Beginnings of a Mass Murderer
An only child, Michael Robert Ryan was born on 18 May 1960 in the Savernake hospital, Hungerford. His father, Alfred Henry Ryan, a government building inspector, was known for being a perfectionist and was 55 when Ryan was born.His mother, Dorothy Ryan, was over 20 years younger than her husband and was 34 when she had her only son. She was a respected and popular member of the community and used to work as a dinner lady at the Hungerford Primary School before becoming a part-time waitress at the Elcot Park Hotel, where she worked for 12 years, until her death.Ryan grew up in South View, Hungerford and relatives remembered him as a quiet, mostly sullen and quite self-centred boy. His favourite toy was Action Man, the commando-type plastic doll, kitted out with uniforms and weapons.
Short for his age, Ryan was often teased and bullied but never retaliated and consequently avoided other children. At age 11, he moved from the local primary school opposite his home, to the John O’Gaunt Secondary School, where he underachieved academically and would often play truant. He had a few friends but always shied away from any sporting or social events at school. At age 16, he left John O’Gaunt School to attend a technical college, the Newbury College of Further Education, intending to learn to become a building contractor.Although he tried hard, it soon became apparent that Ryan showed no flair for this trade and soon dropped out of college.
He found low-paid work as a caretaker at a girls’ school. Continuing to live with his parents, his doting and indulgent mother would pay for anything he could not afford, including cars, petrol, insurance, and even his first gun, an air rifle.
When Ryan was old enough, he purchased a shotgun and began to collect other weapons, which he proudly displayed in a glass cabinet in his bedroom. It seemed that the guns gave Ryan the feeling of power and control that he had always lacked. He would also brag to people about things he had not done, in a string of lies that made him seem far more capable and experienced than he actually was. He told people he had served in the Second Parachute Regiment of the British armed forces, that he was getting married, and that he owned a gun shop. He would become extremely angry if people did not believe him and his mother would often confirm these lies to people, in a desperate effort to help her son feel better.
Besotted with the military, Ryan bought army jackets, survival gear and masks. He even persuaded the police to grant him a licence to own more powerful firearms. They were unable to refuse him as he had no record of mental instability and no criminal record. However, they stipulated that Ryan install a suitable Chubb steel cabinet in which to safely lock his weapons.
He subscribed to magazines on survival skills and guns, including ‘Soldiers of Fortune’, and was a fan of violent films such as ‘Rambo: First Blood’ (1982). Ryan was 25 when his father died of cancer in 1985. The loss affected him profoundly and he became increasingly withdrawn, often going off alone to the shooting range, or working on cars. It was during this time that he lost his caretaker job. People later commented that his mental instability became increasingly apparent following the death of his father. A few moths before the massacre, Ryan joined the Tunnel Rifle and Pistol Club, in Wiltshire. The manager later reported that Ryan spent a lot of time at the club and that he was “a very good shot”, showing consistent accuracy over large distances.
Born: 18 May 1960
The Victims - 19 August 1987: Susan Godfrey, 35 – shot and died
Kakoub Dean – shot at (missed, then firearm malfunctioned)
Roland Mason – shot and died
Sheila Mason – shot and died
Marjorie Jackson – shot and survived
Lisa Mildenhall, 14 – shot and survived
Kenneth Clements – shot and died
Police Constable Roger Brereton – shot and died
Linda Chapman – shot and survived
Alison Chapman – shot and survived
Abdul Rahman Khan, 84 – shot and died
Alan Lepetit – shot and survived
Hazel Haslett – windscreen shot, injured by glass and survived
Ivor Jackson – shot and survived
George White – shot and died
Dorothy Ryan, 61 – shot and died
Betty Tolladay, 71 – shot and survived
Francis Butler, 26 – shot and died
Marcus Bernard, 30 – shot and died
Man – shot and survived
Douglas Wainwright – shot and died
Kathleen Wainwright, 62 – shot and survived
Woman driver – shot and survived
John Storms, 49 – shot and survived
Eric Vardy – shot and died
Sandra Hill, 22 - shot and died
Victor Gibbs, 66 - shot and died
Myrtle Gibbs - shot and died
Man from 62 Priory Road – shot and survived
Woman from 71 Priory Road – shot and survived
Ian Playle, 34 – shot and died
George Noon, 67 – shot and survived
Died: 19 August 1987
A community in disbelief
Victims were taken to the Princess Margaret Hospital in Swindon. Although situated 15 miles from Hungerford, it was the nearest hospital with an Accident and Emergency department equipped to deal with the numerous casualties with high-velocity gunshot wounds. Routine admissions were cancelled, the X-ray department and the blood bank were put on alert, extra doctors and support staff was made available and the victims started pouring in.
