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Mass Killer Grinned As He Gunned Down Victims

September 25, 1987

HUNGERFORD, England (AP) _ A man who shot and killed 16 people during a rampage last month had a ″horrible grin″ on his face as he fired round, a woman who survived the massacre said Friday.

Dorothy Smith said that although she had known Michael Ryan for 20 years, she didn’t recognize him during his shooting spree Aug. 10 because of the strange look on his face.

She told a coroner’s inquest that she had never spoken to Ryan, although he lived nearby, and he ″always appeared sulky.″ She said Ryan, who had a rifle tucked under his arm and was carrying a pistol, didn’t try to shoot her.

″He had a vacant look in his eyes. He had a horrible grin on his face,″ said Mrs. Smith, 77. ″It looked to me as if he was brain dead.″

Mrs. Smith was testifying on the second day of the inquest into the deaths of 27-year-old Ryan, who ended Britain’s worst mass killing by shooting himself to death.

In addition to killing his mother and the other people, Ryan, a licensed gun collector, also injured 13 people and burned down his mother’s and two other homes in rural Hungerford, 60 miles west of London.

Lisa Mildenhall, 14, described how she was shot in the legs by Ryan outside her house.

″I looked straight at his face and he smiled at me. I then fixed my eyes at his eyes,″ she said.

″He crouched down and aimed the rifle at me. I just froze by the front door. He fired the gun. I can’t recall being hit - it must have been about four shots.″

Another of Ryan’s victims, Margery Jackson, described how he looked at her in ″a very vague″ way as if he was upset or angry.

″He shot me in the back,″ said Mrs. Jackson, 49. ″Then he just carried on ... just firing at anything.″

Mrs. Jackson told the inquest that Ryan’s mother ran into the street and shouted before he shot her in the back. She described Mrs. Ryan as the killer’s ″close companion.″

Linda Chapman, 42, and her daughter Alison, 16, were both shot by Ryan.

″There seemed nothing unusual about him. It seemed unreal,″ said Mrs. Chapman.

Alison said Ryan ″appeared half-drunk. He had a rifle tied around his back and neck, similar to someone holding a guitar.″

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