What caused Michael Ryan to murder 16 people in Hungerford?
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