Hamilton killed 16 children and a teacher in a school
gymnasium in March 1996, it seemed to the world like a spontaneous and
inexplicable act of madness. But in fact, there were many warnings
in the prelude to the Dunblane Massacre.
Most of them were ignored or brushed aside by the authorities.
20 years, Hamilton’s name was enough
to raise a groan in the offices of Central Scotland Police.
For some officers, the name meant paedophile.
For others, it meant hundreds of hand-written complaints against Hamilton
by his neighbours, Stirling District Council and the Scout
Association. From 1977 to 1996, officers investigated
Hamilton, yet for almost 20 years, the force’s
firearms unit granted him a gun
licence. Last night’s decision by Colin
Boyd QC, the Lord Advocate,
to push for the publication of a secret police
report compiled on Hamilton five years before
the shooting may shed further light on why the misfit was able to carry
out the atrocity.
At the Cullen
inquiry into the Massacre, Central
Scotland Police’s most senior officers were accused
of dereliction of duty. Their application of gun law was slack
and complacent, it was claimed. Colin Campbell,
QC, who represented Hamilton’s
victims, told the inquiry. “But
for the culpable failure by Central Scotland Police,
it is probable that the events of 13 March at Dunblane primary
school would not have occurred.”
loner all his adult life, Hamilton had a confused
childhood. After his father left when he was 18 months old, he
was brought up by his grandparents, believing his mother to be his sister.
In his early twenties,
Hamilton became a Boy Scout
leader, but he was dismissed within a year after complaints about two
weekend camps he conducted in Aviemore in 1974. The boys
returned cold, wet and hungry, and had spent one night not, as promised,
in a hostel, but in the back of Hamilton’s
van. Brian Fairgrieve, a retired surgeon and former Scouting county
commissioner for Stirlingshire, interviewed Hamilton
after the complaints. He told police:
“I formed the impression that he had a persecution complex, that
he had delusions of grandeur, and I thought his actions were almost
Mr Fairgrieve’s investigation
led to Hamilton’s expulsion from the
Scouts, but he formed his own boys’
clubs, holding gymnastics classes at a number of schools in central
Scotland. His youth clubs were quasi-militaristic affairs, with
great emphasis on physical exercise. The boys would drill, stripped
to the waist, in all weather.
then the shadow Scottish secretary, who lives in Dunblane,
withdrew his son from one of the clubs in 1983 after watching what was
going on. It was, he told the Cullen inquiry
into the murders, “a bit like the Hitler youth”. His
“gut feeling” that there was something wrong even led him
to write to Michael Forsyth, the local MP
and later Scottish secretary.
From November 1981, Hamilton
hired school halls for 15 boys’ clubs from local authorities across
the Central, Fife and Lothian regions. He held a Grade 5 certificate
from the British Amateur Gymnastics Association, which permitted him
to coach under supervision, but most of the activity was football.
A summer camp run by Hamilton on Inchmoan
Island on Loch Lomond was visited by police
in July 1988, after one boy had returned home unhappy. The 13
boys appeared cold and inadequately dressed, the sleeping bags were
damp. Although some said they were homesick and Hamilton
would not allow them to phone their parents, none wished to leave with
the officers. The procurator fiscal investigated stories from
the boys that Hamilton had slapped them, but
found their accounts contradictory. No action was taken, but an
enraged Hamilton began to deluge police
However, it is the complaints
about another summer camp run by Hamilton,
in Mullarochy Bay, Loch Lomond, in July 1991,
that are believed to form the backbone of a police
report, ordered by Lord Cullen to be protected
from public view for a century.
report, written by Detective
Sergeant Paul Hughes, the former head of Central
Scotland Police’s child protection unit, was damning,
but only extracts of his investigation were revealed during the Cullen
inquiry. Part of the report contained a passage
from Mr Hughes recommending in 1991 that Hamilton’s
gun licence be revoked. He wrote: “I
am firmly of the opinion that Hamilton is
an unsavoury character and an unstable personality. I would
contend that Hamilton will be a risk to children
whenever he has access to them and he appears to me to be an unsuitable
person to possess a firearms certificate.
It is my opinion that he is a devious and deceitful individual who is
not to be trusted.”
The report was later overlooked
by his superior, Douglas McMurdo, then deputy
chief constable, because Hamilton had not
been convicted of any crime.
The question now is whether
the report did more than list abused children. Did it, as
alleged, also contain damning evidence that Hamilton
had friends in high places, or even that he was being protected by politicians?
The decision on whether the public will gain access to it now lies with
the Lord Advocate.
They had key roles in tragedy
CULLEN: He made the decision to keep one of the most significant
aspects of his inquiry into the Dunblane
massacre away from public view for 100 years.
The evidence given to the inquiry by Paul
Hughes, the former head of Central Scotland’s
police child protection unit, was deemed by Lord
Cullen as too sensitive for public record as it contained
details of boys Thomas Hamilton had abused
during youth club summer camps. Now Scotland’s most senior
judge, Lord Cullen was last year appointed
as Lord President of the Court
of Session. A judge since 1986, Lord
Cullen has become an omnipresent figure in the public
eye due to his high-profile roles heading the inquiries into some of
Britain’s worst tragedies.
McMURDO: The former deputy chief constable
of Central Scotland Police, resigned in 1996
after his force was harshly criticised following the publication of
the Cullen report. From Sanquhar, Dumfries
and Galloway, McMurdo broke
down after five hours of intensive questioning at the height of the
Cullen inquiry when he was directly accused
of failing to act in 1991 when Detective Sergeant Paul Hughes,
suggested to senior officers that Hamilton’s
firearm certificate be revoked.
ROBERTSON: The current general secretary of
NATO came into contact with Thomas
Hamilton after he withdrew his son
from a club run by the killer at Dunblane
High School in 1983. Robertson,
the son and brother of Scottish policemen and then Labour MP for Hamilton
North, told the Cullen Inquiry he was concerned
by the quasi-militaristic nature of the youth club.
He later told Lord
Cullen his "gut feeling" led him to believe
something was wrong and that he raised his fears with Michael
Forsyth the then MP for the Stirling constituency, which
FORSYTH: The former Secretary of
State for Scotland and MP for the Dunblane
area at the time of the deaths. Mr
Forsyth received a number of complaints
from his constituents, about Thomas Hamilton’s
Born into a lower-middle
class family, the son of a garage owner in Montrose, Mr Forsyth
later earned a political reputation as an arch-Thatcherite but lost
his seat in the 1997 election.