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,"
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
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 said.
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 thoroughly."
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
"His 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
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
Lord Cullen's report will cover [Ed
~ "cover up"] the events leading up to the tragedy,
the licensing of guns, school security and the working of Hamilton's
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