August 19, 1987
Michael Robert Ryan goes on a shooting rampage, killing 16 and seriously wounding 15 before killing himself
The rampage began in a forest where Susan Godfrey was having a picnic with her young children, Hannah (4) and James (2). Ryan forced Godfrey to put her children in the back of her car before ordering her further into the woods and shooting her 13 times in the back with a pistol. The children wandered through the woods until they found another park visitor and told her of their mother’s murder.
Ryan made his way into Hungerford, first stopping at a petrol station. He shot at a cashier but missed, and approached to shoot her point-blank. His M1 carbine’s magazine had fallen out, and Ryan left the station without killing the cashier. A patron witnessing what he believed was an attempted armed robbery called 999 to report the crime.
Ryan next went to his house where he killed the family’s dog. He set the home on fire and killed neighbors Roland and Shiela Mason as they tended to their garden. Ryan then walked into the Common, shooting indiscriminately at any he came across. Dorothy Ryan arrived at the scene to attempt to talk her son down from the murders only to be shot in the abdomen and legs. As she was on the ground, Ryan shot twice more into her back, killing her.
Within 90 minutes, 16 were killed or dying and 15 seriously wounded (others suffered minor injuries) before Ryan barricaded himself in a school. Police attempted to negotiate his surrender, though they were unsuccessful. Ryan reportedly told negotiators “Hungerford must be a bit of a mess. I wish I had stayed in bed.” A little less than six and a half hours after Godfrey’s murder, Ryan killed himself with a shot to the head.
There was no apparent motive left in the wake of the massacre. No suicide note was found, and he made no demands during his standoff with police.
The Firearms (Amendment) Act of 1988 was passed in response to the killings. This act banned, among others, the possession of self-loading or pump-action rifles aside from those using .22 calibre rounds as well as semi-automatic firearms.
Michael Robert Ryan
Other stories from today:
1895: Outlaw murdered following argument (2017)
1940: Bookie shot in car (2017)
1918: Man tarred, feathered for not proving loyalty to US (2018)
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Today in Horror History: August 19