Fifteen little boys and girls and their class mistress died in the gym of Dunblane primary school, Perthshire. A sixteenth child died soon after arriving at hospital. In his final act, Thomas Hamilton, 43, who was forced to quit the Scouts amid abuse allegations, turned a gun on himself and committed suicide. Most of the murdered children died huddled together. Many had been hit by more than one bullet.
John McEwan, divisional manager of the local ambulance service, said: "One of the images I think will stay with me is, not so much the dying, although that is bad enough, but there were five-year-old children looking disbelievingly at bullet holes in their arms and legs. They just could not comprehend what had happened to them." Thirteen classmates survived the attack. Two others were off school sick. The dead teacher was named as Gwenne Mayor, 44, the mother of two student daughters aged 20 and 21.
Thomas Hamilton, unemployed from Stirling, had run a twice-weekly boys' club, the Rovers, at Dunblane High School but was barred from the group after a series of allegations.
Locals claimed that the motive for the attack could have been revenge on a community that had shunned him. However, police said the shootings were "totally random" with no motive known at this stage. William Wilson, chief constable of Central Scotland, told a press conference in Dunblane: "I cannot tell you what stopped him shooting. Whether he ran out of bullets I could not tell you."
One boy described to his father how he had watched his teacher and classmates die in front of him. Robert Weir said his son, Stewart, now recovering in hospital from his injuries, thought the gunman was aiming at him. "He got hit in the leg so he took a run and just hid with another wee girl," said Mr Weir. "It is lucky the man turned the gun on himself before he got the rest of the kids. Stewart knew they have been shot but I don't think he really knew the extent of the damage."
Steven Hopper, 11, a pupil in another class, told of diving for cover under his desk as the gunman appeared to turn one of his weapons on his classroom. As he left the school with his parents, Steven said that his classroom, a converted hut, was only a few yards from the gym.
He said: "I looked over and saw the gunman. He seemed to come out of the gymnasium and he was just firing at something. He was coming towards me, so I just dived under my desk when he turned and fired at us. The firing was very fast, like someone hitting a hammer quickly. Then there was a few seconds of a pause and he started again. It was pretty scary when he started firing at our classroom window because all the glass smashed in and I got hit by a piece."
As news of the slaughter spread, parents hurried to the 700-pupil school. Mothers and fathers, some weeping inconsolably, sought reassurance about their children. One woman repeatedly called out: "Victoria, Victoria."
Dunblane, a prosperous cathedral town of 7,000 inhabitants, is within easy commuter reach of Glasgow and Edinburgh and many parents were at work during the massacre. Last night, 15 people, were being treated in hospitals in Stirling, Falkirk and Glasgow. Among these were two teachers slightly hurt in bursts of fire as Hamilton walked to the gym. The shootings were the worst single act of mass murder in Britain since Michael Ryan killed 16 people in Hungerford, Berks, nine years ago.