparation and planning for his adventure activities at Aviemore.

In 1978 he approached Mr David Vass, the District Commissioner for the Trossachs, offering his services as a Scout Leader. After consulting with Mr Fairgrieve Mr Vass responded that they were unable to make use of his services. Thomas Hamilton persistently maintained that the Scouts had not only ruined his reputation by terminating his appointment but that they were linked with the actions taken by other organisations, and in particular the police.

Thomas Hamilton's boys clubs

After the withdrawal of his warrant Thomas Hamilton became increasingly involved in the setting up and running of boys clubs. It is not clear when he began this activity but it appears that in the late 1970s he was running the "Dunblane Rovers" in the Duckburn Centre in Dunblane. He also ran a Rovers Group in Bannockburn.

There was some evidence that at this time he was permitted to use school premises. In any event it is clear that during the period from November 1981 until his death he organised and operated 15 boys clubs for various periods and that these clubs used school premises in Central, Lothian, Fife and Strathclyde Regions.

The typical way in which Thomas Hamilton sought to obtain support for such clubs was to send leaflets to houses and primary schools in the area which the club was intended to serve. In general head teachers, who had a discretion as to whether leaflets from voluntary organisations should be allowed to be distributed through their schools, endeavoured to prevent their schools being used in this way.

The clubs were aimed mainly at boys between the ages of 7 and 11. The club activities consisted of games, such as football, along with an element of gymnastics. Thomas Hamilton held a Grade 5 certificate from the British Amateur Gymnastics Association which qualified him to provide coaching in gymnastics, subject to being supervised by someone who held a higher qualification.

He was occasionally assisted by persons with sporting qualifications who had responded to an advertisement; or by volunteer helpers, including parents, but this was not regularly the case. In general Thomas Hamilton ran each of the clubs entirely on his own.

In a few instances he represented that there was a club committee. In these cases it appears that a few individuals gave him temporary assistance but there was no satisfactory evidence that the members of the committee controlled or managed anything. From about 1989 he used the title "Boys' Clubs Sports Group Committee", so creating the impression that others were participating in the running of the clubs.

In reality this was a title for his own activities. From the running of the clubs he obtained a modest income which in the early days enabled him to finance his trading in cameras. Boys were initially charged 20p or 30p per night but these charges rose to 1 or 1.50.

Most of the clubs were initially extremely popular, attracting as many as 70 boys. However, over the lifetime of a club the numbers dropped, typically to less than a dozen. In the early days Thomas Hamilton put this down to lack of patience or determination on the part of the boys. However, it is more likely that this was due to the accumulated effect of reactions to his behaviour and the rumours which it generated.

Thomas Hamilton's explanation of his objectives was that he wanted to give the boys something to do and keep them off the streets, and that the discipline was a useful preparation for life. He said that he put his boys through fitness schemes; that he hated fat children and blamed parents for allowing them to eat junk food.

However, his style of running the clubs attracted the comment from parents and helpers that it was over-regimented and even militaristic. Witnesses described him as tending to be domineering. There was too much use of shouting. It suggested to some that he was getting something out of dominating the boys. His approach was in any event not in line with modern methods.

The evidence also indicated that the exercises which the boys were asked to perform were over-strenuous for their age. Parents were also concerned that he was running the clubs without any apparent adult help. He said that he was authorised to be in sole charge of up to 30 boys but this was known to be untrue.

Thomas Hamilton claimed in a number of letters that the rumours about him in 1983 caused the collapse of his shop business. However, it is more likely that this was due to the effect of competition from modern DIY stores and to his preoccupation with boys clubs and camps. He saw the clubs as a means of making a success of the camps.

Mr D G McGregor, a former employee of Central Regional Council, whom he consulted about 1980 in regard to the qualifications required by someone running a gymnastics club, recalled that "he was interested in running camps during the summer months, but in order to ...get recruits, you might say, along to the camps he felt it necessary that he would have to run clubs during the winter".

The evidence showed that Thomas Hamilton was constantly engaged in recruiting boys and that he could be abusive to parents who withdrew their sons.

