Senior judge to lead inquiry into `tragedy of Dunblane'

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The Independent Online

Lord Cullen, the distinguished Scottish judge, will head a full inquiry into the "terrible tragedy" of Dunblane, Michael Forsyth, Secretary of State for Scotland told a sombre House of Commons yesterday.

Mr Forsyth also announced that the Queen and the Princess Royal - who Mr Forsyth said had sent their condolences to "all those affected by this unspeakable deed" - will visit Dunblane on Monday. The Prime Minister and Tony Blair, the Labour leader, will visit the town together today.

Mr Forsyth later acknowledged that the police had been "fully aware" of concerns among some parents about the character of Thomas Hamilton, the man who shot dead 16 children and their teacher at Dunblane primary school on Wednesday. Hamilton had run youth groups in the area. But police had been unable to make any case against him adequate for a prosecution, and other parents had supported him.

Lord Cullen's inquiry will be held in public and will examine, among other issues, details of Hamilton's background, and the granting to him of a series of firearms certificates stretching back to 1977. It is likely to make recommendations.

Mr Forsyth in a Commons statement said that Lord Cullen, who chaired the inquiry into the Piper Alpha oil rig disaster, would discuss the inquiry's procedures with Lord Fraser of Carmylie, the Lord Advocate, today.

During Commons Question Time John Major promised that in the wake of the "unimaginable horror" of the fatal shootings "all matters would be examined" including whether further gun controls should be imposed along lines recommended by the Home Office Advisory Committee on Firearms.

The Scottish Secretary disclosed later that he was suspending a Scottish Office deregulation proposal to lighten the vetting on adult supervisors of schemes for children under eight, until Lord Cullen's inquiry was completed. Mr Forsyth confirmed yesterday that Hamilton had no criminal record.

Mr Forsyth, in whose constituency the school is, said: "The cold blooded slaughter of tiny children is beyond atrocity. I know that I speak for the whole House when I say to the stricken families of Dunblane: our deepest sympathy and our prayers are with you and for you."

George Robertson, the Shadow Scottish Secretary, who lives in the town and whose children went to the school, revealed that he had "argued with Hamilton in my own home" but like others who had "met and distrusted" Hamilton could have had no inkling "to guide us to his final act of wantonness".