Killing rampage

What caused Michael Ryan to mur­der 16 peo­ple in Hunger­ford?

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In 1987, Michael Ryan went on a deadly rampage in his home town of Hunger­ford, Berk­shire, killing 16 peo­ple and in­jur­ing many oth­ers.

He then shot him­self dead, so no one knows what drove gun-ob­sessed Ryan, 27, to com­mit such an atroc­ity. But this week’s Mur­der­ers and Their Moth­ers asks whether his over-in­dul­gent mother, Dorothy, might have in­flu­enced his anti-so­cial be­hav­iour.

‘He had a sense of en­ti­tle­ment from a young age,’ ex­plains crim­i­nol­o­gist El­iz­a­beth Yard­ley in the pro­gramme. ‘He would have got the im­pres­sion he was bet­ter than other kids.’

An only child, Ryan’s ob­ses­sion with guns be­gan when Dorothy bought him an air ri­fle at the age of 13 and he be­gan tak­ing pot shots at cows and his neigh­bours.

His ag­gres­sion wors­ened fol­low­ing the death of his fa­ther, Al­fred, in 1985.

On 19 Au­gust 1987, armed with sev­eral weapons, Ryan drove to a nearby for­est and shot dead his first vic­tim, a mother pic­nick­ing with her chil­dren. He pro­ceeded to set fire to his fam­ily home, killing neigh­bours and passers by, be­fore mur­der­ing Dorothy after she begged him to stop.

‘What’s so dis­turb­ing is that this rage was tar­geted at so­ci­ety,’ says El­iz­a­beth. ‘It was a resentment he’d been har­bour­ing for years.’

In­dulged… Cold­blooded killer Ryan. Left: Ryan’s par­ents, Dorothy and Al­fred

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