Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Dunblane Massacre

The Massacre

Thomas Hamilton
Thomas Hamilton

On March 13, 1996, Thomas Hamilton, 43, left his home at 7 Kent Road in Dunblane, Scotland, with only one thing in mind — murder. At about 9:30 a.m., he drove to the Dunblane Primary School with a pair of pliers, four handguns and more than 700 rounds of ammunition. Once there, he cut the telephone wires on a nearby pole and then proceeded with weapons in hand to a side entrance of the school.

Hamilton burst into the assembly hall, where a class of five and six-year-old children was having gym lessons and opened fire. He first shot at several of the teachers. Hamilton then turned his guns on the frightened children and shot at them as they tried to scramble to safety under chairs and inside closets. Screams echoed through the gymnasium as tiny bodies sunk to the floor in pools of blood.

Map: Dunblane, Scotland
Map: Dunblane, Scotland

Hamilton momentarily stepped outside the gym into a hallway where there were other classrooms and open fired again. Several more people were struck down before Hamilton returned to the gym and began shooting again. He then put the gun into his mouth and pulled the trigger. He died instantaneously, leaving behind a ghastly trail of death and devastation.

The brutal rampage left 17 people murdered, including one teacher and 16 children. Another 17 would survive the horrifying incident but be haunted with nightmares for the rest of their lives. The sleepy, rural town was forever changed by the horrors of that day. It was considered one of the deadliest massacres in recent history.

Families of the victims and community residents were shocked by the senseless slaughter that claimed so many innocent lives and scarred the survivors, physically and emotionally. According to John Smith's March 1996 article for The People, of the thousands of cards sent to the school to commemorate those who had died, one best described what was on most people's minds, "Why them! Why them!" Unfortunately, the only one who could answer the question was dead.

All the authorities could do was look back into Hamilton's life and search for possible clues. They hoped that some insight into his character might help them prevent such a massacre from ever happening again. What they learned about Hamilton was troubling.


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