He was not averse to using deceitful or at any rate questionable methods of attracting support. His description as to the intended activities, his own qualifications, the number of helpers and the charges which would be made for membership not infrequently bore little relation to what happened. In order to gain an appearance of respectability he represented that a committee was responsible for the running of clubs and he made use of the names of officials as "contacts". He took photographs of boys without their parents' knowledge or consent. He issued misleading information as to the circumstances in which he had left the Scouts.

At the same time he was extremely intolerant of those who questioned the way in which he ran the clubs and camps. It is also clear that he had an inflated view of his own importance and that of his activities. Mr B D Fairgrieve said of a meeting with Thomas Hamilton in 1974, where he had been subjected to a long and rambling discourse: "I formed the impression that he had a persecution complex, that he had delusions of grandeur and I felt his actions were almost paranoia."

When DCC McMurdo wrote to The Scottish Office on 14 January 1992 he made a number of remarks which showed that he was plainly exasperated with Thomas Hamilton's statements. His remarks included: "For Mr Hamilton to see his tiny local organisation as a serious rival to the Scouting movement indicates a certain lack of perspective". When Thomas Hamilton was criticised he would reply with elaborate self-justification and often adopted attack as a means of defence.

Thomas Hamilton harboured a long-standing grievance against the Scouts and the police. In the large volume of correspondence which he generated a recurring theme is his assertion that the police were biased in favour of the "brotherhood of masons" and that there was a "brotherhood" link between the Scouts and the police.

In passing it may be noted that this together with evidence given by Mr Deuchars indicated that Thomas Hamilton had never been a freemason. Evidence was given by a number of his acquaintances of his bitter complaints of having been victimised by the police and having suffered hard treatment at the hands of local authorities.

When Mr W B McFarlane met him from time to time during the last 7 or 8 years of his life he found that Thomas Hamilton's conversation was "all one way..... he was anti-police, he was anti-establishment, he was anti- the education authority, he seemed to be anti-anybody who opposed his views on how the clubs should be run or whether they should be run".

Thomas Hamilton knew that he was being referred to as a pervert and thought that teachers and parents had been discouraging boys from attending his clubs. He told an acquaintance that, if he stopped running the clubs, people would have considered that rumours about him were true.

I will refer later to expert evidence which was given as to the nature of Thomas Hamilton's sexuality, but for the present it may be of some significance to note some of the observations as to the way in which he treated the boys. There are a number of indications that he sought to domineer and that he was insensitive to their comfort and safety. At the camps there was a general lack of adequate supervision; the boys were found to have insufficient clothing for the prevailing weather; he insisted on making a videofilm when the boys were cold and wet; and he insisted that the boys should be denied contact with their parents. It was not surprising that they became homesick and upset.

Thomas Hamilton did not form any close relationship with an adult of either sex. His natural mother, Mrs Agnes Watt, stated that he had had a girlfriend a long time ago. However, after she got too serious "he didn't want to know". Mr F B Cullen, who assisted him in his shop, said that he was nervous among adults and very uncomfortable amongst females in particular.

The events on 13 March 1996 may have made some people reluctant to admit that they were friends of Thomas Hamilton, he had few friends but more than a few acquaintances. The impression which he made on people varied.

He was "a generous man to work with and a kind man", according to Mr Cullen. Mr E J E Anderson, who was associated with him in the running of the Dunblane Rovers Group and the Dunblane Boys' Club, referred to him as "a very shy, lonely person.... a very quiet, kind individual"; and Mr D MacDonald who had been a member of one of his clubs and who was regularly in touch with him said that he was "quite an intelligent man .... interesting enough to talk to".

On the other hand some found that he made them feel uncomfortable and did not like talking to him. They were uneasy about the way in which he walked and spoke. A neighbour described him as follows: "He sort of crept. He was very head-down". He spoke slowly, softly and precisely but without expression in his voice. Mr G S Crawford, Secretary of the Stirling Rifle and Pistol Club said: "Hamilton was a loner, he wouldn't engage in social conversation with anybody; it is known also that women members didn't particularly like being around him. He was a bit of a creep in their eyes". Mr J S B Wilson said: "He was unusual....effeminate. He had a tendency to sort of wring his hands. There was a bit of a feeling of discomfort".

