13th March 1996

Mass shooting at Dunblane Primary School

Gunman Thomas Hamilton shot dead 16 pupils, one teacher, and himself in the UK’s worst mass shooting. The incident occurred at Dunblane Primary School, close to Stirling.

Hamilton had arrived at the school at half past nine on the morning of the attack, carrying four handguns and more than 700 rounds of ammunition. He cut the local telephone cables, presumably to hamper any attempt to call for assistance. These cables didn’t serve the school, but ran instead to local houses.

He then entered the school gymnasium and, according to evidence given by teacher Eileen Harrild as part of the official inquiry,

he took a couple of steps, and I was very close to him, and it was only a few feet, because I was about to ask him what he wanted, and looked and saw the gun, and he starting shooting.

He killed class teacher Gwen Mayor and injured two others, along with several pupils. One of the injured teachers was Eileen Harrild herself. As she told the inquiry,

I couldn’t quite comprehend what was happening. I turned away from the man and made towards the open store area. I stumbled towards the open store area and I then had my back to the man, and during this time he turned his attention to the children and the people in that bottom third of the gymnasium. The shooting didn’t stop. It was continuous and rapid.

Eileen and fellow teacher Mary Blake helped move some of the children into the store area with them, where they took refuge as the shooting continued. As Mary told the inquiry,

The dark figure [Thomas Hamilton] was just inside the door. He was wearing dark clothing and he had some sort of headgear on. I was then hit, and I remember my head hurting. I realised that something terrible was happening. I fell to the ground, and I could hear constant shooting. I have a memory of him having both his hands up, but I don’t know if he had a gun in both hands. He was pointing the gun all around and shooting constantly. I could hear the children screaming. It was so loud that the screams seemed to be inside my head. My head was hurting terribly. I don’t remember being shot in the legs. I assume that is why I fell down, but I can’t remember when I was hit on the legs.

Several of the children still in the gymnasium were by then also lying injured and unable to move on the gymnasium floor. Hamilton shot these children for a second time, killing them, then left the gymnasium and shot into a nearby classroom.

Returning to the gymnasium, he placed a gun in his own mouth and pulled the trigger, killing himself instantly. He had been on the school grounds for less than give minutes, yet 17 people were dead and one further child died on the way to hospital. The 15 children who had been killed in the gymnasium had together sustained 58 gunshot wounds, of which the official inquiry ruled 26 would have proved individually fatal. Hamilton had fired 106 rounds of ammunition in total.

In the wake of the shooting, Britain introduced tougher gun control laws, as recommended by the Cullen Report into the massacre. Police also operated a temporary buy-back scheme that paid legal handgun owners to turn in their weapons in return for compensation.

A memorial to the victims of the shooting was erected at Dunblane Cathedral.



Other events that occured in March

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