Britain's Worst Mass Murderer a Polite Loner With AM-Britain-Shooting Bjt
Aug. 20, 1987
LONDON (AP) _ The man who erupted into the worst mass murderer in modern British history was a polite loner, doted on by his mother, with a passion for cars and guns, neighbors and acquaintances said Thursday.
It was unknown why Michael Ryan went on a rampage Wednesday in the quiet market town of Hungerford, killing his mother, 13 other people and then himself. No one seemed to have an idea what had touched off the blond and stocky unemployed laborer who ''nobody really took much notice of.''
Expert opinion pointed to the killing of Ryan's widowed mother as a central clue to his derangement.
''Matricide is the schizophrenic crime,'' Dr. Jim Higgins, consultant forensic psychiatrist for the Liverpool area health authority, was quoted as saying in an interview with The Independent newspaper.
He said Ryan, 27, most likely suffered from acute schizophrenia.
The classic ''split personality'' disorder may make a severely ill person feel he has a divine mission, that he is being persecuted by people and is entitled to kill them, Higgins was quoted as saying.
Neighbors and acquaintances, stunned at the carnage, were perplexed by what Ryan had done, and said they had seen no sign of mental illness.
One person after another described him as quiet, polite, helpful - but with a big collection of guns.
''He was always polite, he always did things for us ... we spoke to him and he spoke to my kids,'' said Linda Leppitt, a next-door neighbor. ''He's never done any harm to us until now.''
Her husband, Alan, was shot in the arm and their row house - next door to the one Ryan set on fire after killing his mother there - was destroyed in the blaze.
Mrs. Leppitt's brother, Tim Scarlett, had been at school with Ryan but said he hadn't known him well.
''He was very quiet. He never was really involved with the local lads, he kept himself to himself,'' Scarlett said. ''I didn't really know him, as such. I knew of him, but because he was quiet, nobody really took much notice of him.''
Ryan was unemployed and had worked only occasionally as a construction laborer, neighbors said.
One contractor who employed him said he was ''a wimp.''
''He wasn't the sort to get mixed up in a punch-up. He wouldn't even go up a ladder,'' said Denis Morley.
But Morley said he knew of a flashy side to the quiet young man - cars - and said his mother helped him buy a new, sporty coupe last year.
''What he wanted, he would get'' from his mother, Morley said.
His 60-year-old mother, Dorothy, whom neighbors described as a friendly woman, was the second person to die. The first was a woman shot at a picnic ground in Savernake Forest outside Hungerford.
After killing his mother and setting fire to they house they shared, Ryan went out and began shooting people indiscriminately.
Mrs. Ryan had been a part-time waitress at a hotel and also a cafeteria worker at John O'Gaunt's School, where her son eventually holed up and shot himself.
Ryan's father, an employe of the Newbury town council, died two years ago, and neighbors said Ryan had appeared to be deeply affected by his father's death, although the two had not been especially close.
Neighbors said Ryan had a girlfriend, was a member of two gun clubs, and had amassed a record as a marksman from shooting in competitions.
Police said he had licenses for three handguns, two rifles and a shotgun.
Though some acquaintances thought he had been a paratrooper, the Parachute Regiment said he never had served in the regiment or in any of the armed services. When he went on his killing spree, Ryan was dressed like a commando in combat fatigues.