Mr G Baxter, Head of the Woodmill Centre, Dunfermline, found that Thomas Hamilton was unusual in that "he didn't laugh at anything. He didn't joke at anything. He was far too polite". Some neighbours referred to him as sly and devious. A number of witnesses remarked that the only thing that he was interested in was boys clubs, so that it was difficult to carry on a conversation with him.

A number of witnesses described him as being peculiarly calm in the face of adversity. Thus Mr George Robertson MP so described him in the face of hostile questioning from parents. His reaction to the incident on 16 May 1989 when he was assaulted by Mrs Hagger and Mrs Reilly is particularly striking. Finally while there were some boys who regarded him as a nice man, others found him "weird".

Events during the last 6 months of Thomas Hamilton's life

Thomas Hamilton's Boys' Clubs

By September 1995 there had been a substantial decline in his clubs. The Menstrie, Alva and Tillicoultry Club had ended in March; and a proposed club at Callander had come to grief when only one boy had attended. On 18 August he had issued a large number of circular letters to parents in Dunblane in order to deal, he said, with the false and misleading gossip about him which had been circulated by Scout officials.

The letter stated that it was rumoured that he had been put out of the Scouts or asked to leave in sinister circumstances, whereas it was he who had left the Scouts. The letter went on to say that despite the severe and obvious difficulties the Dunblane Group had operated for 15 years. He added that "many young athletes had been lost needlessly over the years and others deterred from attending". However 25 boys had attended the sports training course at Dunblane High School in the summer of 1995.

It is clear that Thomas Hamilton intended to make up for the difficulties nearer home by going further afield. In the autumn of 1995 he obtained a let in Thomas Muir High School, Bishopbriggs for a newly formed Bishopbriggs Boys Club. In order to obtain the let at an advantageous rate he obtained recognition as an approved youth organisation. For this purpose he had to comply with a number of conditions, the most important of which was to provide two references in support of his application, each referee stating that "the leaders are known to me and are worthy of support".

One of the references was signed by Councillor Ball, who by then had become the convenor of the Education Committee of Central Regional Council. In evidence Councillor Ball said that he had had misgivings about signing but felt that it was difficult to refuse. He accepted that he had not given the matter as much attention as he should have done.

In his application Thomas Hamilton said that there was to be a committee of 12 adults, mostly parents. His natural mother was shown as the treasurer and a young assistant, Ian Boal, as secretary. The application was granted after an official of Central Regional Council had advised Strathclyde Regional Council that Thomas Hamilton's activities should be monitored.

In the meantime Thomas Hamilton decided that he would withdraw from personal involvement in the Falkirk Boys Club. He persuaded a parent, Mr D P Jones, to take over the leadership of the club from the second week in November. This arrangement ended in early March when Mr Jones was unable to continue on account of his work commitments. Thomas Hamilton looked in from time to time at the meetings of the Club, the last time being in January or February 1996.

Meanwhile Mr Boal, who was an undergraduate student in sport in the community, began running the Bishopbriggs Boys Club. He said in evidence that he never met the members of its committee. He had expected to be running the club himself but Thomas Hamilton appeared every week. To his annoyance Mr Boal found that Thomas Hamilton had distributed leaflets which not only named him as club coach but also gave his telephone number. In January he wrote to Mr Boal criticising his coaching methods. In response Mr Boal said that he would go on only until Easter. In evidence he said: "I wasn't going to put up with the hassle he was giving me through writing a letter like that to me".

At this stage boys were being bussed to Dunblane from not only Bishopbriggs but also Callander and Bannockburn. It is known from a letter which Thomas Hamilton wrote to Mr Michael Forsyth MP on 11 February 1996, that only 5 boys from Dunblane still attended the Dunblane Boys Club, and that only one of them had attended the sports training course in July 1995. Mr Boal last saw Thomas Hamilton on 11 March when his parting words to him were "Thanks very much, Ian, see you next Monday". Mr Boal had not noticed any change in him. He said: "His personality was very dry. He wasn't the most interesting person to have a conversation with".

