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Andy Murray was just eight years old when a man he knew killed 17 people at his school.

It was a Wednesday morning in March, 1996, just after 9:30am, when eight-year-old Andy Murray – now one of the best tennis players to have ever lived – heard two gun shots outside his classroom at Dunblane Primary School.

The shots came from near the assembly hall in the small school, located in Stirlingshire, Scotland.

Murray never imagined the shots were being fired by someone he knew; 43-year-old former scout leader Thomas Hamilton.

In his autobiography Hitting Back, Murray says he attended a youth group run by Hamilton, who the family knew well enough to occasionally drive home.

But that day, Hamilton had on him 743 cartridges of ammunition – and would, over the next three to four minutes, become responsible for the deadliest mass shooting in British history.

thomas hamilton
Thomas Hamilton. Image via BBC.

The school day had only just begun when Hamilton entered the gymnasium, and shot at PE teacher Eileen Harrild, who was running a lesson. He then opened fire, injuring several students and teachers.

Gwen Major, a teacher of the class, was killed instantly.

Inside that gymnasium, Hamilton went on to fire some 35 shots, many at point blank range. The children he murdered were five and six years old.

Meanwhile, Murray and his older brother, Jamie, hid under desks in a nearby classroom. He recalls singing songs quietly, to drown out the noises.

Hamilton left dozens incapacitated in the gymnasium, and walked out the door towards the library. There, he shot at random, striking several more teachers and students.

He went on to enter a mobile classroom, where teacher Catherine Gordon ordered all the students to lie down as close as they could to the floor. Hamilton shot nine bullets, one which hit a chair where a student had been sitting only seconds before.

It was then that Hamilton reentered the gymnasium, where 16 lay murdered, and put the barrel of his gun to his own mouth.

The first call to police was made at 9:41am. Thirty two people were treated for gunshot wounds, and one child died en route to hospital.

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In the new Amazon documentary Andy Murray: Resurfacing, which will air on Friday November 29, the tennis champion explained the impact this tragic event had on his childhood, and how it contributed to his love for tennis.

"I had the thing that happened at Dunblane, when I was around nine... The fact we knew the guy, we went to his kids’ club, he had been in our car, we had dropped him off at train stations and things."

Murray continued: "Within 12 months of that happening, our parents got divorced... And then six to 12 months after that, my brother also moved away from home.

"Around that time and after that, for a year or so, I had lots of anxiety that came out when I was playing tennis," Murray revealed, adding that "tennis is an escape for me in some ways".

Side note... Watch the trailer for Andy Murray's new documentary 'Resurfacing' here. Post continues below. 

Video via Prime Video UK

In an interview with ESPN in 2008, Judy Murray, the tennis player's mother, described the event as, "Absolutely horrendous. The worst. The worst thing you could ever imagine having to go through in your life.

"Sitting, waiting and not knowing if your child is alive or dead -- you can't imagine what that was like. It was quite horrific."

Many of Murrays' friends were among those killed on March 13, 1996.

For a long time, Father Basil O'Sullivan of the Holy Family Church in Dunblane, said the town became known as, "the place where young children die".

But just as Port Arthur transformed Australia's relationship with firearms, Dunblane did the same for Great Britain.

Under Prime Minister Tony Blair, two Firearm Acts were passed, making it illegal for any person to possess a handgun in the country.

Murray has been an outspoken advocate for gun control in the United States, insisting that "something needs to change".

Following the school shooting in Florida in February, 2018, Judy Murray urged President Donald Trump to, "Learn from what happened in Dunblane".

"Our Government acted," she said, "and there hasn’t been an incident like it since."

Perhaps it will take gun lobbyists to look closely at the likes of Murray, a man who might have easily been sitting in a different classroom that day, to see what is lost when children are senselessly murdered.

This article was originally published on January 12, 2019 and was updated on 27 November, 2019.  
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