|Location||Dunblane, Stirling, Scotland|
|Date||13 March 1996 |
c. 9:35 – 9:40 a.m. (GMT)
|Target||Pupils and staff at Dunblane Primary School|
|School shooting, mass murder, mass shooting, murder–suicide|
|Deaths||18 (including the perpetrator)|
The Dunblane massacre took place at Dunblane Primary School near Stirling, Scotland, United Kingdom, on 13 March 1996, when Thomas Hamilton shot dead sixteen pupils and one teacher, and injured fifteen others, before killing himself. It remains the deadliest mass shooting in British history.
Following the killings, public debate centred on gun control laws, including public petitions for a ban on private ownership of handguns and an official inquiry, which produced the 1996 Cullen Report.
The incident sparked a public campaign, known as the Snowdrop Petition, which helped drive powerful and effective legislation, specifically two new Firearms Acts, which outlawed the private ownership of most handguns within the UK with few exceptions. The UK Government also instituted a temporary gun buyback programme, which many credit with taking tens of thousands of illegal or unwanted firearms out of supply - these weapons were incinerated.
Following the massacre and tighter firearm restrictions, there have been no mass shootings involving a handgun, but massacres with shotguns and rifles − such as the 2010 Cumbria shootings or the 2021 Plymouth shooting − have taken place.
At about 8:15 a.m. on 13 March 1996, Thomas Hamilton, aged 43, was seen scraping ice off his van outside his home at Kent Road in Stirling. He left soon afterwards and drove about 5 miles (8 km) north to Dunblane. Hamilton arrived on the grounds of Dunblane Primary School at around 9:30 a.m. and parked his van near a telegraph pole in the car park of the school. He cut the cables at the bottom of the telegraph pole, which served nearby houses, with a pair of pliers before making his way across the car park towards the school buildings.
Hamilton headed towards the north-west side of the school to a door near the toilets and the school gymnasium. After entering, 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. Hamilton 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 Hamilton fired two shots into the stage of the assembly hall and the girls' toilet.
Hamilton started shooting rapidly and randomly. He shot P.E. teacher Eileen Harrild, who was injured in her arms and chest as she attempted to protect herself, and continued shooting into the gym. Harrild stumbled 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 adult present, 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 twenty-nine shots with one of the pistols, killed one child, and injured several others. Four injured children had taken shelter in the store cupboard along with the injured Harrild and Blake. Hamilton then moved 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 went towards the centre of the gym, firing sixteen 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 gymnasium exterior at the time heard loud bangs and screams and looked inside. Hamilton shot in his direction and the pupil was injured by flying glass before running away. From this position, Hamilton fired twenty-four shots 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 before. Hamilton then reentered the gym, dropped the pistol he was using, and took out 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 thirty-two people sustained gunshot wounds inflicted by Hamilton over a 3–4 minute period, sixteen of whom were fatally wounded in the gymnasium, including Gwen Mayor, the Primary 1 teacher, and fifteen of her pupils. One other child died later en route to 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 told Taylor that she had heard screaming inside the gymnasium and had seen what she thought to be cartridges on the ground, and Taylor had been aware of loud noises which he assumed to have been from builders on site that he had not been informed of. As he was on his way to the gym, the shooting ended and when he saw what had happened he ran back to his office and told deputy headmistress Fiona Eadington to call for ambulances, a call 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 were involved in the initial resuscitation of the injured. Medical teams from the health centres in Doune and Callander arrived shortly after. 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 several medical teams from the hospital arrived at 10:15 a.m. Another medical team from the Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary arrived at 10:35 a.m.
By about 11:10 a.m., all of the injured had been taken to Stirling Royal Infirmary for medical treatment; one child died en route to the hospital. Upon examination, several of the patients were transferred to the District Royal Infirmary in Falkirk and some to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow. Future tennis players Andy and Jamie Murray, both pupils at the school during the event, were not injured during the massacre.
Thomas Watt Hamilton was born on 10 May 1952 in Glasgow. As the head of several youth clubs, Hamilton had been subject to several complaints to police regarding inappropriate behaviour towards young boys, including claims that he had taken photographs of semi-naked boys without parental consent. He had briefly been a Scout leader – initially, in July 1973, he was appointed assistant leader with the 4th/6th Stirling of the Scout Association. Later that year, he was seconded as leader to the 24th Stirlingshire troop, which was being revived. Several complaints were made about Hamilton's leadership, including complaints about Scouts being forced to sleep in close proximity with him inside 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 thwarted in a later attempt he made to become a Scout leader in Clackmannanshire.
