Police 'powerless to stop Cumbria shooting spree'
Published 05/06/2010 | 05:00
police in Cumbria last night said they were powerless to stop Derrick Bird's killing spree after disclosing how the taxi driver shot dead 10 of his victims within an hour.
Craig Mackey, the Cumbrian chief constable, said no police officer got close enough to the killer to end his "45-mile rampage" any sooner.
But the force's handling of the attacks -- and whether its officers or other agencies had any contact with the killer before the shooting -- will be investigated by the independent police watchdog.
Cumbria police said the incident would be referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
Some residents in the area questioned why police failed to track down the 52-year-old sooner as he roamed the countryside with a shotgun and rifle, killing 12 people before shooting himself. At one stage police came within 30 seconds of catching up with the suspect and, after tracking him to woods, feared he would target them in a "final stand".
But they never got close enough to fire on him. Ten people were killed in the "second phase" of the rampage, he said.
The latest developments in the case came as:
Š A charity said that Bird had shown suicidal tendencies by slashing his own arms.
Š New evidence suggested that tension over a £25,000 (€30,200) gift from Bird's father to his twin brother David could have been the catalyst.
Š The taxi driver was said to have felt a further injustice after a failed police investigation meant he was forced to pay for damage when his car was hit by an uninsured vehicle.
Š David Cameron visited Cumbria and described the community as "incredibly brave".
Bird's previous contacts with police -- including him apparently reporting his complaints about the fare scams of fellow taxi drivers -- will be studied in the IPCC probe to determine if there were any opportunities missed to recognise his deteriorating mental state.
Deputy chief constable Stuart Hyde said: "I am aware of some older contacts but I am not aware of any complaint being made about the police contact or response.
"We are looking at all of the contact we had with him. We have spoken to the IPCC throughout and are in discussion about all of this information and whether there are any specific reasons to investigate our response and actions. It is possible we will refer it to them in the next few weeks.
"This is a major, critical incident and the community should (expect to) understand if we have done everything we can and should have done."
Mr Mackey yesterday defended the response of his force, one of the smallest in the country. He disclosed the terrifying speed with which Bird struck -- at one stage killing one person every six minutes.
The chief constable said that every armed officer -- 42 in total -- in the county was deployed to the area and other police sources said that they came within "30-60 seconds" of catching up with Bird's car.
"Twelve innocent people -- mothers, fathers, partners and friends -- were brutally murdered as they went about their daily lives and I am 100pc committed to getting to the bottom of this investigation and finding out why," he said.
Among the messages of condolence left on the website of a local newspaper were angry condemnations of Cumbria police's handling of the tragedy.
Bob Lunn wrote: "I feel sorry for the people who have died, and the family and friends that they left behind.
"But how was this guy not stopped sooner? I can understand the inevitable two or three people getting shot, but 12 dead?
"The police have a lot to answer for in my opinion."
Another reader, giving his name as Simon, added: "What I can't understand is why did it take so long for the police to find the gunman?"
Last night there was further evidence of Bird growing resentment of society and his fears over his finances.
Sources confirmed they had contacted the Inland Revenue to discuss £60,000 he had failed to declare -- and his apparent fears of facing jail over the matter.
His desperation grew as he wrongly believed that his brother and the family solicitor were conspiring to cut him out of an inheritance from his parents. (© Daily Telegraph, London)