Above all, let us be rid of this

Dunblane inquiry told how Hamilton took four minutes and 105 bullets to kill 17
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It looked like something from a Tarantino film. At 4pm yesterday on the 25 monitors around the Albert Halls in Stirling, a photograph appeared of a dead man dressed in black, lying on the floor of a school gymnasium, pools of blood around his head, four handguns near him.

But this was no film; rather a stark slice of the horrors of 13 March this year in a small, prosperous Scottish town. For the parents and relatives of the 16 children and one teacher, killed by the man they were looking at on the screen, it was the revisitation of a monster - Thomas Hamilton.

On the first day of the inquiry before Lord Cullen into the massacre at Dunblane Primary School, Hamilton's determination to take as many lives as possible was there for all to see. Despite this, the gun lobby was yesterday urging Lord Cullen not to recommend curbs on ownership of firearms.

The Government, meanwhile, shows no sign of tightening the laws which allowed Hamilton to carry with him to the Stirlingshire primary school enough ammunition to wipe out every one of the 709 pupils and 31 staff.

According to a ballistics expert, Hamilton took to the school, in a camera bag, two high-powered pistols, two revolvers and a total of 743 rounds of ammunition.

He used a Browning pistol 105 times, reloading and reloading as he pumped bullets into the young bodies. The last shot - the 106th bullet, from a different gun, a Smith and Wesson - he reserved for himself. Hamilton had earlier tried to isolate the school by cutting telephone wires.

The parents and relatives of those who lost their lives in the Dunblane gym sat in the balcony of the inquiry hall, above and out of sight of the media. They heard from a physical education teacher, Eileen Harrild, how their children were dressed in PE kit and jumping with joy before their lesson in the gymnasium.

They heard how the class had been invaded by Hamilton, how he had sprayed bullets around the gym, how some children, perhaps theirs, had been shot up to seven times by Hamilton.

The parents heard how the guns were specialised weapons, designed for accuracy, speed and competition shooting, not the mass murder for which they were finally used.

The balcony above the tribunal was virtually silent throughout the whole day and all the evidence.

At the sides, some relatives were visible. Some held their heads. No one talked. Their gazes seemed fixed as each new witness gave their account.

The care taken not to reveal precise details of any of the murdered children was respected and carefully monitored by the Lord Advocate, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon, who led the Crown's questions. But it was a difficult task.

Eileen Harrild described how, huddled in the gym store, with children who had been shot lying near her, and herself suffering from bullet wounds in the arms and chest, she had put her fingers up to her mouth to remind them to keep quiet. As Hamilton continued to shoot, she said: "The children were amazingly calm."

The monitors inside the hall showed the inside of the gym in graphic plans.

Aerial photographs of the school, its gymnasium now bulldozed, showed the place where the children were slaughtered. And when Malcolm Chisholm, a ballistics expert, described Hamilton's probable movements inside the gym and the line of bullets that came from his gun, it would have been difficult for any parent in the land not to have placed their children there.

Finally, having been spared any photograph of the gymnasium, the clock in the hall moved to 4pm.

And having checked with Lord Cullen first, the photograph of Hamilton appeared on the monitors. He had put his gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. The beams that children were supposed to play on that morning were shown in front of him. There was silence as the photograph remained up for only a short time.

Detective Chief Superintendent John Ogg, one of the first officers to arrive at the school on the day, indicated that the slaughter could have been much worse.

Hamilton at one stage left the gym to fire outside. One teacher was grazed by a bullet; a boy, fired at through the gym window, was hit by flying glass.

He shot at the class of primary seven and their teacher, Kay Gordon. Hamilton's bullets passed straight through the classroom, Det Ch Supt Ogg said. One bullet hit a small chair near a pupil's desk. Mrs Gordon had seen Hamilton firing in the gym on the 28 pupils of primary one and their teachers. She told her own pupils to get down on the floor.

In a statement read out to the inquiry, assistant teacher Mary Blake, who sustained four wounds to the head and legs, said: "I was hit on my head and was hurting. Something terrible was happening.

"The screams seemed to be inside my head. Children were running around, hysterical, blood was splattered everywhere."

One child lying next to her in the store, said: "What a bad man."

Killed in minutes, page 4

'Guns are almost sacred objects of desire. Thanks to movies, television and the nightly news, the gun is the most potent of contemporary icons. We now have a gun problem, even if, for the moment, it resides primarily in the more diseased regions of our imaginations. And the point about guns is that they change everything. Your sense of the world is fundamentally altered. A gun redefines any environment as threatening. A gun transports you to a different realm of possibilities. This is the world that Lord Cullen must consider. He must not be sidetracked. Analyse certainly, understand maybe but, above all, stop. Attempt, by whatever means, to remove the possibility.'

Bryan Appleyard, page 19