At around 4 pm, the Royal Air Force hospital in nearby Wroughton contacted the Princess Margaret Hospital to inform them that they could take the next two serious and six minor casualties. The Housing Department of Newbury District Council made accommodation available for those residents of South View who found themselves homeless after the fires Ryan had started.
Lance Corporal Carl Harries, 21, a young off-duty soldier and veteran of the Falklands War, was on his way into town, to pick up a radiator hose, when he walked into the midst of the massacre. Not able to stand by and idly watch people suffer, he had repeatedly risked his life to help a number of victims, giving first aid where he could and solace to those having lost loved ones. Harries later received the Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct.
Amongst others also later commended for their bravery were ambulance-women Hazel Haslett and Linda Bright, who had been shot at by Ryan but who had continued working selflessly late into the night to help other victims.It was reported in the tabloid newspapers that following the public announcement of Ryan’s death, the people of Hungerford reacted with relieved delight. People were said to have run into the streets chanting, “The bastard’s dead, the bastard’s dead”, whilst children cycled around on their bikes, yelling “Good riddance”, and people in pubs toasted his death. Whether or not these were completely accurate accounts, they certainly encapsulated the emotion of relief foremost in people’s minds immediately after the massacre that the carnage was finally over.
Ron Tarry, Hungerford’s Mayor, claimed that the locals were in shock and speaking in hushed tones and that it was the press and others who had flocked to the scene who were doing the drinking in pubs. Either way, the mourning period for an entire town was still to be endured.The Reverend David Salt received countless communications of support and offers of help poured in to the Hungerford vicarage. Flowers began arriving at the town hall, where the flag flew at half-mast. The Hungerford Family Help Unit was hastily established in makeshift offices, co-ordinated by John Smith, to help a community suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The Round Table helped by providing funds for taxis, rents, television rentals and other services. Cash and cheques poured in from well-wishers, some even from children, and a Tragedy Fund was established, in collaboration with Lloyds TSB, Barclays and NatWest, the three banks in Hungerford.
The Queen Speaks
Her Majesty the Queen’s private secretary sent a letter of condolence from Buckingham Palace to Mayor Tarry and enclosed a personal contribution from the Queen. Prime Minister Mrs Thatcher interrupted her Cornish holiday to visit Hungerford. Close to tears, she toured the streets, met with the relatives and visited victims in hospital.
All over Berkshire, the funerals that followed the massacre were deeply poignant. Many were attended by people who had never known the deceased in life, but wished to show support for their families and the bereaved Hungerford community in general. In contrast, Dorothy Ryan’s funeral service, held at St Mary’s Church in Calne, Wiltshire, was only attended by 40 mourners. Whilst people did recognise that she was a victim, Canon John Reynolds, who conducted the service, selected not to mention her son and only made a brief reference to the Hungerford massacre.
Following the massacre, the British press was inundated with stories about Michael Ryan and speculation as to why he had committed so many acts of unprovoked violence. Dr Gregory Moffat, a childhood aggression specialist, claimed that victims of bullying are generally small, weak, lack confidence and are loners. Their inability to defend themselves against their bullies means that shame, guilt, anger, hate and the need for revenge builds inside them. This powerful mix of emotions is often later expressed in an inappropriately violent response. This seemed to fit the profile of Michael Ryan.
The Hungerford Report
The British Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd, travelled to Hungerford on Sunday, 23 August 1987. There he announced that he had commissioned a report on the massacre from the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, Colin Smith. The Hungerford Report confirmed that Ryan’s weapons had been legally licenced. It also transpired that there were several unfortunate incidents encumbering the response by the police and other emergency services to the events on 19 August 1987.
The local Hungerford police station was in the process of being renovated and had only two telephone lines working on that day. In addition to this, the local telephone exchange could not handle the amount of 999 calls that were being made, as Ryan wreaked havoc across the suburbs and people desperately tried phoning for help. In a further twist of fate, the local police helicopter was in for repair but police mechanics eventually made it ready for flight and it was deployed at around the time Ryan shot his mother. Adding to the sound of gunfire in the area was the fact that the Thames Valley firearms squad were in training, about 40 miles away.
