The Paedophile Who Killed Sixteen Children

The story of the Dunblane Massacre

Jacob Wilkins
Feb 27 · 5 min read
A black handgun lying on a wooden surface.
A black handgun lying on a wooden surface.
Photo by Kenny Luo (Unsplash)

Dunblane is the last place you’d expect a mass shooting to take place. It’s a quaint, picturesque town in central Scotland with a relatively small population.

But this tight-knit community was torn apart by a disturbed individual who’d led a troubled life from the day he was born.

An Isolated Child

Thomas Hamilton did not have a pleasant upbringing. He was born on the 10th of May 1953, and things started to go wrong immediately.

His biological mother, Agnes Hamilton, moved in with her Aunt Catherine and Uncle James (who were also her adoptive parents) after giving birth to her son.

But due to the stigma surrounding single mothers, the family told the local community that Thomas was the biological child of Catherine and James. Thomas grew up with this lie as well, and he was made to believe that Agnes was his older sister.

Catherine and James were harsh disciplinarians. Liberty was low on their list of priorities. They were extremely controlling and fixated by the appearance of respectability.

Thomas’s time at school wasn’t much better. Though he was an intelligent child, he struggled to make friends and was known to be a loner. He ended up leaving school when he was just fifteen.

The Scouts

Thomas joined the Scouts and managed to work his way up. At the age of twenty, he became a Scout leader, but he was asked to leave the following year due to a number of incidents.

During one trip, Thomas set off from Stirling with a group of boys and headed for the Scottish Highlands. They broke down midway through the journey and the boys were forced to sleep in the back of a van in sub-zero temperatures. And on another occasion, the children he was meant to be looking after fell into cold water and suffered from hyperthermia.

Parents and children also accused Thomas of acting strangely. Rumours even started to circulate that he was a paedophile because of the way he behaved around young boys.

Shortly after his departure from the Scouts, Thomas learned the truth about his parentage. It was finally revealed to him that Agnes was his biological mother, not his sister.

Firearms and Photographs

This revelation — as well as losing his job — had a profound influence on Thomas. He lacked a sense of belonging and was drawn towards a much darker hobby: firearms.

Thomas developed an obsession with guns after joining the Dunblane Rifle Club. He even started to amass his own collection at home. Thomas was devoted to his deadly weapons, and would often talk to them in a loving manner as if they were children.

Alongside his new hobby, Thomas set up The Dunblane Rovers Boys. The club was a continuation of the work he’d done with the Scouts and involved physical activities for boys, such as camping, hiking, and swimming.

Now that he was his own boss, Thomas was safe from unemployment. But over the years, complaints about his behaviour started to resurface.

During sporting sessions, he made boys take their shirts off and would photograph some of them whilst they played. Thomas would then print these photographs and pin them on his wall at home. Before long, child protection services started to take an interest in Thomas, but despite extensive inquiries, he was never prosecuted for anything.

The local community shunned Thomas in the wake of his inappropriate behaviour. Enraged by his reputation as a paedophile, Thomas sought revenge.

The Massacre

On the 13th of March 1996, Thomas walked into Dunblane Primary School at 9:30 in the morning. He was wearing ear defenders and carrying four handguns: two Browning pistols and two Magnum revolvers.

Thomas headed straight for the school gymnasium. Inside, there were twenty-nine children between the ages of five and six along with their teacher, Gwen Mayor.

He then opened fire on the class, aiming to kill as many children as possible. Screams of terror were heard across the school as the children were slain. Fifteen boys and girls were murdered and Gwen was also killed whilst trying to shield her students.

The emergency services were contacted, but by the time they arrived, Thomas had already shot himself. Another child died of their wounds whilst in hospital, bringing the total death toll to eighteen (including Thomas).

Andy Murray, the famous tennis player, was at the school when the shooting took place. He was nine years old at the time and struggled to come to terms with the event. The future Wimbledon winner had actually known Thomas as he’d previously been a member of his club.

Tennis then became a way for Andy to deal with the trauma. It was an escape from the memories of this horrific incident.

Gun Laws

In the wake of the Dunblane Massacre, politicians, the press, and the public criticised the gun laws in the United Kingdom. A public campaign against private gun ownership amassed 750,000 signatures.

The Conservative Party then passed the Firearms Act. The act put a greater restriction on the private ownership of handguns, but many felt the new legislation didn’t go far enough.

Following their election victory in May 1997, the Labour Party made an amendment to the Firearms Act, banning the private ownership of all handguns in the United Kingdom. Those found in possession of handguns could be placed in prison for up to ten years.

These changes were very effective. In the mid-1990s, there were around ninety gun-related homicides per year. By 2012, this had dropped dramatically to just twelve per year.



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Jacob Wilkins

Written by

Writer from England. Interested in fiction, history, philosophy, politics, crime, culture.



The most informative, researched, and entertaining true crime stories on the internet.

Jacob Wilkins

Written by

Writer from England. Interested in fiction, history, philosophy, politics, crime, culture.



The most informative, researched, and entertaining true crime stories on the internet.

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