The Independent Archive: `He was shooting anywhere at anything'

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20 August 1987 A gunman walked through Hungerford with a Kalashnikov and killed 14 people and wounded 16 others before killing himself. Phil Reeves and Nick Cohen report

THE WIFE of one of the victims of yesterday's Hungerford massacre looked on helplessly as her husband, 84, was shot dead by Michael Ryan as he stood in his garden.

"I heard him go out into the garden and then I heard a couple of shots," she told reporters. "My husband groaned and started calling out my name. I could see him lying there with wounds on his side, under his arm and in his back.

"All I wanted to do was go outside in the garden and cover him with blankets but I could not get out because there were shots ringing out around."

As the police comforted the elderly woman at her home in Fairview Road, news came through over their car radios confirming that a policeman was among the 14 people who died. The victim was in an Opel squad car which had rammed the gunman's vehicle, outside another home in Fairview Road, where earlier a fire had broken out. The dead policeman lay inside the car, the rear of which was riddled with bullets.

Marcus Barnard, a taxi-driver, was also among the victims. His wife heard the gunshots outside their home but did not realise it was her husband who had been shot dead through the window of his taxi.

According to other eyewitnesses, Michael Ryan was wearing army-style combat gear and had a high-powered rifle.

Barbara Morley said: "I was just going for a walk along Fairview Road when I saw this man with a rifle, or a shotgun, walking along an alleyway, shooting at the houses. I couldn't believe it. I rushed to ring the police - then a girl I had seen earlier came running up to me and said her dad had been shot."

The first ambulance on the scene had a two-woman crew and was fired at by the gunman. As they ducked for cover, the windscreen shattered.

Amanda Jennings, 17, was told by police that her father had been shot. She ran back towards her home and spoke to her father as he was being taken away in the ambulance.

"He had been shot in the top of his leg. The gunman just shot him, through the door of his house," she said.

In Priory Road, Joyce Anderson had just returned home after a morning shopping visit to Hungerford market when she saw the gunman walking up the road towards her house, wielding what appeared to be a rifle.

"He was about eight houses away when I saw him walking up the road. We'd already heard shots, and we saw the police and ambulances on our way home, so we knew who it was.

"He was carrying his rifle rather casually and wearing what looked like khaki trousers. I thought, `My God, it's the gunman' - It was very frightening." Mrs Anderson, a care assistant in an old people's home, ran across the road and grabbed two children, Rodney Smith, six, and his brother Anthony, nine, who were playing in the gunman's path. She ran with them back to her semi-detached Victorian house. "I didn't know the children, but I pulled them inside our house and locked the door."

Gordon Anderson, a civil servant, said: "My wife just shrieked at me: `The gunman's outside!' I was very alarmed. He came up the road shooting anywhere at anything."

Later, the gunman holed up at John O'Gaunt Comprehensive School, near Hungerford Common. The school caretaker, John Miles, locked himself and his teenage children in his home - 30 yards from the main building - after being warned that the gunman was approaching.

He was still trapped in his home when he told reporters over the telephone that he had shouted to the ground staff who were working round the school to take cover.

"I was trying to attract one of the maintenance men's attention when I saw this man with a rifle and what looked like a revolver," Mr Miles said. "We took cover and heard three muffled shots before the police moved in."

Another eyewitness, Frank Locks, said: "He just looked as if he was out walking; he was just walking down the road firing a gun."

From the Home News pages of `The Independent', Thursday 20 August 1987