Thomas Hamilton applied for the use of Dunblane High School for a summer training course in 1996. Mr R Mercer who was then caretaker at the Menstrie Community Centre, gave evidence that on 12 March in a telephone conversation Thomas Hamilton requested the use of the Centre's minibus on 14 March.

However, It was reported later in the Inquiry that the witness had since giving evidence indicated to the Crown that, to the best of his recollection, the accurate date for this conversation was 7 March. Little turns on this but it indicates that to outward appearances Thomas Hamilton was still actively planning for his club activities.

Thomas Hamilton's activities with firearms

While Thomas Hamilton's activities with boys were going into decline his interest in firearms was resurgent. He appears to have been relatively inactive for a number of years until 1995. His firearm certificate did not contain any record of a purchase of ammunition between 22 October 1987 and 22 September 1995.

The evidence strongly indicates that Thomas Hamilton did not reload his ammunition (an operation which would not require to be recorded on the firearm certificate) but that he purchased commercially-made ammunition. Purchases of ammunition from clubs did not require to be entered in the firearm certificate unless the ammunition was not used on the occasion when it was purchased and was taken away.

Accordingly it seems unlikely that Thomas Hamilton was actively shooting to any significant extent during this period. On various occasions between 22 September 1995 and 27 February 1996 he purchased a total of 1700 rounds of 9 mm and 500 rounds of .357 ammunition.

On 11 September 1995 and 23 January 1996 he purchased a 9 mm Browning pistol and a .357 Smith & Wesson revolver. He had had the authority to acquire such firearms since February 1992. These were two of the handguns which he took with him to the school on 13 March; and the 9 mm Browning pistol was the competition model (pistol A) with which he shot his victims. In January 1996 Thomas Hamilton bought two holsters, apparently for the two revolvers which he now owned.

Thomas Hamilton now became much more active as a shooter. In January 1996 he shot at the Whitestone range used by the Stirling Rifle and Pistol Club. When he attended a meeting there in February Mr G F Smith, the president of the club, noted that his shooting was reasonably good. It surprised him that he fired very rapidly all the time but he knew that this was what he always seemed to do.

He said to Thomas Hamilton that with a bit of practice he ought to be going in for competitions. While he was giving him a lift home Thomas Hamilton told him that he was a coach. This surprised Mr Smith as it didn't seem to him that he was the sort of person who could get children interested. He didn't find him very interesting himself. He found him slightly effeminate and didn't particularly like him.

On 2 March Thomas Hamilton was given a lift to Largs, where the club members were to shoot. At that meeting he again fired very rapidly. He used red or orange stickers on paper targets, apparently as guides for him to aim at. Mr G S Crawford told him that that was not what they were there for and took them down. Thomas Hamilton had used similar stickers at the Whitestone Range.

When Thomas Hamilton was taking part in the service pistol discipline, which includes the firing of three rounds at each of two targets at 10 metres in 6 seconds Thomas Hamilton expended 12 rounds on one target with one pistol, at which Mr Crawford said to him "that is out of order".

At that meeting he was using principally the 9 mm Browning pistol which was the competition model. Mr W P Campbell, a member of the club who drove Thomas Hamilton back to Stirling, recalled that when he got out of the car in Stirling, his cousin Alexis Fawcett, who was a probationary member, and had been in the back of the car with Thomas Hamilton, referred to him saying: "That is a right weirdo, that one" and she said that he had referred to stroking his gun. She added: "He talks about guns as though they were babies.

 
 

16 children killed in Scotland schoolyard

DUNBLANE, Scotland -- One child, sobbing, leaned heavily against a car door. Another, her eyes glazed, stumbled through the jostling crowd at the primary school gate.

In the main street nearby, a woman shrieked, "Victoria! Victoria!"

