Thursday 12 March 2009

Massacres by lone gunmen + Cardiff air crash

Two massacres by lone gunmen in the space of a day. A small town in Germany named Winnenden was the scene of one of them. Seventeen year old Tim Kretschmer walked into the secondary school he used to attend dressed in combat gear, and started spraying bullets around. He killed 8 girls, one boy and three women teachers. Then he left the school and shot three more people, before killing himself.

Earlier a 28 year old American shot dead his mother and burned down the house they had lived in in Alabama, and then went on a killing spree that left another 9 dead before he too shot himself.

We are used to hearing about mass shootings in the USA. The worst happened at Viginia Tech in Blacksburg on April 16, 2007 when Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 teachers and students before committing suicide. As usually happens in America, the massacre was followed by a great deal of hand-wringing then a bit of minor tinkering with the gun laws.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pronounced the Winnenden shootings “incomprehensible.” Perhaps, but not unique. In April 2002, a 19 year old student who had been expelled from a school in the German city of Erfurt returned to kill 13 teachers, two students and a police officer before killing himself.

In Britain, we had the Hungerford massacre of 1987 in which Michael Ryan murdered 16 people, before killing himself. Then nine years later, Thomas Hamilton killed 16 small children and a teacher at Dunblane Primary School before turning one of his guns on himself. The tennis star Andy Murray, then aged 8, was one of the survivors. Both of these events were followed by severe tightenings of Britain’s gun laws.

On this day...59 years ago what was then the world’s worst civil aviation disaster happened close to the village of Sigingstone in South Wales. Eighty people were killed on a charter flight bringing home Welsh rugby fans from an international against Ireland. The full story is in A Disastrous History of Britain.

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