Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Terror in Hungerford

Chaos

Hungerford Township, downtown
Hungerford Township, downtown

Hungerford held a weekly market to attract Londoners to visit the town to purchase goods and eat in the restaurants or stay in the inns.  That day, August 19, was market day.  Extra stalls had been set up along High Street to facilitate the display of goods and the transaction of purchases.   It was an event that visitors and townspeople alike enjoyed.

Rumors of a shooting incident not far away were passed around, and people saw the sudden increase in the police presence, but the shoppers did not know what was happening.  Ambulances lined up, awaiting word that they could move into the danger zone, and police set up a road block that alerted everyone that something serious was taking place.

Lane and Gregg recount the story as if Ryan had gone into these crowded streets and started shooting, but in fact, he was nowhere near this area.  The misplaced roadblocks, set up in erroneous anticipation of where he might go, actually sent some drivers tragically into his path.

Eric Vardy
Eric Vardy
Van driver Eric Vardy was the 12th fatality that day.  From there, Ryan took an unpredictable path.  He knew where he was going, but no one else did.  One wounded victimthe woman who had called Ryan names--waited five hours for medical assistance after placing her call, because the police could not pinpoint where the maniacal shooter had gone.   While there would be much criticism of their late response later, they were trying to keep officers from just walking unprepared into a trap.  Mass shootings were not common in England and few people in law enforcement were prepared for an erratic gunman walking from one place to another.

As Ryan strode along, he looked for vulnerable targets, and Sandra Hill, driving her car, was next.  He shot and killed her with a single bullet.  She was only twenty.  Then, inexplicably, Ryan crossed the street there and went up the house at number sixty Priory Road, shooting all the way.  He shattered the front door to the home of Victor and Myrtle Gibbs.  Both of them were there and they did not know how to react.  They had heard gunfire but had not known what it was.

Myrtle Gibbs
Myrtle Gibbs
Myrtle was in a wheel chair, completely vulnerable to Ryans attack.   To protect her, Victor threw himself over her, taking the brunt of the bullets that Ryan fired from the Beretta.  Victor died, falling to the floor, and while some accounts indicate that Ryan killed Myrtle as well, others record that she was wounded then and died a few days later in a hospital. 

Victor Gibbs
Victor Gibbs
Apparently Ryan had decided to use their home as a post for himself.  Rather than leaving at once, he shot at some neighbors from inside.  Several people were wounded.  Then Ian Playle drove by the house with his family.  In the car were his wife and two children.  He had seen one of the roadblocks and had found his way onto a side street that would allow him to proceed into town.  Nowhere else had he spotted any warnings or police officers.  He then turned onto Priory Road, straight into a barrage of gunfire.  A bullet hit him, forcing the car to crash, and he died there.  (Lane and Gregg say he died later from his wounds.)

Ian Playle
Ian Playle
In the course of some fifteen minutes from the time he had left his home, Ryan had killed fourteen people and fatally wounded another, plus Susan Godfrey earlier in the woods.

Ryan left the Gibbs house, determined to kill at least one more person.

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