`They had their lives ahead, now nothing'

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The Independent Online

Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth sat in Dunblane yesterday with his Labour shadow, George Robertson, and frankly admitted: "I cannot find words to express the horror at what has happened in Dunblane here today." On this occasion, in his loss for words, he spoke for both of them.

The two men flew to Scotland together as news emerged of the carnage at Dunblane Primary School. But for Mr Robertson the tragedy came closer to home: "My children went to this school. It's an act of unspeakable brutality and violence.

"It is difficult for anyone here and in the wider world to come to terms with what has happened in this primary school here today.

"Wherever it happened, what ever town or community, this act of violence was going to be outrageous. Michael Forsyth and I are political adversaries but we are totally united in our sympathies for the families involved."

What they saw together would haunt them, he said: "We saw parents in grief and I think that's the abiding impression that we all got and I don't think I'll ever forget it."

Labour leader Tony Blair was moved almost to tears: "I do not think that words can really describe the depth of the tragedy and the horror that people feel.

"These were little children who at the weekend were playing with their brothers and sisters, their mothers and fathers.

"They went to school this morning with the whole of their lives in front of them, and now nothing. The whole nation will unite in grief and in sympathy for them and their families."

John Major broke off from international peace talks in Egypt to describe the attack as "mad and evil".

He said: "This is a sickening and evil act that almost passes belief. Those children were in school. They were aware they should have been safe. My heart goes out to the parents, families and teachers of those who were killed and injured.

"No words can express the shock and sorrow brought about by this mad and evil act".

The Queen issued a message through Mr Forsyth, saying: "I was deeply shocked by the appalling news from Dunblane. In asking you to pass my deepest and most heartfelt sympathy to the families of all those who were killed or injured, and to the injured themselves, I am sure I share in the grief and horror of the whole country."

Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown expressed how difficult it was to grasp the enormity of what had happened: "This is a terrible tragedy and everyone's sympathy will be with the pupils, parents and staff of the school. At times like this, it is impossible to find words to express how you feel. It is just terrible"

Dr George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said: "My heart and prayers go out to the families of those who have died and to all those injured and traumatised by this evil deed."

Cardinal Basil Hume, leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, sent condolences "to all the parents, families and staff who are grieving and mourning. They are in my prayers together with those still in hospital".

Bashir Mann, a spokesman for the Muslim Community in Scotland, said: "To show our horror at the tragedy in Dunblane we would like to send our sympathy to the parents."

Tony Newton, leader of the House of Commons, announced that a full statement would be made in the Commons today. Dunblane's "shock and grief" would be shared throughout Britain, he said.

George Varnava, president of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "Schools have taken on many new responsibilities, teachers feel they have to cater for all these needs. The focus is on schools and that makes them vulnerable.

"If someone who is clearly demented is looking for a victim or a group of victims, a school in the community is not only an obvious target but an easy target."