Crimes That Shook Britain: The Hungerford Massacre
One August afternoon in 1987, a heavily-armed Michael Robert Ryan shot and killed sixteen people – including his own mother – before turning a gun on himself. It remains one of the worst shooting atrocities in British history.
by Jeff Edwards
Hungerford Massacre – 1987: Michael Ryan, the infamous gunman involved in the Hungerford Massacre
August 17, 1987 was a bright warm sunny day.
In the Berkshire market town of Hungerford, Sue Godfrey packed a picnic and her two children into her car and headed for nearby Savernake Forest.
In another street in Hungerford, 27-year-old Michael Ryan also decided to have a day out in Savernake Forest.
But instead of a picnic, he packed his car with something deadly. It was his brand new Chinese copy of the AK 47 assault rifle.
For good measure, gun nut Ryan put in an American M1 carbine, and a fully-loaded Beretta .38 calibre semi-automatic pistol.
It was the start of Britain’s worst gun massacre. By the end of the day 16 people were dead and several others were wounded by bullets as Ryan rampaged through the area shooting people at random.
Hungerford Massacre – 1987: Daily Mirror front page Thursday 20th August 1987
Ryan arrived at the car park at the forest entrance at about midday, just as Sue Godfrey was putting her children into the car ready to leave.
He pointed his Beretta at her, marched her into the trees, and pumped 10 bullets into her back, killing her instantly.
Half an hour later at a service station between Savernake and Hungerford, the cashier watched a man driving a red Vauxhall Astra fill up with fuel, fill a petrol can, and then approach the pay window.
Ryan levelled a gun at the cashier and opened fire through the glass. She dived for cover and escaped death by a centimetre as a bullet smashed the plate glass and zipped through her hair.
On alert: Police respond to the shootings
Ryan then entered the shop and tried to shoot the cashier.
But the gun clicked empty. He turned on his heel and left.
The trembling cashier dialled 999. It was the first police knew about what was unfolding.
Ryan headed to the home he shared with his mother. He piled survival gear into his car, doused the house with petrol, and set it ablaze.
Ablaze: The home of Ryan’s mother
He got into his car but it would not start. Furious, Ryan pumped five bullets into it causing it to ignite.
Neighbour Roland Mason was in his back garden and came out to the front to see what the commotion was. Ryan riddled him with bullets.
Then he shot dead Mason’s wife Sheila. With a bandolier of ammo across his chest and wearing black combat clothes, Ryan walked down the road and shot pensioner Margery Jackson and 14-year-old Lesley Mildenhall, wounding them both severely.
Around the corner he met Ken Clements out with his three children. Ryan murdered him on the spot.
PC Roger Brereton was the first police officer on the scene. He swung his patrol car into South View but he had no chance. Ryan raked his car with machine gun fire killing him instantly.
Ryan was strafing houses on both sides of the street, stopping only for a moment to put fresh clips of ammunition in his guns.
Linda Chapman and her daughter Alison came into view. Ryan peppered their car wounding them both, but they managed to drive away.
Ryan then spotted retired Abdul Khan mowing his lawn and killed him with his AK 47.
Police firearms teams were speeding to Hungerford but they were too far away to stop his killing spree.
Alan Lepetit was on his way home for lunch when he was shot and wounded, but he survived.
An ambulance arrived and was turning into South View when Ryan shot it up. Firefighters coming to tackle the blaze at Ryan’s own home ducked as their fire engine took several hits.
The fire had now engulfed three more houses.
George White was giving a lift home to Ivor Jackson, who didn’t know Ryan had already murdered his wife Margery.
As they approached the scenes of chaos Ryan shot White dead through the windscreen. His car went out of control and rammed the back of PC Brereton’s car with the officer dead behind the steering wheel.
At that moment Ryan’s mum Dorothy came home from shopping. As she surveyed the carnage, the son she doted on shot her dead.
Francis Butler was walking his dog in a park when Ryan shot him dead. Then he shot at Andrew Cadle but missed. He tried again, but the M1 jammed and Ryan threw it away in disgust.
But he still had the AK and the pistol. Minicab driver Marcus Barnard was shot in the head and died.
Then he opened fire on John Storms, Douglas Wainwright, Eric Vardy and Sandra Hill.
Wainwright and Vardy were killed outright. Storms and Sandra Hill were badly wounded with multiple gun shot wounds.
Victim: The body of Douglas Wainright in his car
Sandra Hill was rescued by an off-duty ambulance man and a soldier who carried her to a doctors’ surgery, but she died before she got there.
Ryan had now reached Priory Road. He smashed open the front door of number 60 and shot dead 66-year-old Victor Gibbs. The pensioner tried to save his wife Myrtle who was in a wheel chair, but the bullets ripped through his body and killed her too.
With police using loudhailers to warn residents to stay indoors, Ian Playle encountered a police roadblock, but he knew another way to his home in Priory Road.
Ammo: A police marksman examines a spent cartridge on the road in Hungerford
When he got there, he died in a hail of shots.
George Noon was standing outside 109 Priory Road when he saw Ryan standing outside the John of Gaunt school.
Ryan saw him and killed him with two shots then entered the empty school.
By now armed police had the area surrounded.
Sergeant Paul Brightwell shouted to Ryan from behind a wall. They had a conversation. Ryan sounded calm and lucid, but kept asking the officer how his mother was.
Police marksmen could not see Ryan to get a clear shot at him. He was sitting on the floor below a window.
Suddenly Ryan threw his AK47 out of the window. Then there was a single shot from the Beretta. Ryan had taken his last life – his own.
Unmarked grave: Ryan’s ashes were scattered in a place known to only one member of his family
Hungerford Massacre – 1987: Daily Mirror front page Friday 21st August 1987