Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Dunblane Massacre


Thomas Hamilton was born on May 10, 1952 at Glasgow Maternity Hospital in Scotland. At the time of his birth his parents, Thomas Watt and Agnes Graham Hamilton, were already divorced. They had been married for only one and a half years. According to Kevin Mansi's March 1996 article in the Scottish Daily Record & Sunday, Watt left his family for another woman while Agnes was pregnant. Consequently, Hamilton never got a chance to get to know his natural father.

Agnes, who worked as a hotel chambermaid at the time, had difficulty making ends meet. She decided to move in with her adoptive parents in Cranhill, Scotland. She hoped that she could save some money and provide a stable family environment for her son while there.

When Hamilton was two, his grandparents adopted him. Thinking it would be in the child's best interest, they led him to believe that they were his natural parents. Hamilton was also told that his biological mother was actually his sister, a story which he believed until he was told the truth in 1974.

Hamilton lived with his grandparents in Glasgow's East End until they moved to Stirling when he was 12 years old. He later moved with his grandparents to a house on Kent Road. While there, Hamilton attended the local schools and performed well academically.

However, his real interests as a teenager were divided between an area rifle club and the Boys Brigade. His fascination with guns and the boys club preoccupied him for most of his teenage years and his adult life. In fact, his hobbies became a kind of obsession.

When Hamilton was in his mid-20s, he obtained a firearms certificate and started collecting firearms. In 1977 alone, he bought and sold five guns. He continued to buy even more as the years progressed. Moreover, to enhance his firing skills, he became a member of several area gun clubs where he would diligently practice.

Thomas Hamilton camping as scout leader
Thomas Hamilton camping
as scout leader

Hamilton also became increasingly involved in the Boy Scouts during the 1970s. In 1973 he was appointed an Assistant Scout Leader of a Stirling scout troop. During that time, there were several serious complaints made against him, which cast doubt on his leadership abilities.

That winter, Hamilton took a scouting troop made up of about a dozen boys to the Scottish Highlands of Aviemore. When they arrived there, their van broke down. With no lodging in sight, Hamilton and the boys were forced to spend the night huddled together in the vehicle in freezing temperatures. 

Several weeks later Hamilton led another troop of scouts on a winter expedition, which was meant to test the youngsters' survival abilities. However, Hamilton's test went far beyond the scouting limits to the point of danger. Many of the young boys returned home wet and suffering from mild hypothermia.

The boy's parents and scout leaders were outraged by Hamilton's recklessness. The county and district commissioners asked Hamilton to resign. Yet, Hamilton didn't think he did anything wrong and was angered that his leadership abilities were thrown into question.

Consequently, he fired off several letters of complaint to Scotland's Scout Association and Headquarters. He even demanded an inquiry into the events. However, there was no getting around the fact that Hamilton jeopardized the boys' safety and he was eventually forced to tender his resignation.

With more time on his hands, Hamilton spent much of it working at his "do-it-yourself" shop, "Woodcraft," which he established in 1972. Yet, after a while his business started to collapse as product sales decreased. He then turned his attention towards establishing a new business.

Hamilton decided to set up a series of boys clubs in and around Stirling and Dunblane. The projects preoccupied him for the remainder of his short life. They would also lead to the destruction of his reputation within the community.


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