Payout for teacher traumatised by horror of Dunblane shooting

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The Independent Online
A NURSERY TEACHER who witnessed the horrifying aftermath of the Dunblane massacre is to receive a compensation payout for severe psychological trauma.

Linda Stewart, 48, who has not worked since the March 1996 shooting in which 16 children and their teacher were killed, has already received an interim payout from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. Four other members of staff are still on sick leave.

Mrs Stewart arrived in the school gym minutes after the massacre took place, and helped tend the wounded and dying children until ambulances arrived.

She still suffers flashbacks and nightmares, rarely gets to sleep before 3am, and cannot light a match because the smell reminds her of gunsmoke.

"I feel like I'm trapped in a gilded cage with no way out. My house is surrounded by security lights because I am terrified of the dark and I won't even answer the door if I'm alone", said Mrs Stewart, who lives near the primary school.

Yesterday the blinds were down at Mrs Stewart's Dunblane home and it was believed by her neighbours that she had gone away.

The payment to Mrs Stewart contrasts with a recent House of Lords ruling that police officers who suffered severe mental trauma at the Hillsborough football stadium disaster were not entitled to compensation.

The sum for Mrs Stewart has not been disclosed and the CICB refuses to discuss individual cases. However precedents suggest that it could be in the region of pounds 20,000.

Under the CICB tariffs, victims can claim between pounds 1,000 and pounds 20,000 for serious stress. The amount depends on how long the "disabling mental disorder" lasts. If it is very transient, the award is pounds 1,000, rising to pounds 2,500 if suffered for up to 28 weeks, pounds 4,000 for up to a year and pounds 7,500 if it lasts for more than a year but is not permanent, which attracts the highest possible sum, pounds 20,000.

Scotland's biggest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland welcomed the award. The union's general-secretary Ronnie Smith said yesterday: "While we desperately hope that there will be very few, if any, further incidents of teachers having to make use of the criminal injury compensation facilities, they are nevertheless as entitled as any other citizens to benefit from provisions that Parliament has put in place to help those people who are victims of crime, whether directly or indirectly."

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