THE man who sold
guns to Dunblane killer Thomas Hamilton is a close friend of Foreign
Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, the Evening News can reveal today.
Gun shop owner Robert Bell, who lives
in Balerno, is chairman of the Conservative party for Edinburgh
Pentlands constituency - the seat held by Mr Rifkind. Today Mr
Rifkind backed Mr Bell and said he was a man he held in high regard.
"I have known
Bob a long time and he is a very responsible businessman and a man
I have deep respect for," he said.
Mr Bell, who is reported
to have said he would sell the guns again despite the murder of
16 children and their teacher, will play a key role in Mr Rifkind's
campaign at the next General Election. [Ed
~ A safe seat that Rifkind would lose. You at least deserve
plaudits for that, Robert.]
Mr Rifkind denied the
pair's friendship would affect his position on gun laws. "The
fact that I know Bob is not going to affect my stance," he
But the Foreign Secretary,
in the Capital to celebrate the Conservatives' council by-election
win in Baberton refused to state his views on gun law because of
the public inquiry launched by the Government.
Today Labour MP for
Edinburgh South, Nigel Griffiths, said: "This endorsement of
Mr Bell by Mr Rifkind is really rather premature. I think that Lord
Cullen should be investigating the role of all those who were supplying
guns and ammunition to this monster. Clearly the issue
of the responsibility of people who sell guns has to be examined
Hamilton bought his
arms and ammunition from Mr Bell at his gun shop D Crockart &
Son, King Street, Stirling. He has been an occasional customer
for many years.
Today, Mr Bell refused
to comment on his friendship with Mr Rifkind. After the
gym-hall massacre, he said Hamilton's purchases from his shop were
authorised under firearms regulations.
conduct on each occasion was correct in every respect," he
said. Hamilton had been at Mr Bell's shop only a few
weeks before he shot 28 calmly primary one children and their teacher
in Dunblane Primary ten days ago.
Mr Bell would not say
whether the three 9mm pistols and the revolver found at the scene
were bought from him. But he confirmed his shop had the
permit to sell handguns and that Hamilton had the correct licence.
The Cullen Inquiry
will start taking evidence in June. LINK
Lord Cullen's report
will cover the events leading up to the tragedy, the licensing of
guns, school security and the working of Hamilton's mind. LINK
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *