paranoia drove killer obsessed with young boys
ADAMS and TOM
GORDON October 04 2005
Hamilton was obsessed with young boys for most of his
adult life, the vast file of papers released yesterday at the National
Archives demonstrates. But despite growing unease
among parents, police and local authorities,
he was never prosecuted or denied a firearms certificate.
The story told by the
newly opened files from the Cullen Inquiry
into Hamilton's killings at Dunblane
is one of missed chances.
The clues to Hamilton's
mentally unstable and potentially violent nature are now obvious.
However, no-one assembled them into a coherent, bigger picture, so
the mass of information was never acted upon before March 13, 1996. Documents
revealed how one 28-year-old witness who had known Hamilton
for years told police after the massacre
that the killer would regularly vent his grievances in phone calls.
"I would say he did have a thing, almost paranoia, about the
and parents in Dunblane," the witness
told police. "He felt everyone
was against him."
In February 1974, Hamilton was dismissed
as a Scout leader. His colleagues
suggested he had "an ulterior motive for sleeping with boys".
Hamilton was effectively blacklisted after
two trips to Aviemore in which he forced the boys to sleep in a van
rather than the hostel and failed to look after them. At
the time, the local commissioner wrote that there was evidence he
was "mentally unbalanced".
A confidential file
was held by the association in which members suggested he had a "persecution
complex" – an allegation confirmed by a psychologist's
report in 1996 and his regular letters of complaint to local organisations,
including the police and schools.
In one letter to parents, Hamilton explained:
"At Dunblane Primary School where teachers
have contaminated all of the older boys with this poison, even former
cleaners and dinner ladies have been told by teachers at the school
that I am a pervert." The confidential report was shown
to a police officer, but not until 1993.
After he was rejected by the Scout movement,
Hamilton pursued his interest in boys by
setting up a series of clubs offering athletics, football and adventure
activities. He would typically lie about their credentials,
claiming they were backed by a committee. In fact, they were
Hamilton's private, sinister project.
Between 1981 and his
death, Hamilton ran 15 clubs in the Central,
Lothian, Fife and Strathclyde regions. From the outset,
they attracted adverse attention. A police
file relating to the Dunblane Rover Group
formed in 1981 warned that Hamilton was
a "suspected homosexual" who encouraged boys to truant.
Subsequent clubs generated yet more concern from the police. Hamilton
ran the clubs on almost military lines, demanding boys obey orders
and badgering parents who removed their sons. Members were made
to remove their tops and wear loose trunks or tight briefs as they
exercised. Hamilton would then
photograph them using expensive equipment, which led to mounting debts.
A pattern emerged: Hamilton
would hire premises from the local council, leaflet nearby residents,
and attract scores of boys at first. However, after his methods
upset most of the children, the numbers would decline and the club
would fail, forcing Hamilton to move elsewhere.
The files record that,
in 1993, the mother of a nine-year-old boy attending one of Hamilton's
evening clubs at Stirling High School visited
to check how it was run. She found the gymnasium locked from
the inside and, when Hamilton opened the
doors, she found him alone with a half-dressed single boy he was photographing.
According to a police
officer who interviewed Hamilton the same
year, he was "a man obsessed in his activities with boys. He
appeared to have no other interests."
The officer did not have
enough evidence to level a charge, but made a point of referring anxious
parents to the-then Central Regional Council
in the hope that would pressurise the authority into denying Hamilton
lets on its premises. According to the police,
parents regularly expressed "alarm, disgust, anger and grave
concern" about Hamilton, but there
was never a prosecution and councils continued to rent premises to
Hamilton also organised residential camps,
usually recruiting boys from his clubs. They were ineptly run
to the point of endangering children, especially around water, with
boys allowed to swim freely in Loch Lomond
on one occasion. They were largely unsupervised except by Hamilton
himself. Witness statements record Hamilton
hitting boys on the face and legs for misbehaving, and swearing at
them. As in the school clubs, he would make boys wear black
One witness statement
records boys were told to rub
suntan lotion on one another even though it was cold and
raining. Children complained and felt homesick, but Hamilton
would not allow them to phone their parents and read their postcards
home. He would also photograph and video the children, pretending
to be making an adventure film.