The Hungerford Report led to the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988, which banned the ownership of semi-automatic centre-fire rifles and restricted the use of shotguns with a magazine capacity of more than two rounds.
On 8 October 1987, a memorial and rededication service was held for the town of Hungerford. Mayor Tarry claimed it to be the day on which life in the town could begin once more. The open-air service outside the town hall was attended by over 60 percent of the population of Hungerford and the principal sermon preached by Right Honourable Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury.Apart from the numerous local and international newspaper articles written about the Hungerford Massacre and Michael Ryan, there were also several books. These include ‘Lonewolf: True Stories of Spree Killers’ (May 2002) by Pan Pantziarka and ‘The Encyclopedia of Mass Murder’ by Brian Lane and Wilfred Gregg (1993). Ryan has also been documented on internet sites devoted to mass murder. Some more minor details of that fateful day in 1987 vary in the different accounts but all agree that it will remain in memory as one of the worst gun crimes in British history.Sir Charles Pollard, Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police from 1991 – 2001, commented, “The realisation that this could happen in fun-loving England, where we don’t have guns and the police aren’t armed… it changed policing and it changed society forever.”
Out of the Blue
It was market day in Hungerford, a balmy Wednesday, 19 August 1987. The popular weekly market attracted many people and was an event enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. People came to buy goods, eat in the restaurants and stay at the inns. This Wednesday was no different, with the schools on holiday, many people were taking advantage of the good weather. However, the jovial atmosphere was soon to be shattered and people’s lives changed forever.Savernake Forest, a popular recreational area seven miles from Hungerford, was a favourite haunt of Ryan’s, where he would spend great deals of time pretending to be on army manoeuvres. He liked to think of himself as a soldier, skilled at surveillance without being seen himself. Wearing camouflage outfits, he enjoyed sneaking up on picnickers and watching them without their knowledge, before disappearing again.
Just after midday, on 19 August 1987, the 27-year-old unemployed Ryan entered a secluded area of Savernake Forest. Here he found Susan Godfrey, 33, an attractive, auburn-haired mother, with her children, Hannah, 4, and James, 2. He spied on them as they ate their picnic lunch, before playing a while.
Preparing to leave for her grandmother’s 95th birthday, Godfrey was packing away the picnic when a grim looking Ryan approached, dressed all in black and pointing a 9mm Beretta pistol at her.
He ordered her to put her children in the car, which she did immediately, strapping them in and telling them to wait there for her, that she would be back soon. Ryan picked up the picnic groundsheet and ordered Susan to walk with him into the woods. Here he shot her 13 times, dropped the groundsheet and returned to parking area. Godfrey’s children watched as he climbed into his car, which was parked next to theirs, and drive away without a word to them. They had heard the sounds of the shots being fired and were terrified.
After some time, young Hannah unbuckled their seatbelts, so they could go in search of their mother.
A fellow park visitor, Myra Rose, found the children wandering around and they told her their mother had been shot. The woman did not believe them at first but agreed to help them find her.
Meanwhile, a police officer had noticed Godfrey’s empty car with open doors and had gone to investigate. In the neighbouring forest he found Godfrey’s body, about 250 feet from her car.
She was fully clothed but riddled with bullets. Near her body were two groups of German-made 9mm spent cartridges. It wasn’t long before investigators discovered, via ballistics analysis, that her death was connected to those that happened subsequently in Hungerford that afternoon. This had been Ryan’s first victim.
Ryan then went to Froxtield petrol station, where he was watched by Mrs Kakoub Dean, wife of the owner, as he filled up his metallic silver Vauxhall Astra GTE, as well as a five-litre can. She recognised him as a regular customer at the petrol station, but not a chatty or friendly one. Also, he had never before bought so much petrol at one time, making Dean suspicious, so she kept an eye on him.Whilst Dean served another customer, Ian George, Ryan went to the boot of his car and brought out a semi-automatic rifle. By the time Dean looked back at him, he had assumed a shooting position, with the rifle aimed directly at her. She ducked below her counter just as a bullet pierced the safety glass above it and ricocheted through the small shop behind her. George sped off on his motorcycle.
Ryan stormed into the shop and again aimed his rifle at Dean. Terrified, crying and huddled against the wall, she begged him not to kill her. He took no heed of her pleas and pulled the trigger, but nothing happened. He tried pulling the trigger twice more, but both times the rifle failed to fire.
