Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Dunblane Massacre

Facing the Unimaginable

Ron Taylor, Dunblane headmaster
Ron Taylor, Dunblane

One of the first to arrive at the tragic scene was Dunblane Primary School's headmaster, Ron Taylor, who was quickly followed by school staff members. What they witnessed was so heart wrenching and horrific that it defied comprehension. Yet, they could not let their emotions hinder what had to be done. The staff was immediately thrown into action trying to help the children and teachers. They tended to the wounds of the injured and comforted the dying until emergency personnel arrived approximately 15 minutes later.

According to Raymond Notarangelo's article in The Mirror, when they happened upon the body of teacher Mrs. Gwen Mayor, 45, it appeared "as if she had been trying to shield youngsters from the gunfire." In fact, she had given her life to protect as many as she could. Two other teachers, including Mrs. Mary Blake and Mrs. Eileen Harrild, were also in the gym at the time of the shooting. As the bullets rained down upon them, the women desperately tried to shield the children, even though they too had suffered serious gunshot wounds. It is likely there would have been more casualties if it were not for their heroism.

Mrs. Gwen Mayor, teacher and victim
Mrs. Gwen Mayor, teacher
and victim

Moments later, ambulance crews and police converged on the school. Doctors and paramedics treated many at the scene and others with more severe wounds were rushed to the Stirling Royal Infirmary for immediate treatment. The police cordoned off the area to ensure that emergency personnel could get through easily.

Amidst the chaos, frantic parents crowded around the school wondering if their children were amongst the dead or wounded. Most didn't hear any news about the fate of their kin until later that afternoon. The police wanted to be sure that they had an accurate listing of the wounded or dead before they revealed any information. The waiting was unbearable.

Officer outside Dunblane school gym
Officer outside Dunblane school gym

According to USA Today, one mother was so desperate that she broke through the police lines and ran into the school. The woman fainted on the gym floor when she found her dead daughter who had been shot in the neck. She was one of many whose lives were torn apart by the senseless tragedy. 

A March 1996 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday article recorded that pathologist Anthony Busuttil was put in charge of organizing the grim task of examining those who had perished in the massacre and informing the families of their deaths. Most of the victims suffered from one to seven gunshot wounds and the severity of the injuries was worse than anything he'd ever seen.

Professor Busuttil was also in charge of performing a post mortem on Hamilton. According to the Scottish Daily Record & Sunday, he conducted extensive tests to find any clues as to why Hamilton committed such a ghastly crime. He looked for evidence of a brain tumor, alcohol, drugs, viral infection and even lead poisoning, yet he was unable to find any physical explanation for his murderous behavior. It was clear that Hamilton's problems were based on unknown psychological factors. No one will ever know why Hamilton did what he did. It is a mystery which he has carried with him to the grave.

Teacher and class, school photo
Teacher and class, school photo

Less than a week following the massacre, Dunblane made preparations to bury their dead. Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Anne traveled to the small town to meet with the families of the victims and the survivors. A March 1996 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday article said that the Queen "wept openly" when she spoke with the parents about their children. She, like many around the world, sympathized for the families and mourned the great loss of life.

On March 18, 1996, Great Britain stood still to observe one minute of silence in commemoration for those that died in the Dunblane massacre. The silence marked the beginning of a weeklong procession of funerals. According to Smith, many of the deceased were interned in a "specially dedicated area in Dunblane cemetery."


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