16 Children, Teacher Killed In School Shooting
DUNBLANE, Scotland (AP) _ A gunman burst into a Scottish elementary school today and opened fire on a class of kindergartners in a gymnasium, massacring 16 children and one teacher in ``a slaughter of the innocents.″ The gunman reportedly then killed himself.
At least 12 other children and one adult were wounded in the 10 a.m. attack in Dunblane, a 13th-century cathedral town on the edge of the Scottish Highlands. A 5-year-old boy was in critical condition with gunshot wounds in his chest.
Panic-stricken parents gathered outside the 700-pupil Dunblane Primary School, some frantically looking for their children, others clutching their sons and daughters and crying with relief.
One mother pushing a stroller ran to the school to pick up her children as other women ran beside her. Another mother held the hands of a young boy and girl, leading them away from the school.
``You never think it is going to happen to you,″ said Brian Owen as he led his young son, Stuart, from the school. ``All our thoughts are with the parents whose children have been killed or injured. I am lucky because my children are okay.″
Sky News reported that the gunman had several guns, including a pistol. Unconfirmed news reports said he opened fire after trying to take the children hostage.
Guns are much more difficult to obtain in Britain than in the United States, and massacres such as this are rare.
The slaughter took place in a village of 9,000 some 40 miles northwest of Edinburgh.
``Apart from one small church school, all the children in the area go to Dunblane Primary and everyone knows each other,″ said Patricia Greenhill, head of the local authority in the area, the Stirling District Council. ``It will affect the whole area.″
Rumors of the gunman’s identity flashed round the town, and several residents said they believed they knew his name.
Local resident Wilma Brown said she believed he was a loner in his 40s who had run a soccer club in the town and was well-known in the area.
Sky News quoted one child who was in another classroom as saying the children heard seven or eight ``cracks,″ and their teacher told them to get under their desks until she found out what was going on.
Other children were excited at first at the sight of ambulances and police cars racing to the school until the full horror of what had happened became clear.
``This is a slaughter of the innocents, unlike anything we have ever seen in Scotland and I think Scotland is going to have to come to terms with it,” said Helen Liddell, a Scottish member of parliament with the opposition Labor Party.
Thirteen children were killed at the school, and three more died in the hospital, police said. Education authorities identified the dead teacher as Gwen Mayor.
First reports said the two adults killed at the school were teachers, but local reporters later said one of the adults was the gunman.
Police sealed off main roads into the town, and an air ambulance flew in from Prestwick, 60 miles southwest, to fly casualties to Stirling, five miles away.
The town’s five doctors were summoned to the school, and a dozen ambulances raced into the town.
Police and teachers took parents of the slain children to a building beside the school.
The death toll exceeded the number of victims claimed in August 1987 by 27-year-old Michael Ryan, an unemployed loner and gun enthusiast who shot 16 people, then killed himself in the quiet market town of Hungerford.
``I just can’t believe what sort of sick person would do this sort of thing,″ said Yvonne Nelson, 38, whose children go to Dunblane High School a mile away. ``It’s just an ordinary country school with friendly teachers and kids.″
Queen Elizabeth II sent a sympathy message, saying, ``I share the grief and horror of the whole country.″
Prime Minister John Major learned of the massacre while at a world summit on terrorism in Cairo, Egypt.
``No words can express the shock and sorrow ... at this mad and evil act,″ he said.