The Dunblane Massacre | Thomas Watt Hamilton

(Thomas Watt Hamilton. Picture credit: criminalminds

This just happens to be the 40th true crime case I have covered this year and I was thinking about what I wanted to cover for this post. I have felt strongly about all of the cases I have previously covered but there are two that I have wanted to write about for a while and that's the Dunblane Massacre and the Lockerbie Bombing. 

Both cases happened in Scotland and I grew up hearing about them and what a devastating impact both events had not only in the places where they happened but the whole of Scotland and beyond. In this post I will be focusing on Dunblane and covering Lockerbie after New Year as it is such a big case in terms of all of the legal stuff and it will probably cover about three or four posts.

Before I begin, just a reminder that you can find all of my personal blog posts as well as regular updates on my Kofi page. You can also buy me a coffee on there to help me celebrate my 40th post or just to help me maintain my blog is you like.

The details included are upsetting so please bare that in mind incase you want to skip this post.

Let's begin...

On the 13th of March 1996 in a beautiful and scenic small town in Scotland, called 'Dunblane', something so horrifying occurred, so horrifying that Scotland as well as many parts of the world have never fully recovered from it. It was something that we never thought we would see in this country and it remains the deadliest mass shooting in British history. We never could have imagined it and never saw it coming. It was a horrendous nightmare and it would bring about certain laws being changed.

I want to try and start at the beginning and tell you a bit about who Thomas Watt Hamilton was, this is a name that is uttered with anger and disgust and I have had a hard time writing his name and looking at his pictures.

This is the monster (I don't want to call him a man) who walked into a primary school on the morning of the 13th of March 1996 with four guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition and shot at innocent children as well as the teachers and staff before turning the gun on himself. He shot dead 16 children (all under the age of 7) and their teacher. Another child later died on the way to the hospital. Thomas Watt Hamilton had murdered 17 children and their teacher, injuring many others before he took his own life.

When the breaking news reports flashed across the TV screens (in the days before social media) people were in shock and absolute horror at the sight of anxious parents running towards the school and police and ambulances everywhere. In England TV programmes were interrupted with a special news bulletin from a Scottish news network, the whole of the UK was in disbelief.

This was a sight that was unfamiliar to us in the UK but is sadly common for places like the USA as I have previously written about many times before. The argument in America about gun laws has continued through the years even after so many devastating incidences, there has been no change. When Dunblane happened, there was no argument to be had. The UK might be slow with certain things and I regularly question the ''justice'' system in this country but as soon as Dunblane happened,  the law was changed.

Someone was talking about gun laws and used Dunblane as an example, we haven't had a school shooting in this country since it happened and the new law banning guns was brought in.

We know he was a heartless monster but I always try to delve into the backgrounds of the killers that I write about to give an idea of where these people came from and what may or may not have put them onto the path that they ended up on.

Thomas Watt Hamilton was born on the 10th of May 1952 in Glasgow. Eighteen months after he was born, his father left him and his mother and started a new life with another woman. Struggling to cope on her own, his mother took him to live with her adoptive parents and in a bizarre turn of events they decided to bring up Thomas as their own son and decided that his biological mother would be his older sister.

(Thomas Watt Hamilton. Picture credit:

When he got older, Thomas went to live with his grandfather and was said to have abused the elderly man and urinated in his cups of tea (He moved out of his grandfather's house in 1992 after a fall out and the pair never spoke again.)

In the early 1970s, Thomas had been a scout leader and was in charge of a large number of young boys. The boys nicknamed him ''Mr Creepy'' behind his back and after a while complaints started to come in that Thomas was behaving inappropriately with the boys, taking pictures of them without consent and touching them. Word soon got around and he was dismissed from his role. He tried again to be a scout leader elsewhere but he was blacklisted and couldn't take it any further. This left Thomas with a huge chip on his shoulder.

In my research there is no mention of him having been married or previous relationships. I know that he had no children and was consider a ''loner'' and a ''creepy loner'' at that. No matter his attempts at creating a ''boys club'', he wasn't allowed to carry it through as people campaigned. He was angry and felt rejected at this and accused people of trying to spread false rumours about him , he tried to open his own shop but that came to nothing which he also blamed on the rumours about his behaviour with young boys.

In 1994, Thomas was cautioned by the police for behaving indecently with a young man in Edinburgh, he was also banned from a gun club just a few months before the massacre. To those that knew him they claimed that he never got over being dismissed from his position as a scout leader back in the 70s and he had an axe to grind. A man who knew him for 10 years said that every week that he saw him in those 10 years, he was constantly complaining about how he was done wrong with these (what he claimed to be) false allegations.

Neighbours who lived in the same street as him in Dunblane said that he was a very quiet man they would see him walking about with his anorak on and his head down. People mentioned seeing pictures of boys in swimming trunks on the walls of his house.

Before carrying out the massacre at Dunblane school, Thomas posted rant letters to the BBC and some Scottish newspapers. 14 A4 paged letters were also addressed to the Queen and the parents of the Dunblane children, Thomas had planned the whole thing out, these letters were his manifesto. He owned six guns and picked out four of them before setting off for Dunblane primary school.

On the morning of the 13th of March 1996, Thomas's neighbours reported seeing him trying to clear some ice from his van. This was around 8:15 am.

Thomas then drove his van to Dunblane primary school which was located about five miles from where he lived. He parked his van at the back of the school near a telegraph pole and cut some of the wires leading into the school. He then entered the school through a door near the gym and toilets.

