SILENCE FOR DUNBLANE : When killer ran the gauntlet of anger

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The Independent Online
JAMES CUSICK

This is the moment when parents' anger with Thomas Hamilton boiled over after allegations of sexual abuse on a youth camp he had organised.

Hamilton fled as he was pelted with eggs and shampoo when he appeared at Linlithgow Academy, near Edinburgh, in May 1989, after parents had heard rumours about his behaviour on a previous trip. The boys' club being run by Hamilton subsequently folded.

The activities of Hamilton in the years leading up to his slaughter of 16 children and their teacher in Dunblane will form a central part of the inquiry into the events.

One of the crucial questions which has to be answered is where Hamilton got his money from. How could an unemployed, 43-year-old man finance an expensive photographic hobby and an expensive gun hobby?

The apparently low income Hamilton is thought to have had is at odds with his spending. Descriptions of him conjured up a picture of a quiet "anorak" type, his flat in Stirling a mess, strewn with the debris of poverty. He is described as a loner eating a Christmas dinner of near bread and water. Yet such descriptions conflict with other areas of Hamilton's life.

Since his DIY and kitchen business failed in the 1970s Hamilton had continued with activities that do not fit in easily with the lifestyle of someone without regular income.

In Hamilton's recent interview at Callander Gun Club the question of his ability to pay for his gun hobby did not come up. Secretary Raymond Reid said: "We didn't ask." However, Mr Reid added: "People who are unemployed would have better things to do with what little money they have. If someone is unemployed, then a gun hobby would be a big lay out."

Of the four handguns that Hamilton was carrying when he entered the school on Wednesday a .357 Magnum was recently bought through mail order. What price he paid is unknown but even as secondhand Magnum can cost several hundred pounds.

Just after Christmas last year Hamilton began an ordering spree of ammunition. On 30 December he spent pounds 91 at the London Armoury. In the following weeks he spent a further pounds 53.50 and pounds 61.90. Callender's annual club fee is pounds 50 plus the levy to the National Smallbore Rifle Association of pounds 12.50. Ammunition for someone shooting regularly would cost, according to Mr Reid, "upwards of pounds 20 every month". There would also be range fee of pounds 1 each time Hamilton practised.

Hamilton charged the boys who attended his various clubs, usually pounds 1 per session. But even though he ran weekend trips and camping holidays none would have made him a profit.

So where did his income come from? Apart from the gun hobby central to Hamilton's life were the photographs he took. It is understood that detectives probing into Hamilton's life are concentrating heavily on his photographs.

What is not in dispute is that Hamilton took plenty of pictures. Those on almost public display inside his house - those with enough curiosity to peer into his window saw walls decorated with pictures of scantily clad boys - do not make money. Fully naked boys are, half naked boys are not. This may prove to be a crucial area for the police to investigate.

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