The man of whom nightmares are made

Bitter revenge of a loner given free rein to live out his fantasies about young boys
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The Independent Online


He was a man brought up to believe his mother was his sister, a loner with a passion for guns, a paedophile given free reign to live out his fantasies.

A vivid and horrific picture of the strange world of Thomas Hamilton emerged yesterday as Dunblane woke up to find that the events of Wednesday were not a bad dream.

That horror was relived by 11-year-old Laura Bryce. She saw Hamilton standing in the corner of the gym hall as children "were dashing about screaming. He was wearing black earmuffs and a big black cap. He was the kind of man you have nightmares about."

The news that an independent inquiry would be held into the massacre had little impact on the small Scottish town. The stunned silence of the day before gave way to anger that Hamilton was allowed to go on buying guns and running boys' clubs even though the entire community was deeply suspicious of him.

"He did what he did out of pure revenge on the community for making him an outcast," said Colin Loudon, a 30-year-old butcher who attended one of Hamilton's clubs in the early Eighties. "He didn't even live in Dunblane, but he wanted to get back at the whole community in the worst manner."

Hamilton's appalling act of revenge wiped out 16 children and teacher Gwenne Mayor. It leaves 10 children still in hospital, three of them in a critical condition.

The killer pursued his interest in young boys with a relentless determination. Only 36 hours before his shooting spree, he held a football coaching session for around 15 schoolboys

Since October, Hamilton and a friend, Iain Boal, had been circulating a leaflet at various schools in the Bishopbriggs area, just north Glasgow and around 30 miles from Dunblane. It advertised five-a-side football for boys aged between eight and twelve, at Thomas Muir High School in Bishopbriggs. The last session was on Monday evening.

One father, whose ten year-old son, had attended the training sessions for the past two months, said: "Obviously our son was there just the other night and my wife and I are wondering how this man got to run the club." In the leaflet Hamilton called himself "Boys Sports Club Group Committee. (President)." According to parents, Hamilton asked the boys to strip to the waist at the football sessions in the school gymnasium. William McKay, who coaches a boys' football team, refused to let his son go to the training session after checking it out. "I actually went to his training session five months ago just to see who was doing it. Hamilton charged a pound each and there was a maximum of 20 kids in the gymnasium. I told my wife that I found it strange and no way was I going to let my son go." Hamilton got off to a difficult start in life, believing his natural mother, Agnes, was really his sister. A repressed homosexual, he chose to transfer his sexual drive towards young boys. In 1974, he was removed as a Scout leader following allegations of impropriety while on a camping trip at Loch Lomond.

"Basically, he was a pervert," said one teenager. "Before picking the football team, he would make us take our tops off and see who had the biggest chest."

After being rejected by the Scouts, Hamilton founded his own club in Dunblane called the Stirling Rovers. "It was for young lads to play snooker and darts and stuff, but there was also a rifle range," said Mr Loudon. "He was the only adult there. He used to make me feel very uneasy in his close company; he was very quietly spoken and feminine."

In 1984, Hamilton believed the persecution that had begun with his removal from the Scouts had come back to haunt him. After a senior scouting official told the Central Scotland Regional Council about his past, Hamilton's use of council halls and sporting facilities was stopped.

Gossip continued, fuelled by the uneasiness of some of the children who attended his clubs and investigations by four police forces . No action was ever taken. Meanwhile, Hamilton's passion for guns was developing. He was member of Dunblane Small Bore Rifle Club before it collapsed several years ago and then transferred his allegiance to the Stirling Rifle and Pistol Club.

The club president, George Smith, was one of many people who described him as a loner. ""He would produce very good groupings [of bullets on targets] from 25 yards with a 9mm long-barrelled Browning pistol. We believe he had two," said Mr Smith.

Hamilton was a customer of Crockart & Son gun dealers in Stirling for more than 20 years, according to its owner, Robert Bell. "He knew an awful lot about guns.," said Mr Bell.

Hamilton's two passions were destined to collide because of his unstable personality. Four years ago, he drove his "father" James - who was really his grandfather - out of their home by subjecting him to mental and physical cruelty. Friends talk of him urinating in the old man's drinks and applying pressure to his chest to try to induce a heart attack.

A month ago, he was told he was not fit to join Callander Rifle & Pistol Club just three weeks into a six month probationary period. That that may have been the last straw for Thomas Hamilton. In recent months, he had sent out thousands of leaflets begging locals to believe that he was not a pervert. He also wrote to the Queen and to Michael Forsyth, his MP, claiming there was a vendetta against him.

It seems that on Wednesday he decided that if he was unable to have the loves of his life - guns and young boys - he would take them with him.