At around 9:33 am, Thomas entered the gym hall which contained 28 pupils from primary one together with their teacher, Gwen Taylor who was with Eileen Harrild (a P.E teacher) and Mary Blake who was a supervisory assistant. Eileen said that she heard a glass door swing open and saw Thomas walk in, she threw her hands up to defend herself as she saw that he had guns. He was wearing firearm goggles with ear defenders on and combat fatigues.

Eileen was shot and endured injuries to her arms, Mary had been shot in the head and both legs but she and Eileen together with four children managed to crawl to a cupboard nearby and tried to hide. Gwen had died instantly having been shot 6 times at close range by Thomas.

At the start of the shooting, Thomas shot dead a young boy and injured several others. He started firing shots at random towards the children. Thomas left the gym for a few moments and left via the exit where he tried to fire some shots towards the library cloakroom where a teacher was injured by a bullet. He then tried to fire some shots at a mobile classroom, the teacher and the students were inside on the floor and trying to keep their heads down and away from the flying shards of glass.

(Anxious parents rushing to Dunblane primary school on the morning of the 13th March 1996. Picture credit:

Thomas then returned to the Gym and put one of the guns in his mouth and pulled the trigger. The whole ordeal lasted for about 4 minutes and when he took his own life, Eileen said there was an eerie stillness, the adults and the children began to react to their injuries and shortly afterwards the emergency services arrived. One of the children sadly died on the way to the hospital. The injured eventually made a full recovery although the mental scars of that day still remain.

The next day, a package arrived at Scottish Television HQ as well as Newspapers and other TV and radio stations. The package contained all of the letters of his grievances. Thomas had posted these letters on his way to Dunblane the morning before.

A memorial and prayer session took place at Dunblane Cathedral on the 15th of March 1996 and the next day which was Mother's Day in the UK, members of the Royal family visited some of the survivors who were still in the hospital.

On the 19th of March 1996, Thomas Watt Hamilton's body was cremated outside of Dunblane in an unknown location and the following day the first of the funerals for the children and their teacher took place.

On the 22nd of March 1996, Dunblane primary school re-opens. Over the next few months various memorials and tributes are held. Over 705,000 people signed a petition for a change of gun laws and the gym hall of the school where the murders took place was demolished.

In December of that year a charity single which was a cover of Bob Dylan's 'Knocking On Heaven's Door' which was sung by some of the children of Dunblane primary school (Here's a clip of the song here).

In February 1997 the conservative government led by Prime Minister John Major, introduced the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 following the enquiry held in the aftermath of the tragedy.

On the 14th of March 1998 a memorial garden for the children and their teacher was opened. It is a flame sculpture with the inscription ''A Flame For Dunblane''. Various other memorials were unveiled in the coming years.

(Gwen Mayor's class. Picture credit:

RIP to the following angels:

Victoria Elizabeth Clydesdale (age 5)
Emma Elizabeth Crozier (age 5)
Melissa Helen Currie (age 5)
Charlotte Louise Dunn (age 5)
Keven Alan Hasell (age 5)
Ross William Irvine (age 5)
David Charles Kerr (age 5)
Mhairi Isabel Macbeath (age 5)
Brett Mckinnon (age 6)
Abigail Joanne McLennan (age 5)
Emily Morton (age 5)
Sophie Jane Lockwood North (age 5)
John Petrie (age 5)
Joanna Caroline Ross (age 5)
Hannah Louise Scott (age 5)
Megan Turner (age 5)
Gwen Mayor (age 45, teacher)

This was quite an emotional case to cover as you can imagine but I'm honoured to have written about it for my 40th case. My heart goes out to the victims and their families, so many bright and beautiful children who's lives were cruelly taken away in a cold and evil way and their teacher too. It's heartbreaking and I feel nothing but hate for Thomas Watt Hamilton and that will never change. There's a lot more to this case with Thomas's possible connection to paedophile rings as well as private documents to do with the case which the public will not be able to see until decades from now. It's all a bit shady but I wanted to focus on what happened in this post briefly.

If you would like to look into the case further, there are quite a few articles online as well as various news clips on youtube. I will leave some links below.

If you are a regular reader and supporter of my blog I would like to thank you for all of your support, I can't believe we are at 40 true crime posts! All those late nights of research and hours of writing and typing have made it all worth it.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and please say a prayer for the children, their teacher and their families who have another Christmas without their loved ones. We will never forget them.

''Let The Little Children Come To Me And Do Not Hinder Them. For To Such Belongs The Kingdom Of Heaven.'' Matthew 19:14

See you in the next post (in 2020) x x x x

Further reading & sources:

Dunblane Article | Independent Newspaper
Dunblane Article | This Week UK
Dunblane Massacre | Wikipedia
Dunblane Massacre | Britannica
Thomas Hamilton Article | Independent
Thomas Hamilton | Murderpedia
Andy Murray's Article on Thomas Hamilton

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Check out some of the true crime cases I have covered previously:

The Stuff Of Nightmares | The Toy Box Killer: David Parker Ray

Beyond Evil: The Murder of Jessica Lunsford 

Death Row Scot: The Kenny Richey Story: Part One

Death Row Scot: The Kenny Richey Story: Part Two

Death Row Scot: The kenny Richey Story: Part Three

Don't Talk, Just Listen...The Weepy Voiced Killer

Amityville | The DeFeo Murders

What Really Happened To Mavis Bran? 

Nowhere To Run: The Marilyn McKenna Story | Part One

 Unsolved : Part Three: The Highway Of Tears & The Disappearance Of Maddy Scott 

Unsolved: Part Two | What Happened To Melanie Melanson? 

- Unsolved: Part One | Molly Bish & Holly Piirainen 

The Dark Side of The Internet: The Amanda Todd Story 

The Story of Bible John

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