Teachers relive horror of terrible day

"HE WALKED straight towards me. He did not pause or speak, he just continued walking straight towards me, looking at me. He pointed his gun at me and shot me."

Eileen Harrild, a PE teacher, was one of the first people to see Thomas Hamilton as he walked into the gym of Dunblane Primary School and began shooting. Within minutes, teacher Gwen Mayor and 16 children were dead or dying, and Hamilton had committed suicide.

Despite being shot four times by Hamilton, Mrs Harrild managed to scramble into a store cupboard with another teacher and several wounded children. She lived to speak of the horror she witnessed.

In her written statement about the incident, released for the first time yesterday, she said: "I was about to start the class when I was aware of someone coming into the gymnasium through the glass door.

"I turned and I saw a man. I remember seeing that he was wearing ear muffs and possibly a blue or dark woolly hat. He was wearing glasses and had a gun in his hand.

"The first shot hit me on my right forearm. I put my hand up to defend myself. There was a succession of shots.

"I knew I was hit on my right forearm and right hand and also my left forearm and left breast. There was a terrible noise of continual firing. He started to spray shots everywhere. The children started to scream.

"There was an awful lot of bullets coming very fast. I turned away and headed towards the gym store. I ran and stumbled over there and I lost my glasses. The firing was continuous."

When Mrs Harrild, the other teacher and the children got to the store cupboard, they found it was full of mats and a mattress.

"I couldn't move my arms and I desperately wanted to pull a mat or something over us to protect us. As it was, I can only describe us as being like sitting ducks," she said.

"The children were at our feet and one was lying over my legs. I could see bullet wounds in their legs.

"The children were screaming and [the other teacher] and I put our fingers to our lips to tell them to be quiet. One boy had been saying over and over what a bad man he was.

"I was extremely frightened that he might come back to the cupboard and finish us off."

She said the shooting continued for about three minutes and then there was an "uncanny silence" before teachers and other members of staff arrived with paper towels to stem the bleeding.

The school's headteacher, Ron Taylor, was one of the first to arrive after the shooting stopped, when Hamilton turned a gun on himself. "On entering the gym, I only moved a few steps when I stopped and stood still. From where I was standing I had a full view of the gymnasium and saw that at my feet on the floor was Mrs Mayor," he said. "I recognised her immediately ... She was obviously dead. There was a young child whom I recognised ... lying immediately beside her and partly on top of her."

Mr Taylor told another teacher to get four crying children out of the gym and sprinted to his office where he told staff to call for ambulances. He then ran back to the gym and saw Hamilton's body lying on the floor at the top of the hall. "I saw he was moving very slightly and that his right hand was twitching ... I shouted at [the janitor] saying that he was still alive," his statement said.

Despite the warning, the janitor, John Currie, "continued to walk towards him [Hamilton]" and kicked one gun away from Hamilton then picked up another gun and threw it away.

Mr Taylor then ran to a nearby shower room to get paper towels to staunch the flow of blood from the wounded and returned again to the gym.

"I noticed two young girls, who were amongst the group in the middle of the hall, still breathing," he said.

"I made my way to them but they were obviously very seriously injured and I'm sure that whilst I attempted to put pressure on the wound to one of the girl's back using paper towels, I saw that she had serious injuries to her front and she died while I held her."

He then approached a young boy with a "major wound" to his head but could not see any way to help the boy. "I apologised to him and moved away. It was quite obvious that he was shortly going to die," Mr Taylor said.

An 11-year-old pupil described in his statement how he walked across the playground as Hamilton opened the fire exit from the gym, towards the end of the shooting.

He said Hamilton had fired shots at the windows of a classroom and then also fired in his general direction. "I think he pointed the gun towards me on only one occasion. I was ascending the stairs towards the arts room, when he swung round ... and pointed the gun towards the building I was in," the boy said.

"I didn't hear the gun fire, but I heard glass breaking, but this was not near me."

That shot may have been the one which hit a 52-year-old teacher - taking a class because its usual teacher was off sick - as she walked along the main corridor near the library.

