On the 19th of August 1987 Michael Ryan
, a loner with a fascination for violent films
, shot dead 16 people in and around the town of Hungerford, in Berkshire, England - including his mother, whose house he burned to the ground. He eventually made his way to the local school, where, surrounded by police, he shot himself. Ryan's final conversation shed no light on his actions; the destruction of his house made it impossible to determine a motive. He lived alone with his mother, and led something of a fantasy life, telling people that he had a rich benefactor; he wore military clothing and was careless with firearms. Coming a year after the enormous success of 'Rambo: First Blood Part II
', that film was blamed by the media for causing the massacre, just as 'Child's Play 3
' would be blamed for the Jamie Bulger
killing many years later. Many other people watched 'Rambo', however - and many people actually fought in the Vietnam War - but only Ryan decided to kill a village.
Even today it is hard to read or think about Hungerford, an otherwise unremarkable village, without remembering the incident - it is overshadowed only by the killings at Dunblane, the only other 'spree killing' in British history. Ryan's massacre is one of the reasons why private gun ownership is strictly regulated in the UK; Thomas Hamilton's massacre is the other.