Dunblane, a tranquil cathedral town at the foot of the Scottish Highlands, roiled in grief and horror yesterday after a disgraced former Boy Scout leader armed with four handguns killed or wounded all but one of 29 kindergartners playing in the school gymnasium, and killed their teacher.

The slaughter of the innocents was over in moments.

Just setting in is the shock, the devastation, the sheer sense of stunned disbelief in this beautiful country town, and throughout a nation with strict gun control laws and very few multiple slayings.

"Just now, to most people, this is a nightmare," said school board member Gerry McDermott.

Five-year-old Stewart Weir will never forget the man with the guns. The boy ran, escaped with only a bullet-grazed leg and was able to tell his dad about it.

"Stewart said he thought the gunman was shooting at him," Robert Weir said after comforting his son in the hospital. "He got hit in the leg, so he took a run and just hid with another wee girl. It is lucky the man turned the gun on himself before he got the rest of the kids."

Frantic parents tried to get into the school while police and ambulance workers inside confronted unspeakable horror.

"I can only describe what I saw ... as a medieval vision of hell," paramedic John McEwan told The Sun, a London tabloid. "There were little bodies in piles, dotted around the room, and items of children's clothing like shoes and pumps around the floor."

The final toll was 16 dead children, 12 wounded children and two dead adults, one of them the gunman, who took his own life.

Dunblane is the sort of place people almost never leave, a place whose 9,000 residents clearly care about each other. Just 35 miles northwest of Edinburgh, it straddles the River Allan in the spectacular Perthshire countryside leading into the highlands.

An ecclesiastical center since the seventh century, it has a cathedral, which, like the town's life, was described by Victorian social theorist John Ruskin as "perfect in its simplicity."

It also had Thomas Hamilton, 43, a reclusive individual who lived in a public housing project in Stirling, five miles away, and came to Dunblane to supervise a boys' athletic group.

Balding and bespectacled, Hamilton belonged to a local gun club and liked taking photographs. Beyond that, neighbors did not know much about Hamilton. Not, for example, that he was a Scout leader in Stirling in the early 1970s but was expelled for what the Boy Scouts Association called "complaints about unstable and possibly improper behavior following a Scout camp."

He kept up his involvement with young people, however, running boys' groups that met in municipal halls in Stirling, Dunblane and neighboring towns through the 1980s.

Some parents then expressed suspicions about his activities, and boys complained about his habit of photographing them once he'd made them assume strange poses, thrusting out their chests or executing gymnastic moves, usually after stripping off their shirts.

Five days ago Hamilton wrote to Queen Elizabeth II, scouting's patron, reportedly to complain the Boy Scouts Association was sullying his reputation.

No one interviewed yesterday remembered seeing Hamilton set off yesterday along the two-lane motorway to Dunblane, or turn up Doune Road to the school, or wander onto the unguarded playground, through the unlocked front door, across the dining hall and into the gym.

In Dunblane, no one had ever thought of guarding a school.

At 9:30 a.m., teacher Gwen Mayor, 44, was supervising 29 lively youngsters as they ran around the gym and took turns scrambling up the climbing bars. That's the moment Hamilton appeared in the doorway -- and opened fire on them all.

Elsewhere in the school, children heard a noise like firecrackers and jumped up from their desks and ran to windows to see what was going on.

Teachers ordered them under their desks. The principal dialed the police.

It was Britain's worst shooting since Michael Ryan, 27, also a loner and gun enthusiast, shot 16 people in the southern English market town of Hungerford on Aug. 19, 1987. He, too, killed himself.

Parents learned of the shootings quickly and rushed to the school. The lucky ones, sobbing with relief, hugged the older children who emerged. There was neither relief nor solace for those led to an adjacent building or the nearby Westlands Hotel to be told the worst possible news, that their daughters or sons were dead.

Shortly after the massacre, a group of teen-age boys walked around to the rear of the roped-off school and stared at bullet holes in the gym windows.

They recalled Hamilton as a strange man who made them feel uncomfortable.

"He used to walk me down from the boys' club and try to invite himself into my house. He seemed queer,'' said Jamie Milligan, 14.