Hamilton claimed in letters that local rumours regarding his behaviour towards young boys had led to the failure of his business in 1993, and that, in the last months of his life, he had complained that his attempts to organise a boys' club were subjected to persecution by local police and the scout movement. Among those he complained to were Queen Elizabeth II and his local Member of Parliament (MP), Michael Forsyth (Conservative). In the 1980s, another MP, George Robertson (Labour), 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 previously argued with Hamilton "in my own home".
The Cullen Reports, the result of the inquiry into the Dunblane 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 massacre and was supported by some parents of the victims of the Dunblane and Hungerford shootings. 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.
In response to this public debate, the Conservative government of Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister Tony Blair introduced the Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1997, banning the remaining .22 cartridge handguns as well. This left 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.
Evidence of previous police interaction with Hamilton was presented to the Cullen Inquiry but was 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, as well as Hamilton's post-mortem, remained sealed under the 100-year order to avoid distressing the relatives and survivors.
The released documents revealed that in 1991, complaints against Hamilton were made to the Central Scotland Police and were investigated by the Child Protection Unit. He 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.
Two books – Dunblane: Our Year of Tears by Peter Samson and Alan Crow and Dunblane: Never Forget by Mick North – both give accounts of the massacre from the perspective of those most directly affected. In 2009, the Sunday Express was criticised for an inappropriate article about the survivors of the massacre, thirteen years after the event.
On the Sunday following the shootings the morning service from Dunblane Cathedral, conducted by 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 series, Crimes That Shook Britain, discussed the massacre. The documentary Dunblane: Remembering our Children, which featured many of the parents of the children who had been killed, was broadcast by STV and 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 and BBC Scotland showed Remembering Dunblane. On 9 March 2016 relatives of the victims spoke in a BBC Scotland documentary entitled Dunblane: Our Story to mark the twentieth anniversary. A 2018 Netflix documentary, Lessons from a School Shooting: Notes from Dunblane, directed by Kim A. Snyder, drew comparison with the Sandy Hook massacre in the US by exploring the grief and friendship between the two priests serving the affected communities at the times of the respective shootings. On 11 March 2021, ITV aired a special documentary to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary: Return to Dunblane with Lorraine Kelly in which the presenter revisited the town, speaking with the victims' families and emergency aid workers.
Memorials and tributes
Two days after the shooting, a vigil and prayer session was held at Dunblane Cathedral which was attended by people of all faiths. On Mothering Sunday, on 17 March, Queen Elizabeth II and her daughter Anne, Princess Royal, attended a memorial service at Dunblane Cathedral.
Seven months after the massacre, in October 1996, the families of the victims organised their own memorial service at Dunblane Cathedral, which more than 600 people attended, including Prince Charles. The service was broadcast live on BBC1 and conducted by James Whyte, a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Television presenter Lorraine Kelly, who had befriended some of the victims' families whilst reporting on the massacre for GMTV, was a guest speaker at the service.
In August 1997, two varieties of rose were unveiled and planted as the centrepiece for a roundabout in Dunblane. The two roses were developed by Cockers Roses of Aberdeen; the 'Gwen Mayor' rose and 'Innocence' rose, in memory of the children killed. A snowdrop cultivar, originally found in a Dunblane garden in the 1970s, was renamed 'Sophie North' in memory of one of the victims of the massacre.
The gymnasium at the school was demolished on 11 April 1996 and replaced by a memorial garden. Two years after the massacre, on 14 March 1998, a memorial garden was opened at Dunblane Cemetery, where Mayor and twelve of the slain children are buried. The garden features a fountain with a plaque of the names of those killed. 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 as well as at the Dunblane Youth and Community Centre.
Newton Primary School awards The Gwen Mayor Rosebowl to a pupil every year. A charity, the Gwen Mayor Trust, was set up by the Educational Institute of Scotland to provide funding for projects in Scottish primary schools.
