The Dunblane school massacre was the deadliest mass shooting in the UK’s history, when gunman Thomas Hamilton killed 16 children and one teacher at Dunblane Primary School near Stirling, Scotland, on 13 March 1996, before killing himself.
At about 8:15 a.m. on Wednesday 13 March 1996, Thomas Hamilton, aged 43, was seen scraping ice off his van outside his home at Kent Road in Stirling. He left soon afterwards and drove about 5 miles (8 km) north to Dunblane in his white van. He arrived on the grounds of Dunblane Primary School at around 9:30 a.m. and parked his van near to a telegraph pole in the car park of the school. Hamilton cut the cables at the bottom of the telegraph pole, which served nearby houses, with a set of pliers before making his way across the car park towards the school buildings.
Hamilton headed towards the north-west side of the school to a door near toilets and the school gymnasium. After entering, he made his way to the gymnasium armed with four legally-held handguns—two 9mm Browning HP pistols and two Smith & Wesson M19 .357 Magnum revolvers. He was also carrying 743 cartridges of ammunition. Before entering the gymnasium, it is believed Hamilton fired two shots into the stage of the assembly hall and the girls’ toilet. Upon entering the gymnasium, as he was about to be confronted by Eileen Harrild, the PE teacher in charge of the lesson, he started shooting rapidly and randomly. He shot Harrild, who was injured in her arms and chest as she attempted to protect herself, and continued shooting into the gymnasium. Harrild stumbled into the open-plan store cupboard at the side of the gym along with several injured children. Gwen Mayor, the teacher of the Primary 1 class, was shot and killed instantly. The other adult present, Mary Blake, a supervisory assistant, was shot in the head and both legs but also managed to make her way to the store cupboard with several of the children in front of her.
From entering the gymnasium and walking a few steps, Hamilton had fired 29 shots with one of the pistols, killed one child, and injured several others. Four injured children had taken shelter in the store cupboard along with the injured Harrild and Blake. Hamilton then moved up the east side of the gym, firing six shots as he walked, and then fired eight shots towards the opposite end of the gym. He then went towards the centre of the gym, firing 16 shots at point-blank range at a group of children who had been incapacitated by his earlier shots.
A Primary 7 pupil who was walking along the west side of the gym building at the time heard loud bangs and screams and looked inside the gym. Hamilton shot in his direction and the pupil was injured by flying glass before running away. From this position, Hamilton fired 24 shots in various directions. He fired shots towards a window next to the fire exit at the south-east end of the gym, possibly at an adult who was walking across the playground, and then fired four more shots in the same direction after opening the fire exit door. Hamilton then exited the gym briefly through the fire exit, firing another four shots towards the cloakroom of the library, striking and injuring Grace Tweddle, another member of staff at the school.
In the mobile classroom closest to the fire exit where Hamilton was standing, Catherine Gordon saw him firing shots and instructed her Primary 7 class to get down onto the floor before Hamilton fired nine bullets into the classroom, striking books and equipment. One bullet passed through a chair where a child had been sitting seconds before. Hamilton then reentered the gym, dropped the pistol he was using, and took out one of the two revolvers. He put the barrel of the gun in his mouth, pointed it upwards, and pulled the trigger, killing himself.
A total of 32 people sustained gunshot wounds inflicted by Hamilton over a 3–4-minute period, 16 of whom were fatally wounded in the gymnasium, which included Gwen Mayor and 15 of her pupils. One other child died later en route to hospital.