Dunblane Families Remember Tragedy 20 Years On

11 March 2016, 06:07

The community in Dunblane have been remembering the victims of one of the UK's worst mass shootings as the 20th anniversary of the tragedy approaches.

Sixteen children and a teacher were murdered by gunman Thomas Hamilton, who opened fire on a gym class at Dunblane Primary School on March 13 1996.

The massacre in the Stirlingshire town shocked the nation and led to the UK enforcing some of the strictest firearms legislation in the world.

Survivors and relatives have been reflecting on the impact of the shooting on their lives and on the country as a whole.

Kenny Ross lost his daughter Joanna that day: "I made my way up to the gate. The police weren't letting anyone through the school gate, but someone I was with told an officer my daughter was in the class affected.

2I still didn't know what had happened, but I was taken through the gate and ended up in one of the classrooms.

"Eventually there were two couples left in the room, me and Pam and another couple. We were called away, taken up to a storeroom, and told in the storeroom.

"I remember feeling numb."

Kenny says it's important people never foget what happened that day, because he'll never forget Joanna: "She was a lovely, bright wee girl. She could be cheeky at times and she could be loving at times, but on the whole she was just lovely.

"She had an imaginary friend she had numerous conversations with. Who this friend was I don't know, I never met him.

"The memories are starting to fade. The one thing that really bugs me is I've forgotten what she sounds like. These were the days before phones and cameras, all that sort of thing, so we actually haven't got any video footage of Joanna, so it's upsetting that way."

Former Scout leader Hamilton was 43 when he carried out the planned execution of innocents, first cutting the school's telephone wires before making his way to the gym hall armed with four legally-held handguns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

Inside the gym, 28 primary one pupils were preparing for PE class as he entered and began shooting, killing 16 children and their teacher Gwen Mayor and injuring 15 others.

PE teacher Eileen Harrild and assistant Mary Blake were among those who survived.

It emerged that Hamilton felt persecuted after complaints to police about his behaviour towards the young boys who attended the youth clubs he ran.

Kenny says he's angry that people will always know Halilton's name: "He is famous now. If you ask anyone what happened in Dunblane, thay'll tell you what happened and who committed that crime. They'll give him his full title, but to me he's that 'B', he doesn't deserve his full title.

"But you ask people the names of the kids, they won't be able to tell you. They might be able to tell you the teachers name, but not any of the kids. They'll know his name."

Among those who knew Hamilton were Judy Murray and her sons Jamie and Andy - who were at the school at the time of the shooting.

The gymnasium was demolished soon after and replaced by a memorial garden. A memorial was also established at Dunblane Cemetery, where many of those killed are buried.

A group called the Gun Control Network was founded in the aftermath of the shootings and supported by some parents of the victims including Dr North.

The Snowdrop Petition was launched to rally support for a crackdown on handguns in the UK and, less than a year after the massacre, John Major's government introduced legislation to ban handguns over .22 calibre.

In November 1997, the new Labour government extended the ban to cover all handguns.