The National Association of Primary Education commissioned a sculpture, "Flame for Dunblane", created by Walter Bailey from a single yew tree, which was placed in the National Forest, near Moira, Leicestershire.
The nave of Dunblane Cathedral has a standing stone by the monumental sculptor Richard Kindersley. It was commissioned by the Kirk Session as the cathedral's commemoration and dedicated at a service on 12 March 2001. It is a Clashach stone two metres high on a Caithness flagstone base. The quotations on the stone are by E. V. Rieu ("He called a little child to him..."), Richard Henry Stoddard ("...the spirit of a little child"), Bayard Taylor ("But still I dream that somewhere there must be The spirit of a child that waits for me") and W. H. Auden ("We are linked as children in a circle dancing").
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.
- Robert Mone – responsible for a school hostage-taking and shooting in Dundee in 1967
- List of attacks related to primary schools
- List of massacres in Great Britain
- List of school massacres
- List of rampage killers (school massacres)
- Cumbria shootings, mass shooting in England in 2010
- Hungerford massacre, mass shooting in England in 1987
- [Charlotte], BBC. h2g2. 15 May 2006. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
- "Mass shootings and gun control". BBC News. 2 June 2010. Archived from the original on 1 April 2018. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
- "Public inquiry into the shootings at Dunblane Primary School". gov.uk. Scottish Office. 16 October 1996.
- The Public Inquiry into the Shootings at Dunblane Primary School on 13 March 1996, 16 October 1996. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
- Distance between Stirling and Dunblane Archived 18 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine, distance.to. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
- Britain's Gun Laws Seen As Curbing Attacks, The Washington Post. The Washington Post. 24 April 2007. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
- Transcripts of Proceedings at the Public Enquiry into Incident at Dunblane Primary School on 13 March 1996, scotland.gov.uk. 18 October 2006. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
- Barrie, Douglas (11 March 2016). "Dunblane massacre: Timeline of school shooting that shocked a nation". STV News. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
- From the archive, 14 March 1996: Sixteen children killed in Dunblane massacre, The Guardian. 14 March 2013. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
- "Murray angry & 'incredibly upset' by Texas shooting". BBC Sport.
- "The life and death of Thomas Watt Hamilton". The Independent. 17 March 1996. Retrieved 9 August 2018.
- Cullen Report 1996, Chapter 4, paras. 12–15
- Cullen Report 1996, Chapter 4
- "Dunblane Primary School (Shooting)". UK Parliament. 14 March 1996. Archived from the original on 9 February 2013. Retrieved 16 April 2007.
- "Officials Ignored Repeated Warnings about Dunblane Killer, Files Reveal". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 December 2020.
- "Five small coffins laid to rest in Dunblane". The Independent. London: Newspaper Publishing PLC. 20 March 1996. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
Thomas Hamilton was cremated in secret yesterday far away from the city where he committed mass murder.
- Cullen Report 1996, Chapter 8, paras. 9–119
- Cullen Report 1996, Chapter 9, para. 113
- Cullen Report 1996, Chapter 10, para. 19,26
- Cullen Report 1996, Chapter 11, paras. 21, 29–39 and 47
- "Gun Control Network, 'About Us'". Archived from the original on 6 March 2012. Retrieved 6 March 2012.
- "Snowdrop Petition EDM (Early Day Motion) 1088: tabled on 02 July 1996". edm.parliament.uk. 2 July 1996. Retrieved 13 March 2021.
- "Britain's changing firearms laws". BBC News. 12 November 2007. Archived from the original on 16 February 2009. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
- "The Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1997 (Commencement) Order 1997 (No. 3114 (c.116))". 17 December 1997. Archived from the original on 9 January 2021. Retrieved 28 May 2008.
- Peterkin, Tom (10 February 2003). "Call to lift secrecy on Dunblane murderer". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
- Seenan, Gerard (14 February 2003). "Call to lift veil of secrecy over Dunblane". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
- "Order lifted on Dunblane papers". BBC News. 28 September 2005. Retrieved 7 October 2012.
