|“||I have been involved with the organisation of Boys Sports Clubs for over 20 years and the rumours circulated by officials of the Scout Association have now reached epidemic proportions across Central Region. As well as my personal distress and loss of public standing, this situation has also resulted in loss of my business and ability to earn a living. Indeed, I cannot even walk the streets for fear of embarrassing ridicule.||”|
— Paragraph of a typed letter/manifesto sent to the Queen of England
Thomas Watt Hamilton was a British pedophilic mass murderer and school shooter who perpetrated the infamous 1996 Dunblane Massacre, which killed 17 people (16 kids and 1 teacher) and injured 15 others, before killing himself. It is the worst shooting in British history
Thomas Watt Hamilton was born on May 10, 1952, in Glasgow, Scotland. His mother, a hotel chambermaid, was divorced from his father by the time Hamilton was born. Hamilton never knew his father and grew up with his mother's adoptive parents, believing they were his biological parents. They legally adopted him at age 2. He also thought his biological mother was his sister until he was told the truth when he was 22 years old.
As a boy, Thomas Hamilton did well academically. He joined a rifle club and the Boys Brigade as a teenager, and at the age of 20, became an assistant leader of his local Boy Scouts club.
Before long, there were complaints from the boys that Hamilton was teaching them to use rifles and handguns, as well as forcing them to engage in perverted activities, and then paying them to keep quiet. He was asked to leave the Scouts in 1974.
There had been several complaints to police regarding Hamilton’s behavior towards the young boys who attended the youth clubs he directed. Claims had been made of his having taken photographs of semi-naked boys without parental consent.
Hamilton had briefly been a Scout leader – initially, in July 1973, he was appointed assistant leader with the 4th/6th Stirling of the Scout Association. In the autumn of that year, he was seconded as leader to the 24th Stirlingshire troop, which was being revived. However, several complaints were made about his leadership, including two occasions when Scouts were forced to sleep with Hamilton in his van during hill-walking expeditions. Within months, on 13 May 1974, Hamilton’s Scout Warrant was withdrawn, with the County Commissioner stating that he was “suspicious of his moral intentions towards boys”. He was blacklisted by the Association and thus thwarted in a later attempt he made to become a Scout leader in Clackmannanshire.
He claimed in letters that rumors about him led to the failure of his shop business in 1993, and in the last months of his life, he complained again that his attempts to organize a boys’ club were subject to persecution by local police and the scout movement. Among those to whom he complained were the Queen and the local Member of Parliament, Michael Forsyth. 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, Robertson spoke of having argued with Hamilton “in my own home”.
On 19 March 1996, six days after the massacre, the body of Thomas Hamilton was cremated in a private ceremony.
On the morning of Wednesday 13 March 1996, ex-scout leader Thomas Hamilton, aged 43, was witnessed scraping ice off his van at approximately 8:15 am outside his home at Kent Road in Stirling. He left a short time afterwards and drove about 5 miles (8.0 km) north to Dunblane in his white van. He arrived on
the grounds of Dunblane Primary School at around 9:30 am and parked his van near to a telegraph pole in the car park of the school. Hamilton severed the cables at the bottom of the telegraph pole, which served nearby houses, with a set of pliers before making his way across the car park towards the school buildings.
Hamilton headed towards the northwest side of the school to a door near toilets and the school gymnasium. After gaining entry, he made his way to the gymnasium armed with four legally held handguns; two 9mm Browning HP pistols and two Smith & Wesson M19.357 Magnum revolvers. He was also carrying 743 cartridges of ammunition. In the gym was a class of twenty-eight Primary 1 pupils preparing for a P.E. lesson in the presence of three adult members of staff. Before entering the gymnasium, it is believed he fired two shots into the stage of the assembly hall and the girls’ toilet. Upon entering the gymnasium, Hamilton was about to be confronted by Eileen Harrild, the P.E. teacher in charge of the lesson, before he started shooting rapidly and randomly. He shot Harrild, who sustained injuries to her arms and chest as she attempted to protect herself, and continued shooting into the gymnasium. Harrild managed to stumble into the open plan store cupboard at the side of the gym along with several injured children. Gwen Mayor, the teacher of the Primary 1 class, was shot and killed instantly. The other present adult, Mary Blake, a supervisory assistant, was shot in the head and both legs but also managed to make her way to the store cupboard with several of the children in front of her.
From entering the gymnasium and walking a few steps, Hamilton had fired 29 shots with one of the pistols and killed one child and injured several others. Four injured children had managed to shelter in the store cupboard along with the injured Harrild and Blake. Hamilton then advanced up the east side of the gym, firing six shots as he walked and then fired eight shots towards the opposite end of the gym. He then proceeded towards the centre of the gym, firing 16 shots at point-blank range at a group of children who had been incapacitated by his earlier shots.
A Primary 7 pupil who was walking along the west side of the gym building at the time heard loud bangs and screams and looked inside the gym. Hamilton shot in his direction and the pupil was injured by flying glass before running away. From this position, Hamilton fired 24 cartridges in various directions. He fired shots towards a window next to the fire exit at the south-east end of the gym, possibly at an adult who was walking across the playground and then fired four more shots in the same direction after opening the fire exit door. Hamilton then exited the gym briefly through the fire exit, firing another four shots towards the cloakroom of the library, striking and injuring Grace Tweddle, another member of staff at the school.
