During the summer of 2001, the world was simpler. Nobody in America had to remove their shoes to board an airliner, and commercial aviation was still kind of fun. The twin towers proudly dominated the iconic New York City skyline, and the Department of Homeland Security was not a real thing. On the other side of the planet, however, there seethed a family quarrel adequate to eradicate a bloodline.
In case you haven’t yet noticed, I’m not a journalist. I’m just a guy who likes guns and owns a word processor. Reading about the conspiracy theories that orbit around the eradication of the Nepalese monarchy makes the JFK assassination look like a first-grade field trip to the zoo. I did the best I could to tease out the details.
As Nepal welcomed the new millennium the royal family was wildly popular. King Bihendra was by all accounts a benevolent monarch, and for the most part, his people loved him. Bihendra’s extended clan held a formal family get-together each month at their palace in Kathmandu.
The social structure in Nepal was something we emancipated Americans might have a tough time following. Labyrinthine permutations of wealth, connections, and bloodlines defined social strata that shaped marriages and subsequently perpetuated itself. Theirs was a heavily regulated caste system, and the more conservative members of the royal clans frowned upon fraternizing outside your lane.
On June 1, 2001, the Crown Prince Dipendra had romance on his mind and found himself in a particularly dour mood. Apparently, the Queen disapproved of the Prince’s lady friend, a young woman with some unfortunate family connections in nearby India. Traditional family values were about to clash with modern liberated sociology in a manner most chaotic. As the dinner progressed Dipendra purportedly drank heavily and smoked a fair amount of hashish.
Thusly lubricated, Dipendra grew obnoxious. The official narrative holds that when the patriarch had had his fill he banished the intoxicated royal to his room.
Dipendra was a gun nerd, and he had the resources of a nation-state driving his firearms collection. He kept his primary counter-zombie stash secured within his bedroom closet. On this fateful evening, Prince Dipendra changed into camouflage fatigues and, in a scene right out of central casting, armed himself most generously before striding back into the banquet hall. He carried an ominous canvas bag over his shoulder.
The prince’s cousin Paras survived the shooting and reported that Dipendra ignited the massacre by loosing a burst from his MP5K into the ceiling. He then shot his father with another burst of three rounds from his diminutive German subgun. Apparently, the berserk prince then stepped outside to assess the state of palace security.
When he returned moments later, Dipendra was carrying his M16A2 Colt Commando. Bearing a blank expression on his face he then killed his father with a shot to the head before unleashing his fury on everybody in the room. Paras estimated that the crazed 30-year-old future regent expended about seventy-five rounds before chasing his mother up a set of stairs.
Over the next few minutes, the Prince supposedly wandered about generally wreaking mayhem. Along the way, he indexed to a SPAS-12 shotgun and a Glock 19 pistol. The story goes that he attacked his mom with villainous intent, inadvertently offing his brother in the process. He then messily and maliciously completed his matricide.
The prince murdered another half dozen members of the royal family and critically injure a further five. The dead included Dipendra’s father, mother, brother, sister, uncle, and a pair of aunts. His bloody rampage complete, Dipendra then purportedly retired to the garden to ruminate on his sins.
Once outside the Prince supposedly shot himself in a fit of remorse. However, he was said to have suffered six separate wounds to his back and one to his hand in addition to a bullet wound to his temple. In all my travels I’ve never seen anybody quite that flexible.
Here our tale gets even weirder. Dipendra, the homicidal prince, was whisked away to an ICU and placed on life support while his body processed the memo that he was done for. He lingered for some three days during which he was actually crowned king while unconscious and dying. Despite the fact that he had slaughtered his entire immediate family and was all but dead himself the line of succession still led inexorably to him. I suppose rules are rules.
For the three days that Dipendra reigned while unconscious, the official narrative was that the entire royal family had been killed by the accidental discharge of an automatic weapon. After Dipendra’s demise Keshav Prasad Upadhaya, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and Taranath Ranabhat, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, conducted a weeklong investigation, interviewing more than a hundred people. However, forensic data and post-mortem information were either sketchy or suppressed. All this conspired to fan the fires of conspiracy.
9/11 detonated some three months later, and the world lost interest in the strangest familial mass shooting in human history. Conspiracy theories threatened to shake the fragile Nepalese government apart. For reasons I don’t quite comprehend the Nepalese and the Indians apparently despise each other. Then as now many Nepalese attribute this most egregious regicide to Indian operatives. For my part, it seems that Dipendra was simply a spoiled young man of privilege unaccustomed to not getting his way. When his parents said he couldn’t choose his own soul mate he let his passions get the better of him.
Bihendra’s unpopular brother Gyanendra ascended to the throne, but the royal family was by this point most mortally wounded. Gyanendra’s surviving son Paras developed a reputation as a bit of a scoundrel and was accused of killing a popular Nepalese singer in a hit-and-run accident about a year later. In 2008 the Nepalese parliament voted 597-to-4 to abolish the monarchy. Gyanendra was given two weeks to vacate the palace, and the facility was turned into a museum. Nepal is a Federal Parliamentary Republic today.
The HK MP5K was a shortened concealable version of the MP5 submachine gun first introduced in 1976. Featuring an abbreviated receiver and subsequent accelerated rate of fire along with a stubby 4.5-inch barrel, the MP5K was intended for personal security details and similar covert applications. The gun’s 900 round per minute rate of fire makes it a bit of a handful, but its forward vertical handgrip greatly enhances controllability.
The M16A2 was an evolutionary development of Eugene Stoner’s original 1950’s-era AR15. The A2 version of the M16 added a heavier barrel, a redesigned pistol grip, improved sights, a flash suppressor left closed on the bottom to minimize dust signature on firing, and a three-round burst mechanism in place of its original full auto function. The shortened Commando variant featured an 11.5-inch barrel and a brass deflector built into the upper receiver. Dipendra’s gun also included a 3X telescopic sight mounted to the carrying handle.
The Franchi SPAS-12 was produced in Italy from 1979 until 2000. 37,000 copies rolled off the lines before it was superseded by the magazine-fed SPAS-15. The scary paramilitary vibe of the weapon landed it any number of film and TV roles.
The SPAS-12 will operate in either pump or gas-operated semiauto modes and is both heavy and ludicrously byzantine. The top-folding stock is uncomfortable, and the gun’s internal polymer buffer tends to crumble to pieces over time, subjecting the receiver to an unacceptable battering. The action is reliable enough, but I find the gun to be way too complex for practical use.
The Glock 19 is the runt brother to Gaston Glock’s eponymous G17 semiautomatic pistol. First produced in 1988, the G19 features a barrel and grip each one-half inch shorter than those of the larger G17. Sporting an abbreviated 15-round magazine and identical controls to the larger Glock, the G19 has been fabulously successful. As of 2007, more than 5 million Glock pistols had seen service.
Prince Paras claims that the attack was a calculated affair driven by King Bihendra’s stated intent to abolish the monarchy, effectively putting the love-starved Dipendra out of a job. Dipendra was known to shoot lizards around the palace with assault rifles as a form of recreation, so he was quirky on a good day. There were even rumors that a kickback from a pending arms deal set to choose between the American M16A2 and the German G36 might have helped precipitate the rampage.
In the West, Nepal is likely best known for its small yet fierce Gurkha soldiers and a certain unusually large mountain. However, in 2001 an apparent family squabble over a girl escalated into a massacre of majestic proportions. Whether it was forbidden love, a gun deal gone sour, or simply an ill-tempered brat behaving poorly, the resulting bloodbath irrevocably altered the course of the nation.