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Dunblane massacre
Photograph of Thomas Hamilton
Location Dunblane, Scotland, United Kingdom
Date 13 March 1996
9:30 am (UTC)
Target Pupils and Staff at Dunblane Primary School
Attack type Mass murder, spree shooting, murder-suicide
Deaths 18 (including the perpetrator)
Injured 15[1]
Perpetrators Thomas Hamilton

The Dunblane massacre was a multiple murder-suicide which occurred at Dunblane Primary School in the Scottish city of Dunblane on 13 March 1996. Sixteen children and one adult were killed by Thomas Watt Hamilton, before he committed suicide.

Timeline of events

On 13 March 1996, unemployed former shopkeeper and former Scout leader[2][3] Thomas Watt Hamilton (born Thomas Watt, Jr. 10 May 1952) walked into the Dunblane Primary School armed with two 9 mm Browning HP pistols and two Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolvers, all legally held.[2][4] He was carrying 743 cartridges, and fired his weapons 109 times.[5][6] 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 Primary One class of five- and six-year-olds, killing or wounding all but one person.[7] Fifteen children died together with their class teacher, Gwen Mayor, who was killed trying to protect the children. Hamilton then left the gymnasium through the emergency exit. In the playground outside he began shooting into a mobile classroom. A teacher in the mobile classroom had previously realised that something was seriously wrong and told the children to hide under the tables. Most of the bullets became embedded in books and equipment, though "one passed through a chair which seconds before had been used by a child."[1] He also fired at a group of children walking in a corridor, injuring one teacher. Hamilton returned into the gym and with one of his two revolvers fired one shot 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.

Victims killed

  • 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 (school teacher), 45
  • Emily Morton, 5
  • Sophie Jane Lockwood North, 5
  • John Petrie, 5
  • Joanna Caroline Ross, 5
  • Hannah Louise Scott, 5
  • Megan Turner, 5

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

Possible motives

Hamilton's motives remain unknown, though there were complaints to police regarding his suspicious behaviour towards the young boys who attended the youth clubs he directed. 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.[8]

Hamilton had been a Scout leader with the 4th/6th Stirling and 24th Stirlingshire troops of the Scout Association. Several complaints were made about his leadership, notably including two occasions when Scouts were forced to sleep with Hamilton in his van during hill-walking expeditions. Hamilton's Scout Warrant was withdrawn on 13 May 1974, with the County Commissioner stating that he was "suspicious of his moral intentions towards boys".[9]

He claimed in letters that rumours 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 organise a boys' club were subject to persecution by local police and the scout movement. Among those to whom he complained were local MP Michael Forsyth and Queen Elizabeth. In the 1980s, another MP, George Robertson, who resided 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".[10]

On March 19, 1996, six days after the massacre, the body of Thomas Hamilton was cremated in privacy.[11] The gymnasium where the massacre took place was demolished on April 11, 1996, and within two years the Dunblane Primary School was completely refurbished.

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.[12]

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.[1] 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 violent incidents 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.

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.[13]


With the consent of Bob Dylan, the musician 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 9 December 1996 in the UK, and reached number 1. The proceeds went to charities for children.[14]

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."[15] 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?"[16]

Pipe Major Robert Mathieson of the Shotts and Dykehead Pipe Band 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.

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.

Scottish celtic rock band Runrig wrote and recorded a song entitled "Life Is" for their 10th studio album In Search Of Angels in tribute of the victims.

John L. Bell wrote There Is a Place, a song in lament for the Dunblane massacre, which was published in his collections The Last Journey and When Grief is Raw and reprinted in many modern hymn books.

Roots Manuva referenced The Dunblane Massacre in his 2005 song "The Falling" from his third album "Awfully Deep".

Since the massacre New Model Army have changed the live version of their song "Get Me Out" to incorporate a reference to it.


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,[17] 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. On 1 March 2006 Creation Books released Predicate: The Dunblane Massacre — Ten Years After by Peter Sotos.[18]


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 repeat episode of the popular sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf ("Rimmerworld") was due to be broadcast on BBC2 on the very evening of the massacre. It was suspended because it contains a scene similar to Dunblane: a crazy woman android threatening to kill herself and the Red Dwarf crew. Similarly, a scheduled showing of the James Bond film Licence to Kill on ITV was replaced by the Kevin Costner movie Field of Dreams.

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 Keith Williams the estranged father of Year 7 student Hannah Williams 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.

Andy Murray

The professional tennis player Andy Murray was a pupil at Dunblane Primary School at the time of the event.[19] The victims were mostly children who were in a younger age group class than Murray, but he has discussed his recollections of taking cover in a classroom.[20] Murray says he was too young to understand what was happening and is reluctant to talk about it in interviews, but, in his autobiography, Hitting Back, he says that he attended a youth group run by Thomas Hamilton, and that his mother gave Hamilton lifts in her car.[21]


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.


Dunblane Primary School gymnasium was demolished shortly afterwards and replaced by a small garden: a 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 Howart, with the names of the children engraved around it. The garden was dedicated at a ceremony on 14 March 1998.[22]

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. Pictures in the glass windows at the front of the centre represent the children who died.

Political impact

Mrs. Ann Pearston, 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.

Police inactivity

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.[17] 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 1937. No action was taken.[17]

In 2009, the Sunday Express came under some criticism for its coverage of the survivors of the massacre (see Sunday Express Dunblane controversy).

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 The Hon Lord Cullen (1996-09-30). The Public Inquiry into the Shootings at Dunblane Primary School on 13 March 1996. London: The Stationery Office. ISBN 0-10-133862-7. OCLC 60187397. Retrieved 2008-05-31.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Britain's Gun Laws Seen As Curbing Attacks (washington Post)
  3. UK Gun politics
  4. UK Gun politics
  5. The Dunblane Massacre (BBC)
  6. BBC On this day 13 March
  7. The Dunblane Massacre
  8. Thomas Hamilton and the Dunblane Massacre
  9. Public Enquiry: Events in the life of Thomas Hamilton
  10. "Hansard". 1996-03-14. Retrieved 2007-04-16.
  11. "Five small coffins laid to rest in Dunblane". The Independent (London: Newspaper Publishing PLC). 1996-03-20. Archived from the original on 2008-04-09. Retrieved 2008-06-05. "Thomas Hamilton was cremated in secret yesterday far away from the city where he committed mass murder."
  12. The Telegraph
  14. Dunblane children record Dylan song for Christmas (Reuters)
  15. Yahoo! Music Living End "Monday" lyrics
  16. Metrolyrics - U.K. Subs, "Dunblane" lyrics
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 "Dunblane Unburied". 2006-03-14. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-02-23.
  18. Sotos, Peter (2006). Predicate: The Dunblane Massacre — Ten Years After. Creation Books. pp. 192. ISBN 1840681365.
  19. Faultless young Scot who is all set to take on the tennis world, The Scotsman, 14 September 2004.
  20. Murray, Andy (2008). Hitting Back. Random House. p. 44. ISBN 9781846051678.
  21. Hodgson, Martin (2008-06-05). "Murray describes fight to cope with trauma of Dunblane school killings". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-06-06.
  22. Photograph of memorial sculpture


External links

cs:Masakr v Dunblane es:Masacre de Dunblane fr:Massacre de Dunblane sr:Масакр у Данблејну sh:Masakr u Dunblaneu fi:Dunblanen verilöyly sv:Dunblanemassakern

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