The Herald
Thomas Hamilton

The Herald

How paranoia drove killer obsessed with young boys

LUCY ADAMS and TOM GORDON   October 04 2005 LINK


THOMAS Hamilton was obsessed with young boys for most of his adult life, as 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. [Ed ~ So why were the "irresponsible" people in these authorities not held accountable?] LINK

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 Scouts, police 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 him.

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 briefs.

One witness statement records boys were told to rub suntan lotion on one another even though it was cold and raining. LINK  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".

Police 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 LINK 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 of occasions. LINK

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 before.

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 said.

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 boys.

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.

Copyright © 2016 William Burns. All rights reserved.
Let Justice Be Done Though The World Perish
Dunblane Whitewash
Dunblane City Sign
Scotland Map


Dunblane Public Inquiry
Dunblane Massacre
Read the full list in the Dunblane Whitewash catalogue. LINK
Dunblane Angels
St Blane's Church Dunblane
The stained glass window in St Blane's Church, Dunblane, which commemorates the victims of the 1996 massacre.
List of the victims of the Dunblane massacre
Victoria Clydesdale
Mhairi MacBeath
Charlotte Dunn
Melissa Currie
Emma Crozier
Kevin Hassell
Ross Irvine
David Kerr
Gwen Hodson/Mayor - schoolteacher
John Petrie
Hanna Scott
Joanna Ross
Sophie North
Emily Morton
Maegan Turner
Brett McKinnon
Abigail McLennan
We know who killed the above victims, but, although we may not care, we do not know for sure who killed Thomas Hamilton, and why that person was carrying a revolver at the time!
Why did Lord Cullen try to bury William Burns' letters to him for 100 years? LINK