In the mobile classroom closest to the fire exit where Hamilton was standing, Catherine Gordon saw him firing shots and instructed her Primary 7 class to get down onto the floor before Hamilton fired nine bullets into the classroom, striking books and equipment. One bullet passed through a chair where a child had been sitting seconds beforehand. Hamilton then reentered the gym, dropped the pistol he was using and equipped himself with one of the two revolvers. He put the barrel of the gun in his mouth, pointed it upwards, and pulled the trigger, killing himself. A total of 32 people sustained gunshot wounds inflicted by Hamilton over a 3–4 minute period, 16 of whom were fatally wounded in the gymnasium, which included Gwen Mayor and 15 of her pupils. One other child died later en route to the hospital.
The first call to the police was made at 9:41 a.m. by the headmaster of the school, Ronald Taylor, who had been alerted by assistant headmistress Agnes Awlson to the possibility of a gunman on the school premises. Awlson had informed Taylor that she heard screaming inside the gymnasium and had seen what she thought to be cartridges on the ground, whilst Taylor had been aware of loud noises which he assumed to have been from builders on site that he had not been informed of. Whilst on his way to the gym, the shooting ended and when he saw what had happened ran back to his office and told deputy headmistress Fiona Eadington to call for ambulances, which was made at 9:43 a.m.
The first ambulance arrived on the scene at 9:57 a.m. in response to the call made at 9:43 a.m. Another medical team from Dunblane Health Centre arrived at 10:04 a.m. which included doctors and a nurse, who was involved in the initial resuscitation of the injured. Medical teams from the health centres in the nearby towns of Doune and Callander arrived shortly afterwards. The accident and emergency department at Stirling Royal Infirmary had also been informed of a major incident involving multiple casualties at 9:48 a.m. and the first of a number of medical teams from the hospital arrived at 10:15 am. Another medical team from the Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary arrived at 10:35 a.m.
By approximately 11:10 a.m., all of the injured victims had been taken to Stirling Royal Infirmary for medical treatment; one victim died en route to the hospital. Upon examination, several of the patients were transferred to Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary in Falkirk and some to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow.
Along with the 1987 Hungerford massacre, and the 2010 Cumbria shootings, it remains one of the deadliest criminal acts involving firearms in the history of the United Kingdom.
The Cullen Inquiry into the massacre recommended that the government introduce tighter controls on handgun ownership and consider whether an outright ban on private ownership would be in the public interest in the alternative (though club ownership would be maintained). The report also recommended changes in school security and vetting of people working with children under 18. The Home Affairs Select Committee agreed with the need for restrictions on gun ownership but stated that a handgun ban was not appropriate.
A small group, known as the Gun Control Network was founded in the aftermath of the shootings and was supported by some parents of victims at Dunblane and of the Hungerford Massacre. Bereaved families and their friends also initiated a campaign to ban private gun ownership, named the Snowdrop Petition (because March is snowdrop time in Scotland), which gained 705,000 signatures in support and was supported by some newspapers, including the Sunday Mail, a Scottish newspaper whose own petition to ban handguns had raised 428,279 signatures within five weeks of the massacre.
In response to this public debate, the then-current Conservative government of John Major introduced the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, which banned all cartridge ammunition handguns with the exception of .22 calibre single-shot weapons in England, Scotland and Wales. 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” because of their dimensions. The ban does not affect Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, or the Channel Islands.
Security in schools, particularly primary schools, was improved in response to the Dunblane massacre and two other violent incidents south of the Border which occurred at around the same time: the murder of Philip Lawrence, a head teacher in London, and the wounding of six children and Lisa Potts, a nursery teacher, at a Wolverhampton nursery school. Many schools put up high perimeter fences and door entry systems which exist to this day.
Evidence of previous police interaction with Hamilton was presented to the Cullen Inquiry but later sealed under a closure order to prevent publication for 100 years. The official reason for sealing the documents was to protect the identities of children, but this led to accusations of a coverup intended to protect the reputations of officials. Following a review of the closure order by the Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd, edited versions of some of the documents were released to the public in October 2005. Four files containing post mortems, medical records and profiles on the victims remained sealed under the 100-year order to avoid distressing the relatives and survivors.
The released documents revealed that 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 ten charges, including assault, obstructing police and contravention of the Children and Young Persons Act 1937. No action was taken.
Hamilton shot his victims with two 9mm Browning Hi-Power pistols and two Smith & Wesson M19 revolvers. Most of the victims were Kindergarten students, but one victim was a teacher.
- Victoria Elizabeth Clydesdale, 5
- Emma Elizabeth Crozier, 5
- Melissa Helen Currie, 5
- Charlotte Louise Dunn, 5
- Kevin Allan Hasell, 5
- Ross William Irvine, 5
- David Charles Kerr, 5
- Mhairi Isabel MacBeath, 5
- Brett McKinnon, 6
- Abigail Joanne McLennan, 5
- Gwen Mayor, 45 (primary school teacher)
- Emily Morton, 5
- Sophie Jane Lockwood North, 5
- John Petrie, 5
- Joanna Caroline Ross, 5
- Hannah Louise Scott, 5
- Megan Turner, 5
- Eileen Harild (PE teacher; injured in the arms and chest)
- Mary Blake (supervisory assistant; shot in the head and legs)
- An unnamed student (shot at; was injured by flying glass)
- Grace Tweddle (staff member; shot at four times)
- 11 unnamed others
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