On television, politicians' voices shook with emotion. The queen sent a message -- "I share the grief and horror of the whole country'' -- as did Prime Minister John Major, from a summit on terrorism in Cairo, Egypt.

As darkness fell Wednesday, parents formally identified their slaughtered children in the town mortuary or at Stirling Royal Infirmary.

Scores of people drifted in ones, twd threes toward ththedral, where y elanrayd ence.

On Hillside Avenue, Jean Shannon glanced toward the next-door yard and knew she'd never see young Kevin Haseaying there ag "He was a lovable wee thing, a typical wee boy,'' she said. "I've been over to the house. They're bloody shocked. Like us all.''

 
 

Thomas HAMILTON

A quick look at Thomas Hamilton background gives us a fair idea of what he was about. For starters he liked guns, in fact you could say that he loved the guns he collected. He also had another love - young boys. A rather lethal combination one thinks. In fact his love for young kiddies was fairly well known in the village of Dunblane where Hamilton lived - so much so that he was given the not so bizarre nickname of "Mr. Creepy". And add this together with the fact that he was a scoutmaster and we soon see an almost complete picture of a pervert. But at this time a safe pervert.

But things went wrong for Hamilton in the 80's. His 'love' of little boys eventually saw him lose the role of scoutmaster. It seems that he liked to get the boys to take their shirts off so he could take photo's of them - and the kids parents obviously thought this was not why they made their kids go to scouts. After a few complaints it was all over for Thomas Hamilton.

But he landed on his feet - He took over a boys athletic club where he got to see all the bare chests he needed too to get through the day. I remember seeing a very happy Hamilton pictured with the local junior football (soccer) team. He seemed quite happy surrounded by the young boys.

But like all good things, it came to an end.

I can't actually remember how old Thomas lost this job (I think the boys didn't like the leering old pervert and told their parents to get rid of him) but all you really need to know is that he didn't take the news too well.

In the first week of March, 1996, Thomas Hamilton wrote a letter to the Queen.

It was basically a massive rave about how unfairly he was treated by the scouts.

He also complained about a campaign to ruin his reputation. The shame was just too much for him.

But Queen Elizabeth ignored his plea for help (BITCH!) and Hamilton was left to handle his problems by himself. And it would seem it was all just a little too much for his little mind to handle.

On March 13, 1996, Hamilton walked from his house to the Dunblane Primary School. He was going to sort things out, and he had four handguns with him. He chose the gymnasium as the site of his revenge (I guess he was hoping for some semi naked kiddies). There were 29 children, aged 5 and 6, and two female teachers inside. They were all sitting in circles playing a game, a game that was probably different to the one's that Hamilton fantasized about playing with the young kiddies.

Hamilton walked in, raised two guns, and lets fire. A few moments later 13 children were dead. Three more died later in hospital, and one of the teachers also bit the big one. Another 12 kiddies were injured along with the other teacher. The 43-year-old Hamilton then looked around the room at his 'revenge' and maybe realized he'd really fucked up this time. In this moment of clarity he decided it was all too much to handle. He turned the gun on himself and put a bullet through his brain.

The Aftermath

Scottish police described the crime scene as a medieval vision of hell with "little bodies in piles." The Prime Minister decided this would be a great chance for some good publicity. He said the massacre was a "sick and evil act."

Unfortunately for John Major he didn't pick up the votes he needed to hold onto power. And he even took the old bitch that ignored Thomas Hamilton's pleas for help along with him for a visit a few days later.

Almost a month after the massacre the gymnasium was demolished. In its place there will be a play area and a flower garden (how sweet). To avoid having some 'weirdo' try to claim a piece of the building as a trophy, officers have placed a 24 hour police presence around the demolition site.

AMUSING BIT - When Thomas Hamilton's body was dissected by the coroner it was found that he had broken ribs. This was to be a bit of a strange case for the coroner - until an ambulance officer came forward and admitted that he gave Hamilton's corpse a 'bit of a kicking' when he seen the destruction he'd caused.

The ambulance officer was never even reprimanded.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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