Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Dunblane Massacre

13th March 1996

This day in history...In Dunblane, Scotland, 16 children and 1 teacher are shot dead by Thomas Hamilton, who then commits suicide 

It is shocking the amount of massacres and killing sprees that have occurred in the history of the world. Since 1996 there have been around 81 mass shootings worldwide, with the majority taking place in schools. The Dunblane Massacre, along with the 1987 Hungerford Massacre, the 1989 Monkseaton shootings and the 2010 Cumbria shootings, remains one of the most deadliest criminal acts involving firearms in the history of the United Kingdom. Before looking at the tragic events of the shooting and the aftermath, it is important to understand who the perpetrator, Thomas Hamilton, was and why he committed such an evil crime.

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Thomas Hamilton's background: Hamilton had briefly been a Scout leader in July 1973 and was appointed assistant leader to his particular Scout Association. However, many complaints were made about his leadership, including a few occasions where he had forced some Scouts to sleep in his van during hill-walking expeditions. There were also several complaints being made of his having taken photos of semi-naked boys without parental consent. You get the picture of what type of man he was. Within months, in 1974, Hamilton's Scout warrant was withdrawn on the terms that 'his moral intentions towards boys was suspicious.' Following this, Hamilton was blacklisted by the association and was rejected several applications when he attempted to set become a Scout leader in Clackmannanshire. Hamilton blamed his failure as a successful shopkeeper on his ruined and controversial reputation. The fatal day of the massacre seemed to be the result of 43 year old Hamilton's mid-life crisis. There is also some controversy surrounding the police and Hamilton. During Hamilton's Loch Lomond Summer Camp, complaints were made to the police and were investigated by the Child Protection Unit. Hamilton was reported for consideration of ten charges, including assault, obstructing police and contravention of the Children and Young Persons Act 1937 - no action was taken. 

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Thomas Hamilton, A.K.A. Mr Creepy
The Dunblane Massacre: On the 13th March 1996, Hamilton walked into Dunblane Primary School, unchallenged, and armed with 2 9mm Browning HP pistols and 2 Smith and Wesson M19 .357 Magnum revolvers - all his guns were legally held. He carried 743 cartridges and fired his weapons 109 times. Once he had entered the school, Hamilton quickly made his way to the gymnasium and opened fire on a primary class of five-year old children. Fifteen children were killed, along with their teacher, Gwen Mayor, who died trying to protect them. Hamilton then left the gymnasium, went outside, and opened fire on a mobile classroom. The class in this particular classroom had been pre warned, by their teacher, that something was wrong and hid under their tables. The bullets became embedded in the books, equipment and chairs. Hamilton didn't stop here and continued to open fire at people in the corridors, injuring one teacher. Hamilton then returned to the gym and fired one a shot upwards in his mouth, dying instantly. A further 11 children and 3 adults were rushed to hospital and one child, Mhairi Isabel MacBeath, was pronounced dead on arrival to the hospital. It was a deadly, terrifying and devastating ordeal. 

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Family waiting
It is also interesting to point out that among the children who were at the school that day was Britain's number 1 tennis player, Andy Murray. Murray, who was 8 at the time, was on his way to the gym with his class when the shootings took place. When they realised what was happening they took cover in a classroom. Whilst Murray is reluctant to talk about that day, he has revealed in his autobiography, "Hitting Back", that he was too young to understand what was happening. He also opened up to the fact that he had attended Hamilton's short-lived youth group and that Murray's mother had given Hamilton lifts in their car. 

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Andy Murray at Dunblane Primary School 201
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The aftermath: Following the massacre, a series of gun control acts were petitioned and passed through government banning private handgun ownership in England, Scotland and Wales. School security was also reassessed and the vetting of people working with children under 18 was re-examined. The media coverage of the massacre also had a massive impact within society. Several books and television programmes have been produced in honour of those who have died and to provide examinations of Hamilton and the events leading up to the massacre. A documentary, which aired at the first anniversary, featured many of the parents of the victims and in 2006 a programme was released documenting Dunblane, a decade on. Music contributions were also produced in commemoration, with an alteration to 'Knockin' on heaven's door' being released in December 1996. The recording included the voices of the brothers and sisters of the victims and Mark Knopfler on guitar. The lives of the victims and devastating events will always be remembered. Even more so with the various memorials that have been placed and erected around the surrounding area of Dunblane. The gymnasium at the school has been knocked down and replaced with a small garden complete with plaques bearing the names of the victims. There is also a commemoration stone in Dunblane Cathedral. 
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"Friends Forever - The children and their teacher"
Remember the Victims:
  • Victoria Elizabeth Clydesdale (5)
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    The Victims.
  • Emma Elizabeth Crozier (5)
  • Melissa Helen Currie (5)
  • Charlotte Louise Dunn (5)
  • Kevin Allan Hasell (5)
  • Ross William Irvine (5)
  • Mhairi Isabel MacBeath (5)
  • Brett McKinnon (6)
  • Abigail Joanne McLennan (5)
  • Gwen Mayor - teacher (45)
  • Emily Morton (5)
  • Sophie Jane Lockwood North (5)
  • John Petrie (5)
  • Joanna Caroline Ross (5)
  • Hannah Louise Scott (5)
  • Megan Turner (5)
What are your thoughts on the Dunblane Massacre? How can we put a stop to mass murder?
Leave your comments below

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