Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Dunblane Massacre

The Inquiry

Lord Cullen
Lord Cullen

Following the massacre, Dunblane residents and families of the victims demanded answers. They wanted to know how such a disaster could have occurred in their small community. In response to their pleas, a public inquiry was held. One of the primary questions Lord Cullen sought to answer was what circumstances led up to the shootings? He also assessed ways to better safeguard the public in the future against the misuse of firearms.

The investigation, based mostly on police reports and the testimony of those who were familiar with Hamilton, proved to be an invaluable source of information. Investigators learned that Hamilton organized and ran approximately 16 boys clubs between the 1970s and mid-1990s, most of which were unsupervised. Moreover, it was discovered that Hamilton wasn't even properly qualified to instruct the boys in many of the activities he arranged for members. This raised questions as to why he was allowed to continue running the boys clubs in the first place.

During the investigation, Hamilton's true character was further revealed when some of the boys testified of his mistreatment of them. They told of how they were coerced into stripping down to their swimming trunks so that photographs could be taken of them, many of which focused on the groin area. If a youngster complained, Hamilton would belittle them. When confronted by parents or the authorities about the pictures, Hamilton would exclaim that they were taken for advertising purposes even though he kept most of them for his own enjoyment.

According to Cullen's 1996 report, there was only evidence of two incidents, which suggested Hamilton was possibly a pedophile. He stated that a 12-year-old testified that Hamilton "sat down close to him and rubbed him on the inside of his leg." Yet, the incident was brushed aside and no report was ever filed.

Cullen stated that another 12-year-old boy testified anonymously that he was sexually abused. The boy claimed that Hamilton inappropriately touched his "private parts" and anally assaulted him with his fingers. However, Cullen had difficulty accepting the testimony because he did not have an opportunity to cross-examine the boy who had "in the past been convicted of a serious crime of dishonesty."

Thomas Hamilton's home in Dunblane
Thomas Hamilton's home in Dunblane

During the inquiry evidence was brought forth which suggested that Hamilton planned the school massacre well in advance. Less than six months prior to the shooting, Hamilton purchased more guns and ammunition than ever before. His attendance at gun clubs drastically increased and he spent countless hours trying to improve his shooting accuracy. It was likely that Hamilton was preparing in advance to carry out his murderous rampage.

According to a June 1996 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday article by Allison McLaughlin, Hamilton might have even been planning the school shooting two years prior to the actual event. Moreover, there was evidence that he sought to exact his revenge on not just the one class but as many as four classes. The proof came in the way of written testimony given by an anonymous 9-year-old boy who had previously been a member at one of Hamilton's clubs.

McLaughlin said that Hamilton quizzed the boy, "every week for two years about the layout of the gym and the school routine." Hamilton allegedly asked specific information such as directions around the school and to the gym, when grades one to four assembled in the gym, how many fire exits there were and other details concerning the daily routines of the school. Hamilton questioned the boy up until a week before the massacre.

Those who spoke with Hamilton in the days leading up to the shootings claimed that he didn't act out of character immediately prior to the event. Russell quoted Hamilton's mother who said that when she saw her son the night before the shootings he "seemed all right." He allegedly gave no indication of what he was going to do the following day.