Complaints from parents
led the police to make three separate reports
to prosecutors about camps run in 1988, 1991 and 1992. Two reports
were submitted to the procurators fiscal
without Hamilton being interviewed.
On the suggestion that Hamilton go in for
an interview, he refused. The case was marked no proceedings
as it was "not in the public interest".
officers later suggested he should be charged with breach of the peace
for shouting at the boys, assault for slapping one youngster on the
face, and for lewd and libidinous behaviour. But in 1993 the
fiscal said there was insufficient evidence
for a search warrant to seize Hamilton's
photographs of the boys at his camps.
In 1991, an
officer in the child protection unit at Central
Scotland Police wrote to the detective
superintendent in CID, calling for Hamilton's
firearms licence to be revoked after learning
that the self-styled youth leader had been investigated on a number
He wrote: "I am
firmly of the opinion that Hamilton is an
unsavoury character and an unstable personality . . . I would contend
that Mr Hamilton will be a risk to children
whenever he has access to them and that he appears to me to be an
unsuitable person to possess a firearms certificate."
A handwritten note on
the bottom of the document from the deputy chief constable says he
could not agree to such a recommendation because the fiscal
was expected to mark the case no proceedings.
A subsequent investigation
by the deputy chief constable of Strathclyde Police
into the repeated decisions to grant his firearms certificates,
revealed that between 1977 and 1996 numerous officers had failed to
check Hamilton's criminal intelligence file.
Adding to the psychological stress on Hamilton
and deepening the depression that affected his final six months, the
files show the extent of his "severe financial difficulties".
Statements in the national
archives show the boys' club made a loss of £15,000. When
he shot himself he had assets of three pence, unpaid loans of £2350
and owed the Royal Bank £2924.
Although he received
some housing benefits, his other benefits had been withdrawn in November
1993. Early in 1996, a warrant to arrest his earnings for a
failure to pay his council tax arrears of £228.98 was issued.
"The due date for monies to be paid was March 13, 1996,"
said the document.
Social work offices across Scotland also
knew of "concerns" about Hamilton
for many years.
The papers released
yesterday reveal social workers were even
investigating Hamilton in the days before
the Dunblane massacre after he showed two
boys a box of bullets in the back of a minibus – but the case
was not deemed a high priority.
On March 1, 1996, Isobel
Martin, the headteacher of Woodhill Primary
School in Bishopbriggs, wrote
to the-then Strathclyde Regional Council's
local social work office about Hamilton
showing bullets and pictures of dead animals to two boys just days
However, the social
worker in charge "skim-read" only the first
of the letter's three pages and "did not digest the contents
in full", according to the files.
Unhappy, both Ms Martin
and one of the boy's parents rang the social work
office again on March 11 and 12.
After checks with fellow
social workers in Stirling confirmed Hamilton
was known as a suspicious character, a meeting was finally arranged
between officials and one of the boys for March 18, five days after
Hamilton's outrage at Dunblane.
When the lead social
worker was interviewed afterwards, "she frankly
admitted that she did not treat the referral as a matter of urgency
until the Dunblane incident", one file
Typical of Hamilton's persecution complex
and paranoia was his obsessive letter writing
campaign, whining about perceived injustices to himself and threatening
and complaining about officials who jeopardised his activities with
This reached a height
on March 7, 1996, when he wrote to the Queen,
detailing his grievances against local teachers, police
and parents he felt had branded him a "pervert".
The prolific letter-writer
explained, as he had done on countless occasions to local parents
and Scout officials, that rumours and allegations
had caused him great personal distress and destroyed his business.
He wrote: "I cannot
even walk the streets for fear of ridicule. I turn to you as
a last resort."
The letter was copied
to Dunblane Primary School and arrived the
day before Hamilton's rampage. It
was the final clue in a puzzle the authorities did not solve until
it was too late.
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