Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Terror in Hungerford

The Calm before the Storm

Map of England with Hungerford marked
Map of England with Hungerford marked

It was a balmy Wednesday on August 19, 1987, and residents of the small market town of Hungerford, England, with a population of 5,000, were going about their usual routines.  An hours drive west of London near the river Dun, Hungerford is surrounded by woodlands and generally offers the city folk a pleasant outing.    No one entering or exiting the antiques shops and tearooms on High Street that summer day, or partaking of the public recreational areas, could have predicted what was about to occur.   Even when they saw the special police forces and the ambulances gathering, they could hardly believe what they would discover later in the papers and on the news.

Savernake Forest
Savernake Forest

Susan Godfrey was on a picnic with her children in Savernake Forest, a few miles west.  Mr. and Mrs. Roland Mason were enjoying a quiet day at home, Ken Clermont was out walking, and Abdul Rahman worked in his garden.  Since more people were in town for the open market, Officer Brereton was making rounds in his patrol car.  Francis Butler was walking his dog in the Memorial Recreation grounds, Douglas Wainwright was house-hunting, and Ian Payle was enjoying a shopping trip with his wife and two children. 

To these people, as well as others who would soon cross paths with a rampaging killer, it seemed like a perfectly fine day.  The weather was good and there was no particular reason to worry about anything.  Someone needed shoes, others sought fresh air, and still others were simply relaxing.

Except, perhaps, for Dorothy Ryan, who was home in South View, not far from Hungerford.  She was concerned about her 27-year-old son, Michael.  Unemployed once again, he seemed irritable and restless.  Lately, hed been tense but shed been unable to learn what the trouble was.  But that was not unusual with him.  Hed been that way since he was a boy.  Even so, she had no idea what he was about to do.  By the next day, it would be carried in newspapers around the world.  The incident that was about to unfold would make it a day that Britain would never forget.  Mrs. Ryan went out shopping before going to work as a waitress, unaware of what she would face when she returned.

Just after noon, at a popular recreational area in Savernake Forest, it all began.  The peace and quiet of a pleasant family outing were about to be shattered.

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