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Monday, January 11, 1999 Published at 17:52 GMT


UK

Payout for Dunblane teacher

A floral tribute to the victims of Dunblane soon after the tragedy

A teacher who witnessed the aftermath of the Dunblane tragedy in which 16 children and their teacher were killed has been awarded a payout for psychological trauma.

Nursery teacher Linda Stewart, who is 48, has not worked since March 1996 when Thomas Hamilton walked into Dunblane Primary School and shot the children in the school gym before turning the gun on himself.

Mrs Stewart had already received an interim payout from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.

Flashbacks and insomnia

She arrived at the gym minutes after the killings and helped tend the wounded and dying children until the ambulances arrived.

She said she still suffered from flashbacks and nightmares, rarely gets to sleep before 3am, and cannot light a match because the smell reminds her of gunsmoke.

"I feel like I'm trapped in a gilded cage with no way out," said Mrs Stewart, who lives near the primary school.

"My house is surrounded by security lights because I am terrified of the dark and I won't even answer the door if I'm alone."

Payouts total £2.8m

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Board said that so far £2.8m had been paid out in compensation over the Dunblane tragedy.

This covered 131 applications, of which 80 were for mental injury.

A further 38 applications have been turned down. Some 27 of these were mental injury cases, many refused on the basis that although the applicant had suffered some sort of mental anxiety, they did not have a condition which could be identified psychiatrically.

Decisions are still outstanding on around 130 of a total 300 applications connected to the massacre.

Scotland's biggest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland welcomed the award to Mrs Stewart.

General Secretary Ronnie Smith said: "In general terms, our view is very simple.

"While we desperately hope that there will be very few, if any, incidents of teachers having to make use of the criminal injury compensation facilities, they are nevertheless as entitled as any other citizens to benefit from provisions that Parliament put in place to help people who are victims of crime, directly or indirectly."

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Board declined to discuss individual cases.



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