Tayside and Central Scotland

Dunblane tragedy: The stories of those left behind

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Media captionTwo decades after the Dunblane shooting, the sense of loss and heartache is still strong

Twenty years ago next week, Thomas Hamilton shot and killed 16 children and their teacher in Dunblane Primary School, before turning the gun on himself. It remains the deadliest firearms atrocity ever committed in the UK.

People involved in the tragic events of that day have shared their stories in a BBC documentary, several for the first time.

They speak of the unimaginable horror - and of their determination not to be defined by Hamilton's unspeakable act of violence on 13 March 1996.

Amy Hutchison - pupil

Image caption Amy Hutchison spent six weeks in hospital after being shot in the leg during the attack

Amy Hutchison was "skipping round the gym hall" with her fellow pupils when Hamilton opened fire on her class and her teacher, Gwen Mayor.

She said: "I just remember my leg turning to jelly and falling to the floor and then dragging myself to the gym cupboard where there was other people.

"I was very aware of the amount of blood everywhere and the crying and the pain that people were in.

"The adults that were in the PE cupboard were trying to hush me because they wouldn't have known if he was still alive out in the gym hall or where he was going next."

Screaming in night

The five-year-old had been shot in the leg and she was rushed to hospital, where she would spend the next six weeks.

Ms Hutchison said: "I just had no comprehension of what was going on at all.

"My mum speaks of having to hold me in the night and I'd wake up not just once or twice, but four or five times, screaming, crying."

Doctors later suggested skin grafts to cover the scars on her leg from the gunshot wound. She said that "wasn't an option."

"These are my scars, they're on my body, they're my story," she said.

"I'm not going to hide them, I'm not ashamed of them.

"As a child the anger was not there, but looking back now, I think why?

"Why my class, why my school, why my town. Why?"

Ron Taylor - head teacher

Image caption The school's head teacher Ron Taylor said it was important to mark the anniversary

Addressing a press conference the day after the tragedy, the school's head teacher Ron Taylor said: "Evil visited us yesterday and we don't know why.

"We don't understand it and I guess we never will."

Two decades later, Mr Taylor said the guilt still lives with him.

He said: "There's no way we could have adequately prepared for what happened.

"And yet, I felt enormous guilt. More than just a survivor's guilt.

"It was my school. I felt violated, I felt I should have been able to do more. And that guilt lives with me today."

'Important anniversary'

Rushing to the school gym in the aftermath of the shooting, Mr Taylor faced an "unimaginable" scene.

He said: "There was an incredible silence. The air was thick with smoke, cordite, the smell.

"And there was a group of children standing.

"It was unimaginably horrible. To see children dying in front of you. Seeing the staff tending to the injured.

"Seeing the bodies of those who had died and I think just in that moment the enormity of the event hit me. That moment has never left."

Mr Taylor said he kept a box of articles and cuttings along with his own written recollection of the day, but has never opened it.

He said: "It's quite easy to keep that box locked. It's much more difficult to keep the box in my head locked.

"This event was so unprecedented and so huge, with so many implications for people, that we really must mark this important anniversary.

"It's very difficult for the community and many people might not agree with me, but it's hugely important to help as best we can those who survived and support those who lost."

Isabel Wilson - mother

Image caption Isabel Wilson lost her daughter Mhairi MacBeath in the tragedy

Isabel Wilson does not say her daughter Mhairi MacBeath died or was killed.

Instead she tells people: "She was murdered. Thomas Hamilton murdered her."

She said: "I remember there was lots of mums running towards the school and a friend shouted across the street to me that there was a gunman in the primary school."

After an agonising wait of several hours, five-year-old Mhairi's mother was told the heartbreaking news by a police officer.

"I think he said casualty or victim," Ms Wilson said.

"I remember remarking on that later that he couldn't quite bring himself to say your child is dead or deceased.

"It came as a significant relief because knowing is better than not knowing.

"That is the one thing I can remember really, really clearly that day. I needed to know,"

Ms Wilson said her injured daughter was evacuated from the gym hall but did not survive.

She said: "That is the one regret I have. I'd like her mother to have been with her when she died.

"I'd liked her to have had her mum. That's an absolute betrayal.

"I think that was desperately wrong. I feel very angry about that."

Alison Ross - sister

Image caption Alison Ross's sister Joanna was one of the 16 children who were murdered

Alison Ross said she was angry that she could not grow up with her sister Joanna, who was killed by Hamilton.

She said: "My first memory of being told was when I was about six or seven.

"I remember mum kind of sitting down and telling me this is what had happened.

"Because for so long I wasn't sure who these pictures of this girl were in my living room. I thought it was me."

Miss Ross said she constantly wonders about the relationship she would have had with her big sister.

She said: "It gets a bit hard to accept. Something as simple as her brushing my hair for me, it just isn't there."

Miss Ross said the tragedy is now "part of UK history" and must be remembered.

She said: "It looms over us all I think and it gets a bit hard to accept.

"We are still getting on with our lives. We didn't just fade into the background either.

"We still had to power on and push on with our lives and it's important everybody knows we're doing it well."

Dunblane: Our Story will be broadcast on BBC Two and BBC One Scotland at 21:00 on Wednesday.

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