Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Terror in Hungerford


While no one really knows what was in Ryans mind that day, Pantziarka indicates that many people theorized that he had not set out to kill anyone.  Used to watching people in the park as if he were some kind of soldier on a mission, Ryan may have intended only to rape Susan Godfrey.  She may then have fought him or tried to escape back to her car, at which point he shot her.  Then he had either to kill her children who had seen him or let them finger him.  He seemed to have decided to just run and hide out.  But his hasty plan had backfired when his car had failed to start.  Then, desperate, annoyed and afraid, aware that he would be arrested, he had acted out.

Yet that explanation fails to account for the shot fired at the petrol station, and the attempt to kill that woman as well.  Perhaps Ryan believed that she would be a witness to his escape so he had to eliminate her.

People who have studied the case are aware that Ryan was obsessed with commando figures, war games, and the fantasy ideas from action films involving military heroes.   He may have viewed himself as someone who could escape into a wilderness and survive off the land, as absurd as that idea actually was there in the small country of England

Pantziarka explains the shooting rampage as Ryans inability to form appropriate coping mechanisms.  The author states that as an only child, there is evidence that he always got his own way.  According to family friends and relatives, he was a spoilt child, and one who lashed out at his mother frequently. (Lane and Gregg say he regularly beat her.)

That hardly explains such violence, as Pantziarka admits.  Even Ryans failures as a schoolboy and his inability to make friends do not adequately provide motivation.  Lane and Gregg cite the words of Broadmoors medical director, Dr. John Hamilton, to the effect that Ryan either had schizophrenia or a psychopathic disorder, likely exacerbated by his fathers death.  Yet they offer no records of treatment for such conditions.

Afterward, there was much debate across Britain about their gun control laws, noted in the Philadelphia Inquirer and in many local papers, as well as about the fact that someoneanyonecould acquire such deadly guns for which there was little value as more than killing machines.  British laws tightened and such guns were banned.

Ryans body was cremated on September 3.  His legacy was behavior that reinforced the idea that mass murder tends to be a crime of pent-up anger, and his brief but deadly campaign was the worst one-man massacre to that point in British history.

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