- Uttley (2006), p. 209
- "Dunblane: Our Year of Tears". Goodreads. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
- "Dunblane: Never Forget". Goodreads. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
- Oliver Luft (16 March 2009). "PCC targets Sunday Express over Dunblane allegations". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
- "Crimes that Shook Britain". Radio Times. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
- Sutcliffe, Thomas (13 March 1997). "TV Review of Dunblane: Remembering Our Children". The Independent. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
- "Dunblane - A decade on". bfi.org. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
- "Remembering Dunblane, 20 years on". Evening Times. 5 March 2016. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
- "Dunblane: Our Story". BBC. 9 March 2016. Retrieved 18 October 2019.
- "'Notes From Dunblane: Lessons From a School Shooting' is a powerful, distressing watch". The Daily Dot. 9 July 2019.
- "Stream It Or Skip It: 'Lessons from a School Shooting' on Netflix, a Somber Documentary About Two School Shootings". Decider. 9 July 2019.
- "Lessons from a School Shooting: Notes from Dunblane | Netflix Official Site". www.netflix.com. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
- "Return to Dunblane with Lorraine Kelly". ITV. 11 March 2021. Archived from the original on 12 March 2021. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
- Dunblane victims to be honoured Prince will attend memorial service. The Herald. 7 October 1996. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
- Roses named for Dunblane dead Archived 15 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, The Independent. 20 August 1997. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
- Flower power for Dunblane tribute, Daily Record. 20 August 1997. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
- Gandy's Hybrid Tea Roses – Gwen Mayor, roses.co.uk. Cockers Roses of Aberdeen. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
- Low Growing Patio Roses – Innocence, roses.co.uk. Cockers Roses of Aberdeen. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
- Scotland’s Snowdrop fans, The Herald (Glasgow). The Herald. 1 March 2010. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
- Galanthus Sophie North Archived 19 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine, rareplants.co.uk. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
- Dunblane school gym reduced to rubble, The Independent. 12 April 1996. Retrieved 19 March 2014.
- Dunblane victims remembered, BBC. 14 March 1998. Retrieved 19 March 2014.
- Dunblane teacher fund helps school arts, The Herald, 27 December 2019
- "Flame for Dunblane". Archived from the original on 12 March 2016. Retrieved 11 March 2016.
- "Dunblane forest memorial (From Herald Scotland)". Retrieved 11 March 2016.
- "Dunblane Cathedral". Undiscovered Scotland. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
- "Dunblane Commemoration Stone". Kindersley Studios. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
- "Dunblane children record Dylan song for Christmas (Reuters)". Edlis.org. 20 November 1996. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
- "Bells of Dunblane – Highland Bagpipes traditional tunes' stories by Stephane Beguinot". Archived from the original on 31 January 2016. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
- "A child's prayer". Hyperion Records. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
- UK Subs – Dunblane, retrieved 3 September 2021
- The Hon Lord Cullen (30 September 1996). 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. Archived from the original on 5 December 2013. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
- Mick North, Dunblane: never forget, (Mainstream, 2000) ISBN 1-84018-300-4
- Pam Rhodes, Coming through: true stories of hope and courage, (Pan, 2002) ISBN 0-330-48691-8
- Peter Samson and Alan Crow, Dunblane: our year of tears, (Mainstream, 1997) ISBN 1-85158-975-9
- Peter Squires, Gun culture or gun control?: firearms, violence and society, (Routledge, 2000) ISBN 0-415-17086-9
- Sandra Uttley, Dunblane Unburied, (BookPublishingWorld, 2006) ISBN 1-905553-05-6.
- P. Whitbread, "Media Liaison: The Lessons from Dunblane" in Shirley Harrison (ed.), Disasters and the media: managing crisis communications, (Macmillan, 1999) ISBN 0-333-71785-6
- Peter Aylward, 'Understanding Dunblane and Other Massacres'(Routledge, 2012) ISBN 1780490941
- The transcript of the 1996 Cullen Inquiry into the Dunblane Massacre Archived 13 June 2019 at the Wayback Machine
- Text of the Firearms (Amendment) Act, 1997 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from legislation.gov.uk. Prohibition of weapons and ammunition and control of small-calibre pistols
- Text of the Firearms (Amendment) (No 2) Act, 1997 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from legislation.gov.uk. Prohibition of small calibre pistols
- After Dunblane Gun Control in the UK 1996–2001 (PDF)
- Dunblane papers released
- A Timeline of the Massacre
- Dunblane Massacre – A description on the incident by the Guardian