Dean reported later that when she looked Ryan in the face, it seemed as if he was not even aware of her and was looking right through her. Having failed to kill Dean, Ryan quickly returned to his car and drove off towards Hungerford. Dean called both her husband and the 999 emergency services. The police had already received a report, from George, of an armed robbery in progress at the petrol station and were en route to her.
At around 12:45pm, Ryan arrived at his next destination, 4 South View, a dead-end street in Hungerford, where he lived with his widowed mother. Watched by neighbours, he went into the house and muffled shots were heard. It later transpired that he had shot the family dog, a black Labrador.
Emerging from the house, dressed in a headband and sleeveless flak jacket, Ryan carried a bag filled with food and other supplies. He tried starting his car but to no avail. Angrily, Ryan climbed out of the car and shot five bullets into the boot. He then went back into the house, used the five-litre can of petrol to soak everything he could, and set the house on fire.Into his car, Ryan had packed military clothing, a large amount of ammunition and a first aid kit. He also had several different firearms: a Beretta 9 mm semi-automatic pistol; an M1 carbine semi-automatic assault rifle; and a Kalashnikov AK-47 rifle loaded with armour-piercing bullets. He took the firearms, packed the pockets of his flak jacket with ammunition and marched off down the road.
Seeing two of his neighbours, Roland and Sheila Mason, in their back garden, he shot Roland six times and Sheila once, in the head. Both died instantly. Ryan spotted another shocked neighbour, Marjorie Jackson, peering through the window at the dead bodies and shot her as well. She was wounded but managed to call her husband, Ivor Jackson, who worked close by. Whilst she waited for help to arrive, she watched Ryan jog up and down the road, shooting at anything that moved. Another witness reported that Ryan warned several children to get off the street and go inside. It seemed that whilst he was in the midst of a murderous rampage, he still felt the need to protect children.
An elderly neighbour, Dorothy Smith, 77 years old and deaf in one ear, had come out into the street to see what all the noise was about. She shouted at him, saying, “Is that you making that noise? You are frightening everybody to death. Stop it, you stupid bugger!”. Ryan looked at her with extremely vacant eyes and a strange grin, before moving off eastwards along a footpath leading to Hungerford Common. She was inordinately lucky not to have been shot by him.
The Manhunt begins
Lisa Mildenhall, 14, was shot and wounded by Ryan, who had smiled at her whilst she crouched on the ground at her front door, and then shot her four times in the legs and stomach. She scrambled into her house, where she collapsed and her mother immediately called an ambulance. Mildenhall survived the shooting.Kenneth Clements was walking along the footpath with his family, towards South View, when Ryan appeared and shot him once, killing him instantly. Robert, his frightened son, escaped by jumping over a fence into the neighbouring school, whilst the rest of the family literally ran for their lives.
The Hungerford police were already undertaking a manhunt for the killer and a police helicopter spotted Ryan. They warned ground units to set up a roadblock around South View, to stop any drivers entering the area, although they had no idea what Ryan would do next. In an unfortunate turn of events, the police at the roadblock actually sent some drivers directly towards Ryan.Police Constable Roger Brereton rushed to the danger area of South View and Ryan shot at his patrol car 23 times. Brereton was hit by four of the bullets and died in his car. The smiling Ryan shot 11 rounds from his semi-automatic at another car that drove into the street. Its occupants, Linda Chapman and her daughter, Alison Chapman, whilst wounded, both survived. Linda was hit in the shoulder and Alison in the right thigh. Unfortunately, the bullet travelled up into Alison’s lower back, leaving her permanently disabled.
Moving up Fairview Road, Ryan found neighbour, Abdul Khan, 84, a retired restaurateur, mowing the lawn in his back garden. Ryan approached, looked at him and shot him three times. Kahn died later of his wounds. Ryan immediately turned to Alan Lepetit, a coalman who had helped install the Chubb steel cabinet for Ryan’s firearm collection. Lepetit had heard about shooting in his neighbourhood and was hurrying home to check on his family. Ryan shot Lepetit twice in the arm and once in the back as he fled. He survived the attack.
Ryan then shot at an ambulance, shattering its windscreen, as it was trying to reach some of the victims in a narrow lane. Ambulance-woman Hazel Haslett was injured in the arm and the leg by broken glass. Driver, Linda Bright, immediately put the ambulance into reverse and retreated. Access was blocked for the fire engine called to deal with the fire Ryan had started in his own home and which had already spread to three neighbouring properties.
