The Dunblane massacre was a multiple murder-suicide which occurred at Dunblane Primary School in the Scottish town of Dunblane on 13 March 1996. Sixteen children and one adult were killed, in addition to the attacker, Thomas Watt Hamilton, who committed suicide. It remains the deadliest single targeted mass homicide on children in the history of the United Kingdom.
After gaining entry to the school, Hamilton made his way to the gymnasium and opened fire on a class of five- and six-year-olds, killing or wounding all but one person. Fifteen children and a teacher, Gwen Mayor, died at the scene. Hamilton then left the gymnasium through the emergency exit. In the playground outside he fired a number of shots into a mobile classroom. A teacher in the mobile classroom had previously realised that something was wrong and told the children to hide under the tables. Most of the bullets became embedded in books and equipment, though "one passed through a chair which seconds before had been used by a child." He also fired at a group of children walking in a corridor, injuring one teacher. Hamilton went back into the gym and fired one shot with one of his two revolvers pointing upwards into his mouth, killing himself instantly. A further eleven children and three adults were rushed to the hospital as soon as the emergency services arrived; one of these children was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
A memorial service conducted by James Whyte, the former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, was held on 9 October 1996.
Hamilton's exact motives remain unknown, though it is a matter of record that there were complaints to police regarding his suspicious behaviour towards the young boys who attended the youth clubs that he ran. There were suspicions prior to the massacre that Hamilton's interest in boys was paedophilic, with more than one complaint being made regarding him having taken photographs of semi-naked boys without the parents' consent. He claimed in letters that rumours about him led to the collapse of his shop business in 1993, and in the last months of his life he complained again that his attempts to set up a boys' club were subject to persecution by the police and the scout movement. Among those to whom he complained were local MP Michael Forsyth and the Queen. In the 1980s, another MP, George Robertson, who lived in Dunblane, had complained to Forsyth about Hamilton's local boys' club, which his son had attended. On the day following the massacre, George Robertson spoke of having argued with Hamilton "in my own home". There has been unfounded speculation about the relationship between Hamilton and Robertson, and the latter launched a landmark 'e-libel' action against the Sunday Herald in 2003 after comments made on the newspaper's message board. He won an apology and damages. On 19 March 1996, just six days after the incident, the body of Thomas Hamilton was cremated in private. The gym where the massacre took place was demolished on 11 April 1996, and within two years the whole school was rebuilt.
The Cullen Inquiry recommended tighter control of handgun ownership as well as other changes in school security and vetting of people working with children under 18. However because the Hungerford massacre also involved a legal gun owner killing with his legally-held guns, public feeling had turned against private gun ownership, allowing a much more restrictive ban on handguns to pass.
Security in schools, particularly primary schools, was improved in response to the Dunblane massacre and two other tragedies which occurred at around the same time - the murder of London headmaster Philip Lawrence and the wounding of six toddlers and Lisa Potts, a nursery nurse at a Wolverhampton nursery school.
A month later, Martin Bryant killed 35 people in the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania, Australia. The chief defence psychiatrist in the case has revealed that the Dunblane massacre, and in particular the early treatment of Thomas Hamilton, was the trigger in Bryant's mind for the Port Arthur massacre.
The Living End have a song on their self-titled album about the Dunblane massacre. It is called "Monday". The band's Chris Cheney said, "It was such a senseless act. I just felt compelled to write a song about it." Also, the UK band History Of Guns got their name from one of their earliest songs, inspired by the Dunblane shootings.
On their 1997 album Quintessentials, English punk band U.K. Subs feature a song simply titled "Dunblane". Lead singer Charlie Harper laments in the chorus: "After Dunblane, how can you hold a gun and say you're innocent?"
James MacMillan wrote a tribute piece, "A Child's Prayer", using the words "remembered by the composer from childhood". It was first performed in Westminster Abbey in July 1996 and recorded on the album 'ikon' by The Sixteen, conducted by Harry Christophers, in 2005.
Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) sang "The Little Ones" at the Voices for Darfur gala performance at the Royal Albert Hall, London, in December 2004, a song which he said he wrote for the children of Dunblane and Bosnia.
Eric Bogle, a Scotsman who has lived for many years in Australia, wrote and recorded "One Small Star" in tribute.
A repeat of Rimmerworld, an episode of the popular sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf, was due to be broadcast on BBC2 on the very evening of the massacre. It was suspended because it contains a scene similar to Dunblane: a crazy woman android threatening to kill herself and the Red Dwarf crew.
A documentary 'Dunblane: Remembering our Children' (produced by Chameleon Television), which featured many of the parents of the children who had been killed, was broadcast by ITV at the time of the first anniversary.
At the time of the Tenth Anniversary in March 2006 two documentaries were broadcast. Channel 5 screened 'Dunblane - a decade on' (made by Hanrahan Media) and BBC Scotland showed 'Remembering Dunblane' (made by iwcmedia).
Episode 1,954 of Australian soap opera Home And Away, in which the estranged father of a Year 7 student of Summer Bay High brought a rifle into the school and held headmaster Donald Fisher hostage all afternoon and overnight (throughout the episode), was not shown at all in the UK. References to the siege in other episodes were edited out by ITV, the then UK broadcaster of the show.
A Memorial Garden was created at the town's cemetery, where most of those who were killed are buried. The central feature of the Garden is a fountain designed by Maggie Howarth. The Garden was dedicated at a ceremony on 14 March 1998.
Stained glass windows in memory of the victims were placed in three local churches, St Blane's and the Church of the Holy Family in Dunblane and the nearby Lecropt Kirk. A Clashach standing stone was later erected in Dunblane Cathedral.
Gardens and trees were planted, and cairns built at various locations, especially schools, throughout the UK in remembrance of the children and their teacher.
The Dunblane Youth and Community Centre, funded by donations made after the shootings, was opened in September 2004.
Following the 1997 General Election, the Labour government of Tony Blair introduced the Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1997, banning the remaining .22 cartridge handguns in England, Scotland and Wales, and leaving only muzzle-loading and historic handguns legal, as well as certain sporting handguns (e.g. "Long-Arms") that fall outside the Home Office Definition of a "Handgun" due to their dimensions. The ban does not affect Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, or the Channel Islands.
Dunblane Unburied, the book written by Sandra Uttley who was a paramedic at the time of the Dunblane Massacre in Scotland, argues that Central Scotland Police were more culpable in the case than was officially admitted.