Police identified the gunman as Michael Ryan, 27.
Local people described him as a “loner” and a “gun fanatic”.
Ryan was armed with an automatic rifle, a pistol and at least one hand grenade when he went on the rampage early on Wednesday afternoon.
His victims included his mother and a police officer who tried to tackle him in Hungerford which lies about 60 miles (96km) west of London.
At least 16 people are known to have been injured.
Ryan’s first victim was a woman he shot dead as she picnicked with her two children in Savernake Forest about 10 miles (16km) from Hungerford.
Soon afterwards at 1245, an armed man – identified by witnesses as Ryan – fired at a woman cashier in a nearby petrol station but missed.
Less than 10 minutes later firefighters were called to a house fire in Hungerford where they found the body of a woman believed to be the gunman’s mother.
‘Fired without warning’
By 1300 Ryan had moved on to Hungerford’s main shopping area where he fired indiscriminately killing at least 12 people.
Witnesses spoke of a heavily armed man in combat gear who opened fire without warning.
As police realised the seriousness of the incident armed officers and helicopters were rushed to the area.
But for much of the afternoon Ryan managed to evade the huge manhunt and was only later tracked down to a school on the outskirts of town.
The building is now surrounded by armed police and negotiators have been brought in to persuade the gunman to give himself up
Michael Ryan later turned his gun on himself and was found dead inside the school by police.
The death toll eventually reached 16.
At the time the incident was the worst mass killing of recent times in Britain.
It led to tighter restrictions on gun ownership with the introduction of the Firearms (Amendment) Act of 1988.
Critics said the legislation did not go far enough to prevent other massacres occurring.
13 March 1996: Massacre in Dunblane school gym
A lone gunman has gone on a shooting spree at a school in Dunblane, Scotland, killing 16 children and their teacher.
The killer sprayed shots at random around the school gym in an attack that lasted just three minutes, but caused carnage in a class of five and six year olds. He then turned the gun on himself.
Twelve other children were taken to hospital in Stirling, where one is reported to have later died of his injuries.
The killer has been named as Thomas Hamilton, 43, a local man, who had once – briefly – been a scout master before being sacked by the Scout Association.
‘Sick and evil act’
The Queen has sent a message of sympathy to the people of Dunblane.
The Prime Minister, John Major, on a visit to Cairo, has spoken of his disbelief at what he called “this sick and evil act”.
The attack happened just after 0930 GMT, as the Year One pupils were beginning an exercise class in the gym with their teacher, Gwen Mayor.
One pupil said: “We heard these gunshots from the gym and looked round and thought he must be firing at a target or something then he came out through a fire exit and started firing at our huts and we were all petrified.”
William Wilson, chief constable of central Scotland, told a news conference his officers had been called to the school at 0938 GMT: “They found a scene of carnage, with 15 children dead, one teacher dead and one other dead.”
Parents and carers began arriving at the school as news of the tragedy quickly spread around the town.
The Scottish Secretary, Michael Forsyth, who represents Dunblane said: “I find it difficult to express the feelings I know will be felt throughout Dunblane.
“This is a close-knit community where everyone knows everyone else and the impact of this horrible tragedy will be felt in every household.”
The motive for the attack is still unclear.
A public inquiry into the Dunblane massacre found the killer Thomas Hamilton had been investigated by police following complaints about his behaviour around young boys.
Hamilton had licences for six guns leading to criticism of the police for not questioning what he used them for. But the inquiry concluded his actions on that day could not have been predicted.
A massive campaign was launched after Dunblane for tighter gun controls.
The Snowdrop Campaign was successful in achieving a change in the law in 1997, making it illegal to buy or possess a handgun.
The Gun Control Network – which included relatives of those killed in the Hungerford disaster – has continued to campaign among other things for a national gun register.
Trigger happy Aug 15th 2014, 16:31 by D.K.
THE shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African-American, by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, is a reminder that civilians—innocent or guilty—are far more likely to be shot by police in America than in any other rich country. In 2012, according to data compiled by the FBI, 410 Americans were “justifiably” killed by police—409 with guns. That figure may well be an underestimate. Not only is it limited to the number of people who were shot while committing a crime, but also, amazingly, reporting the data is voluntary.
Last year, in total, British police officers actually fired their weapons three times. The number of people fatally shot was zero. In 2012 the figure was just one. Even after adjusting for the smaller size of Britain’s population, British citizens are around 100 times less likely to be shot by a police officer than Americans. Between 2010 and 2014 the police force of one small American city, Albuquerque in New Mexico, shot and killed 23 civilians; seven times more than the number of Brits killed by all of England and Wales’s 43 forces during the same period.
The explanation for this gap is simple. In Britain, guns are rare. Only specialist firearms officers carry them; and criminals rarely have access to them. The last time a British police officer was killed by a firearm on duty was in 2012, in a brutal case in Manchester. The annual number of murders by shooting is typically less than 50. Police shootings are enormously controversial. The shooting of Mark Duggan, a known gangster, which in 2011 started riots across London, led to a fiercely debated inquest. Last month, a police officer was charged with murder over a shooting in 2005. The reputation of the Metropolitan Police’s armed officers is still barely recovering from the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, an innocent Brazilian, in the wake of the 7/7 terrorist bombings in London.
In America, by contrast, it is hardly surprising that cops resort to their weapons more frequently. In 2013, 30 cops were shot and killed—just a fraction of the 9,000 or so murders using guns that happen each year. Add to that a hyper-militarised police culture and a deep history of racial strife and you have the reason why so many civilians are shot by police officers. Unless America can either reduce its colossal gun ownership rates or fix its deep social problems, shootings of civilians by police—justified or not—seem sure to continue.