He must have chased the pupils all over the place, shooting at them til l they fell
DEATH IN DUNBLANE
James Cusick is political correspondent of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. As an experienced member of the lobby, he has previously worked at The Sunday Times and the BBC. His career as a journalist has been split between print and television, including senior positions as producer with Sir David Frost and at BBC Newsnight. He is also an award-winning golf and travel writer, working for over a decade as the UK contributing editor for one of the USA’s leading golf magazines. He broadcasts regularly for the BBC and CNN. He lives in London.
Thursday 14 March 1996
It was a bitterly cold morning yesterday when at 8.45am the usual traffic began arriving at the school gates in Doune Road, Dunblane.
The grass around Dunblane Primary School was covered with a thin layer of frost and snow.
For those in the small town who walked to school, their red pullovers and black trousers or skirts would have been covered up with a decent duffle or heavy coat. Even those ferried to school by mums in cars, especially the infants of Class P1, would have been well wrapped up.
There was the usual gathering of parents exchanging school-gate conversation and the noise of their small sons and daughters breaking into a run towards the playground as the nine o'clock start arrived.
Dunblane Primary is a good school. Happy pupils. Satisfied parents. Dedicated teachers.
Yesterday it was business as usual. Ten-year-old Jamie Christie's P6 class began their Wednesday writing test.
For the 29 pupils of Primary One, taught by Gwenne Mayor, there was a break from their reading and writing lessons.
They headed for the school gymnasium at the back of the low-rise modern school building. Those in the hut classrooms dotted around the main building - built to take a growing school population - could look from their desks and see P1 enjoying their games.
There is less than 100 yards between the main fence and gates and the two entrances that take you inside Dunblane Primary. Once inside the main entrance, there is the school office staff working behind a glass partition. Between 9.20 and 9.25am 43-year-old Thomas Hamilton passed through the school gates, walked towards the school office and walked unchallenged into the school corridors. He lived in Stirling.
As the pupils of Dunblane were eating their breakfast yesterday, Hamilton would have left his home.
Had anyone looked closely at him yesterday morning they would have spotted him carrying what looked like hi-tech earmuffs. Few would have recognised them as ear protectors used to deaden the noise in gun-club galleries.
Had Hamilton passed through the metal detectors now common in American schools, an alarm would have gone off.
But this was a quiet commuter town in central Scotland. There was no alarm to detect the four automatic handguns Hamilton was carrying.
Once inside the school, Hamilton turned sharp right and passed through the empty school dining area into the changing-room area and then burst through the doors of the gymnasium.
Inside the large hall were the 29 pupils of P1, PE teacher Eileen Harrild and P1's own teacher Gwenne Mayor.
At some point Hamilton must have stopped, and with premeditation, put the mufflers over his ears for protection. What followed next will remain in the minds of those who survived the massacre of the innocents of P1. The time was 9.30am.
John McEwan, 49, who co-ordinated the ambulance operation at the school, was one of the first to see the results of two or three minutes of carnage inside the gymnasium.
"It was like a scene out of a medieval hell torture chamber. The scene inside the school was utterly unbelievable. He must have chased the pupils all over the place, shooting at them till they fell.
"Even if he was an excellent shot there's no way he would have got them all if they had been sitting still."
Gwenne Mayor died trying to protect the children in her care. Most of those who died suffered head wounds.
Mr McEwan added: "What will stick with me for a long time is the look of terror on the face of a five-year-old child who had a bullet hole through his arm and couldn't comprehend what had happened. It was just terrible to see his wee face."
The horror did not stop in the gymnasium. Through the glass windows those in the outside huts would have seen and heard the chaos.
Hamilton must have known where the huts were and went through the gymnasium doors towards them. The time would have been 9.35am.
By now everyone in the school would have been scared, with some screaming. Teachers in the rest of the school told their pupils to hide under their desks.
Within 60 seconds of Hamilton firing on the windows of the huts, he must have chosen to end his own life.
He put the barrel of one of the automatic guns into his mouth and pulled the trigger. An ambulance man, and a veteran of the horrors of the clean- up after the Lockerbie bombing, found Hamilton lying on the ground. There was no sympathy. "I saw the gunman lying there and a handgun by his side. For the first time in my life I had this overwhelming desire to mutilate that corpse - I know that sounds terrible. I had to really force myself not to kick him as I walked by." The officer in charge at the said the horror would leave him and his crews mentally scarred for life.
The first call to the police for help was just before 9.38am. The police's own alert message was brief: "Man with gun running amok in Dunblane Primary School." The first officers arrived at the school within six minutes of the call. Officers described how they were met by a "scene of carnage".
Between 9.40am and 10.00am Stirling Royal Infirmary was told it was on a full alert. Parents in Dunblane began telephoning each other for every scrap of news, good or bad.
The first of a fleet of ambulances began arriving at the primary school. Helicopters were brought in to bring those urgently injured to hospital. Teams of doctors and surgeons were rushed to the school to deal with emergency cases on the spot. At 10.30 Stirling Royal Infirmary admitted 13 children and three adults.
One pupil died in the hospital, adding to the total of 15 children and their teacher killed at the school. Last night at 5.30pm, eight hours after the massacre, the police reported that some of the parents who work outside the town were still not aware that there had been deaths at the school. Wally Bundy, a taxi driver, who was brought up in Dunblane, spent yesterday ferrying worried parents from their workplaces in Stirling to the school. "Nothing ever happens in Dunblane. My parents were married in the cathedral and this whole thing is disgusting. You can imagine it happening in America or in a big city. But not here."
VICTIMS OF THE SCHOOL SHOOTING
Victoria Clydesdale, aged 5, Drummond Rise; Emma Crozier, aged 5, Montrose Way; Melissa Currie, aged 5, Braemar Avenue; Charlotte Dunn, aged 5, Springfield Terrace; Kevin Hasell, aged 5, Hillside Avenue; Ross Irvine, aged 5, of Atholl Place; David Kerr, aged 5, Menteith View; Mhairi McBeath, aged 5, Kilbryde Crescent; Brett McKinnon, aged 6, George Street; Abigail McLennan, aged 5, Roman Way; Emily Morton, aged 5, Doune Road; Sophie North, aged 5, Bridgend; John Petrie, aged 5, Springfield Terrace; Joanna Ross, aged 5, George Street; Hannah Scott, aged 5, Ochiltree; Megan Turner, aged 5, Backcroft; Teacher Gwenne Mayor, 45, of Westerlea Drive, Bridge of Allan.
Amie Adam, aged 5, of Albert Street; Coll Austin, aged 6, of Blenboard Cottage; Matthew Birnie, aged 5, of The Crescent; Robbie Hurst, aged 5, of Wallace Road; Amy Hutchison, aged 5, of Perth Road; Ryan Liddell, aged 5, of Edward Place; Mark Mullan, aged 5, of Menteith View; Andrew O'Donnell, aged 5, Doune Road; Victoria Porteous, aged 5, of Ochiltree; Robert Purves, aged 5, Ardoch Crescent; Benjamin Vallance, aged 5, of Springbank Crescent; Stewart Weir, aged 6, of Backcroft;
Two teachers, Mary Blake, of Montrose Way, and Eileen Harild, 44, of Newton Crescent.
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