A lone gunman has gone on a shooting spree at a school in Dunblane, Scotland, killing 16 children and their teacher.
The killer sprayed shots at random around the school gym in an attack that lasted just three minutes, but caused carnage in a class of five and six year olds. He then turned the gun on himself.
Twelve other children were taken to hospital in Stirling, where one is reported to have later died of his injuries.
The killer has been named as Thomas Hamilton, 43, a local man, who had once – briefly – been a scout master before being sacked by the Scout Association.
The Queen has sent a message of sympathy to the people of Dunblane. The Prime Minister, John Major, on a visit to Cairo, has spoken of his disbelief at what he called “this sick and evil act”.
The attack happened just after 0930 GMT, as the Year One pupils were beginning an exercise class in the gym with their teacher, Gwen Mayor.
One pupil said: “We heard these gunshots from the gym and looked round and thought he must be firing at a target or something then he came out through a fire exit and started firing at our huts and we were all petrified.”
William Wilson, chief constable of central Scotland, told a news conference his officers had been called to the school at 0938 GMT: “They found a scene of carnage, with 15 children dead, one teacher dead and one other dead.”
Parents and carers began arriving at the school as news of the tragedy quickly spread around the town.
The Scottish Secretary, Michael Forsyth, who represents Dunblane said: “I find it difficult to express the feelings I know will be felt throughout Dunblane.
“This is a close-knit community where everyone knows everyone else and the impact of this horrible tragedy will be felt in every household.” The motive for the attack is still unclear.
Courtesy BBC News
A public inquiry into the Dunblane massacre found the killer Thomas Hamilton had been investigated by police following complaints about his behavior around young boys.
Hamilton had licences for six guns leading to criticism of the police for not questioning what he used them for. But the inquiry concluded his actions on that day could not have been predicted.
A massive campaign was launched after Dunblane for tighter gun controls. The Snowdrop Campaign was successful in achieving a change in the law in 1997, making it illegal to buy or possess a handgun.
The Gun Control Network – which included relatives of those killed in the Hungerford disaster – has continued to campaign among other things for a national gun register.
In October 2002, a scheme to set up a central database of gun users was being delayed by technical problems. It is now due to come into operation in summer 2006.