"I heard a bang and thought it sounded like a worker using a hammer on the roof. I then heard a second louder bang and felt my head being thrown to the side. I put my hand up to my head. I thought the ceiling was coming down," she said. "It felt like I had been hit by a piece of concrete. The blood was trickling down my neck."

Another teacher gave her a paper towel for her head and told her there had been a gunman in the school. "I asked which class was there and she told me it had been primary one. I was relieved as my son is a pupil in the school."

David Scott, then a 23-year-old student teacher, told how the 11-year-old pupil, whom he had sent across the playground to get scissors from another class, arrived back in the arts room in an "excited" state. "He began to tell me that a man had tried to 'hit me' or 'chase me'," Mr Scott said.

"I asked [the child] to show me where the man was and he pointed to the window which overlooks the playground. I saw a male dressed in black standing outside the gymnasium fire exit door. He had both his arms stretched out in front of him and was holding a handgun."

He said Hamilton appeared "very agitated" and walked in and out of the fire exit twice.

"I was confused as to what was happening. I didn't think it was real or maybe part of a lesson. I did notice, however, a hole in the gymnasium window. I realised it was a bullet hole."

He said Hamilton then fired at different targets in the gym in "very quick succession".

Mr Scott went on: "He then turned a gun on himself. I cannot say if he put the gun into his mouth or just close to his face. I then heard a shot, the man's head slumped backwards with a jolt, his knees folded and he fell backwards on to the floor."

Most of his class did not know what was happening as the shots "were not deafening". However, the 11-year-old who had gone to collect the scissors was confused. Mr Scott said: "He didn't appear to understand what was happening. He asked me if the man was testing the glass."

Hamilton wrote to Queen for help and complained of his 'distress'

JUST six days before the Dunblane massacre, Thomas Hamilton wrote to the Queen in one of numerous letters he composed, complaining at what he saw as his victimisation by the Scout Association.

The letter, along with one written to education officials several weeks before the attack, give an insight into the mind of a man who was about to murder 16 young children and a teacher and attempt to kill more than a dozen others.

On 7 March, 1996, Hamilton, who was stopped from working as a Scout leader in the mid 1970s because of concerns about his behaviour towards the children, wrote to the Queen in her role as patron of the Scouts "appealing for some kind of intervention in the hope that I may be able to regain my self-esteem in society".

The letter describes how he was refused a transfer from one Scout group to another because a Scout official "was attempting to have me branded as a pervert".

"When I demanded justification of this... [the] only response was that I was friendly with the boys," Hamilton wrote.

"I know that no child has ever made any complaint of a sinister or sexual nature against me.

"Over the past 20 years of youth work, this has caused me untold damage including council, police and social work investigations where they had acted as a result of information received in absolute confidence from officials of the Scout Association."

He went on to claim the police appeared to have a tactic of spreading "innuendos to as many people as possible".

"The rumours circulated by officials of the Scout Association have now reached epidemic proportions across Central Region," Hamilton's letter said.

"As well as my personal distress and loss of public standing, this situation has also resulted in loss of my business and ability to earn a living. Indeed, I cannot even walk the streets for fear of embarrassing ridicule."

The letter to council education staff, written on 26 January, 1996, complains bitterly about teachers at Bannockburn Primary School as well as Dunblane Primary School.

"Teachers were informing pupils and parents that I am a pervert and, as a result, all of the 26 pupils who were members of my Bannockburn Boys Sports Club left immediately and local gossip followed," it said.

"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 school that I am a pervert.

"Where previously happy people are poisoned in this way, they become hostile and unapproachable and will see in their own mind sinister slants to normal everyday events."

He said he had "no criminal record nor have I ever been accused of sexual child abuse by any child and I am not a pervert".

The letter went on: "I have always run my clubs in a fair, proper and competent manner and ensured that no child or parent has any proper or legitimate complaint.

"Nevertheless, this defamation coming from the respected source of local primary school staff has caused untold problems everywhere."

He claimed that an education official was telephoning schools to warn headteachers that he was "a pervert, was currently interfering with the boys, had been put out of the Scouts for this and had a long criminal record for this type of offence".

He added: "All of this serious damage has resulted from the maladministration of your authority and in its failure to attempt to correct the false information given to headteachers."