FOR THOSE WHO STOOD, BEWILdered, on the streets of Dunblane that terrible day last week, the sight of the anguished woman is one they can never forget, a defining vision of the Scottish town's moment of horror. "Victoria!" she cried, as a convoy of ambulances sped past, sirens screaming and lights flashing. "Victoria!" That was one of the names: Victoria. Others, read out in a mournful voice by police chief superintendent Louis Munn, were as familiar and as evocative of middle-class Scottish family life: Emma, Melissa and Megan; Charlotte, Kevin, Ross and Hannah; David, Mhairi, Brett and Abigail; Emily, Sophie, John and Joanna. Ordinary names, pretty names, the names on teachers' attendance lists, on captions of school pictures, on programs for school pageants, on lineups for school games. And they are the names of the dead and maimed of Dunblane's little primary-school gymnasium where a man with a pocketful of pistols and a mind filled with hatred massacred children.
In all, 16 five- and six-year-old first-graders and their teacher died Wednesday when a failed youth leader named Thomas Hamilton, 43, barged into the school and emptied four handguns into them as they screamed and cowered in the gymnasium. Two other teachers and 12 children were wounded, three critically, before Hamilton put one of the guns to his head and blew part of it away. Nobody can know just what monsters of the psyche drove the strange moonfaced man's mind to crack at that moment, or why he chose the gentlest, most innocent of the school's 729 pupils to be the victims of his inner torments (see Essay). For those who lived through it, the questions have but one answer. "Evil visited us yesterday," said Ron Taylor, the school's headmaster and one of the first to reach the scene of the killings. "We don't know why, we don't understand it, and I guess we never will."
So far, authorities can only put together the sequence of events that led to the evil of Dunblane. The start might be traced back as far as 1974, when Boy Scout officials dismissed Hamilton, then 21, for "inappropriate behavior" as leader of a local troop, and to subsequent incidents involving his attempts to organize boys' sports clubs in the area. Or it might have arisen from his fascination with handguns, which he obtained as long as 20 years ago and owned legally despite strict British laws. But whatever its origins, the culmination came at around 9 a.m. Wednesday when Hamilton left his shabby bachelor apartment and headed for the school. A neighbor, Kathleen Kerr, 71, said he waved to her as he stepped into a car. "He seemed cheerful and perfectly happy," she said.
He was not. In the pockets of a black coat he carried four loaded handguns--two Browning 9-mm automatics and two .357 magnum revolvers--plus a packet of bitterly angry letters to British news organizations detailing his grievances against the town for treating him as a "pervert." He apparently stopped to mail the letters, which reached their destinations two days later. Then he went directly to the school. He was at the entrance at about 9:25 a.m.