- The Guardian,
- Thursday June 5 2008
Tennis champion Andy Murray has described for the first time his struggle to cope with the emotional fallout of surviving the 1996 Dunblane massacre.
Murray, the UK's highest-ranking tennis player, was eight years old when the former scout leader Thomas Hamilton burst into Dunblane primary school and opened fire with a collection of handguns. Sixteen children and a teacher were killed before Hamilton shot himself.
Murray and his elder brother, Jamie, then 10, were on their way to the school gymnasium and survived by hiding under a desk in the headmaster's office.
Since then Murray has rarely spoken of the episode, claiming he was too young to understand what had happened.
But in his new autobiography, Hitting Back, which is published today, he describes how he has struggled to cope with the realisation that he could easily have become one of Hamilton's victims.
"Some of my friends' brothers and sisters were killed. I have only retained patch impressions of that day, such as being in a classroom singing songs," Murray says.
Murray, who was brought up in Dunblane, had previously attended a youth group run by Hamilton, and in the book he describes how his mother sometimes gave the former scout leader lifts in her car.
He writes: "The weirdest thing was that we knew the guy [Hamilton]. He had been in my mum's car. It's obviously weird to think you had a murderer in your car, sitting next to your mum.
"That is probably another reason why I don't want to look back at it. It is just so uncomfortable to think that it was someone we knew from the Boys Club. We used to go to the club and have fun. Then to find out he's a murderer was something my brain couldn't cope with."
He says: "I could have been one of those children."
In the book, Murray - who is widely described as the UK's brightest sporting hope - also reveals his opinion of other British tennis players.
"There is something wrong with the mentality and work ethic of most of the British players. There doesn't seem to be anyone who's brutally honest about it either. I think the best way is to confront it, especially when it has been bad for so long," Murray says.
Murray, who has been criticised for bad-tempered outbursts on the court, says that he does not consider himself to be "stroppy".
"I can't count the number of times I've been called a bad tempered brat, but that is not how it felt growing up," he says.
During the 2006 World Cup, Murray received hate mail after claiming that he would support "anyone but England". In the book, he says that while he is "patriotic and proud to be Scottish", he is not anti-English.
He also describes his aversion to bananas - a fruit commonly favoured by many tennis stars.
"Players sit there and eat them at changeovers, but it can't be to give them energy because they take ages to digest," he says.
"To be honest, I think bananas are a pathetic fruit."