Residents of the area were becoming increasingly worried as they continued to call for emergency help and none arrived. The fact was that they were prevented from entering the danger zone, for fear of being shot themselves. Meanwhile, police were busy getting some people to safety and preventing others from going where they thought Ryan might move to next.
People were frantic to get to their families to see if they were safe and unharmed. Ivor Jackson’s wife, Marjorie, had called him whilst Ryan was aiming a gun at her.
Now, as his colleague, quantity surveyor George White, drove him home to check on his wife, they came across Ryan. He sprayed their car with 11 bullets, Ivor Jackson was shot three times in the chest and once in the head and White was shot too, dying as their car smashed into the police car Ryan had shot at earlier.
Jackson played dead and survived the shooting.He heard what happened next, as Dorothy Ryan, returning home from some shopping, arrived at the scene in her car. She parked behind White’s car and opening the door and looking in, said, “Oh Ivor…” and then hurried up the road. What she found was houses on fire, people lying dead in their gardens and smashed cars lining the street. Dorothy then saw her son with a gun in his hand and called to him, saying, “Stop Michael. Why are you doing this?”. Without replying, Ryan shot his mother twice in the stomach and once in the leg. He walked up to where she lay in the road and, with the gun only four inches from her, shot her twice in the back, killing her.
Despite the police helicopter hovering above him and telling him to lay down his weapons, Ryan merely walked away. The police officers at the scene did not apprehend him at this point, as they were unarmed.
At 1.30 pm specially trained officers from the Tactical Firearms Unit were brought in and local police officers assembled closer to town. After killing his mother, Ryan walked across the school playing field, firing randomly.
Betty Tolladay, 71, had heard loud bangs, and thinking it was children playing with firecrackers, had come out into her back garden to shout at them to keep the noise down. Instead she found Ryan, who shot her once. The bullet entered her groin, smashed the top of her hip, part of her pelvis and the sciatic nerve, before exiting via her back. She managed to drag herself into her house and survived.
Ryan’s next victim was Francis Butler, a 26-year-old accounts clerk, out walking his dog in the Hungerford Memorial Gardens. He was shot three times in the groin and the leg with the AK-47 rifle and died where he fell. Ryan walked past a young boy, Dean Lavisher, without seeming to notice him, but fired at another boy riding past on his bicycle, Dean Cadle, thankfully missing him. Ryan then abandoned his M1 carbine in the Memorial Gardens.
Popular cab driver, Marcus Bernard, 30, was en route to visit his wife and newborn son in the local hospital. When he slowed down to see what was happening, Ryan shot him in the head with the AK-47 and he died instantly. Bernard was the tenth fatality on that bloody Wednesday. Witnesses report that at this point, Ryan seemed disgusted with the rifle and threw it onto the ground. Changing his mind, he retrieved it and carried on walking, away from town.
Along the way, Ryan shot and wounded a man, who was pulled to safety as Ryan moved closer in order to shoot him again. A car drove towards Ryan and he shot both occupants. The man, Douglas Wainwright, hit twice in the chest and once in the head, died instantly but his wounded wife, Kathleen Wainwright survived. It transpired that they were the parents of the police officer who had run all the checks on Ryan when he had applied for a modified licence, to own more powerful firearms.
Yet another vehicle drove into the area and once again, Ryan shot at it, hitting the driver, shattering his jaw, bursting his tongue and missing his spinal cord by two millimetres. He was John Storms, 49, a washing machine engineer who had been called out to Hungerford Park Farm on business. Bob Barclay, a local builder and nearby resident, risking his own life, bravely ran out and dragged Storms from his car, managing to half crouch and half run with Storms into the safety of his garden. Storms survived the shooting.
By this stage, the press had heard of the killing spree and arrived in the area, taking photographs of the dead and wounded, and unethically gaining access to some of the victims’ houses, by saying they were crime scene personnel. Their pictures were a grim account of the trail of destruction and death that Ryan had left in his wake. It was calculated that during the most intense period of Ryan’s rampage, he had killed an average of one person per minute.
The Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, who was on holiday in Cornwall at the time, was notified of the events and kept informed via a special phone line from Downing Street. The press helicopters were in the way of police trying to track Ryan and this allowed him to get away again.
