Dunblane minister offers thanks for prayers on 20th anniversary of killings


The people of Dunblane "appreciate the support and prayers of others throughout the world", a minister has said 20 years on from the shocking school shootings that killed 16 children and their teacher.

The young children - aged just five and six - and teacher Gwen Mayor were murdered by gunman Thomas Hamilton, who opened fire on a gym class at Dunblane Primary School on March 13 1996.

The massacre in the Stirlingshire town shocked the nation and led to the UK enforcing some of the strictest firearms legislation in the world.

No official events are being held to mark the 20th anniversary but tributes will be paid at traditional Sunday church services in the town.

Rev Colin Renwick, minister at Dunblane Cathedral, which contains a stone memorial to the victims and held a special remembrance service for hundreds of people just months after the tragedy, will lead tributes in his Sunday sermon.

He said: "The tragic events of March 13 1996 will long be remembered in Dunblane and there has not been a day since when there has been no remembrance of those lost, injured, bereaved or traumatised.

"Since that day, people have appreciated the support and prayers of others throughout the world, but have also valued being allowed the space to grieve and rebuild with privacy and dignity, with as little media scrutiny as possible.

"During these various services, there will be an opportunity for those who gather to remember and to pray for continuing strength and peace."

Monsignor Basil O'Sullivan will also mark the anniversary in the Holy Family church in Dunblane.

He was parish priest at the time of the tragedy and told the Scottish Catholic Observer: "As we have every year without fail, we're having an anniversary Mass.

"We pray for the injured, we pray for the bereaved and those who still suffer every day."

Survivors and relatives have also been reflecting over the last week on the impact of the shooting on their lives and on the country as a whole.

Mick North, whose five-year-old daughter Sophie was killed, said the positive legacy should not be forgotten - that people are safer from gun crime than they were 20 years ago.

He said: ''In many respects, the day of the forthcoming anniversary won't be especially different - any day from the last 20 years was one for memories.

''The importance of the 20th anniversary is as an occasion when others can recall and reflect on a horrific event, and also a time when those too young to remember might learn about what happened and consider its significance.''

Alison Ross, sister of five-year-old victim Joanna Ross, wants people to see the positive life in Dunblane today.

She told a BBC Scotland documentary: ''We still had to power on and push on with our lives, and it's important that everyone knows we're doing it, and doing it well.''

Police Scotland have also paid tribute to the town and those caught up in the shooting.

Stirling local area commander Chief Inspector Paul Rollo said: ''This terrible incident cast a shadow on the town and on Sunday we will join together in remembrance and to celebrate the vibrant community which has overcome such tragedy."