Paying no attention to the police or the press, Ryan seemed oblivious to anything other than his hell-bent mission to kill everyone in his path. Eric Vardy, a carpenter and van driver for Norland Nursery College, was on his way with passenger, Steven Ball, to a builders’ supplier. As they drove up Tarrants Hill, their windscreen was shattered by a spray of bullets and Vardy was hit twice, under the chin and in the torso. He later died of shock and haemorrhage from the bullet wound to his neck.
Ryan then walked into Priory Road, where he found Sandra Hill, 22, driving her red Renault 5, with the window down and the music blaring. He took aim and killed her with a single bullet to the chest. Crossing the street, shooting as he went, Ryan strode towards 60 Priory Road, the home of Victor and Myrtle Gibbs and blasted open the front door with his semi-automatic rifle. The wheelchair-bound Myrtle was totally vulnerable and Victor threw himself across her to protect her from the crazed gunman. Ryan fired at them and Victor died instantly, whilst Myrtle died later in hospital.
Having created a ‘fort’ for himself in the Gibbs’ home, Ryan fired at neighbouring houses, injuring a man at number 62 and a woman at number 67 Priory Road.Ian Playle, a 34-year-old clerk to the Justices at Newbury Magistrates Court, had brought his wife, Elizabeth, and their two young children, Richard and Sarah, to Hungerford on a shopping trip. As they drove down Priory Road, Ryan shot at their car and Playle died from a single bullet wound to the neck from the Beretta. His wife and children were unhurt. George Noon, 67, was standing in the garden of his son’s house, 109 Priory Road, when Ryan shot him in the shoulder and the eye, but he survived.
Going Back to School
Shortly before 2pm, Bert Whatley, a Priory Road resident, watched as Ryan, walking slowly, with his head down, entered the John O’Gaunt Secondary School, which was closed for the summer holidays. It was the same school he had attended more than a decade before.
Chief Inspector Lambert had sent Sergeant Paul Brightwell and his team of eight officers from the Tactical Firearms Unit to investigate the school, unaware that this was indeed the exact location of the killer. They were armed with .38 Smith and Wessons, which were no match for Ryan’s arsenal.Four and three quarter hours after the police had first been informed of Ryan, he was finally spotted at one of the school’s third floor classroom windows at 5.26 pm. He threw his Kalashnikov out of the window, leaving him with only his 9mm Beretta and ammunition. Brightwell immediately informed his superior and Hungerford was declared safe for the waiting ambulances and fire engines to move in to the former danger zone. Police surrounded the school building and Brightwell worked to establish communication with Ryan and ultimately to persuade him to surrender.
During the next 90 minutes, Brightwell and Ryan held a long and detailed conversation, during which Ryan seemed quite lucid, calm and easy to talk to. At one point, he claimed to have an Israeli fragmentation type hand grenade, which seriously worried the police. He continually asked about his mother and how she was. Brightwell answered that he did not know at the time but was attempting to find out, and continued to persuade him to drop his weapons and come outside.
Ryan said he would not exit the building until he had news of his mother’s condition.Some of the things Ryan shouted out the window to Brightwell were, “Hungerford must be a bit of a mess”; “If only the police car hadn’t turned up. If only my car had started”. He also wanted to know if his dog had been found and if they had located his M1 carbine and its magazine, as he didn’t want the children to find it and hurt themselves.
At another point, close to the end, he said, “I wish I had stayed in bed”.
End of the destruction
At 6.45 pm he said, “It’s funny, I killed all those people but I haven’t got the guts to blow my own brains out”.
He then asked the time and was silent for a while. At 6.52 pm, Brightwell heard a single muffled shot from the classroom. The police were not certain if Ryan had shot himself or just fired off a round. They flew the police helicopter past the window, but could not see in to the classroom. One of the Tactical Firearms Unit climbed onto the school roof and with a mirror on a long pole, managed to see into the classroom at last. Ryan was lying slumped in the corner, near a window, apparently dead.The rest of the unit entered the room and checked that he was not wired with explosives as a booby trap. In his right hand, tied to his wrist with a bootlace, was his Beretta pistol. It was confirmed that Michael Robert Ryan had fatally shot himself at 6.52 pm on Wednesday, 19 August 1987, with a single gunshot to the head. The bullet had passed through his skull and shattered his brain. The horrific Hungerford Massacre was finally over. Ryan had killed 16 people, including his mother, and wounded 15 others.