Sunday 19 November 2017

At least five dead following gun rampage in England

Police stand next to a body covered by a blanket following a shooting on Duke Street, Whitehaven, Cumbria. Photo: PA
Police stand next to a body covered by a blanket following a shooting on Duke Street, Whitehaven, Cumbria. Photo: PA

At least five people are dead after a taxi driver went on the rampage with a shotgun in England's Lake District then killed himself.

Divorced father-of-two Derrick Bird, 52, murdered a colleague in the middle of Whitehaven and drove through the Lake District blasting at other victims, apparently at random.

Later, following a frantic manhunt amid calls for residents to stay indoors, police found his body 20 miles away in woods near the hamlet of Boot, Cumbria.

Reports suggested there were up to 11 shootings but police have yet to confirm the death toll.

Eyewitnesses told of their terror as Bird drove through Whitehaven with the shotgun hanging out of the window of his taxi.

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Shocked neighbours described Mr Bird as a "quiet" man. Derek Richardson said: "He kept himself to himself."

Another neighbour, Dorothy Taylor, said: "He lives up the road from me and is a taxi driver. I usually drive past him in my car. It's an awful shock. I'm staying in. It's very peaceful and quiet round here. He was usually all right, quiet."

Copeland Labour MP Jamie Reed said the shootings were a "shock to the system" of a close-knit community already mourning the deaths of two teenagers killed in last week's school bus crash in the area, with one funeral due to take place this afternoon.

As he began his first Prime Minister's Questions today, David Cameron said the House of Commons would be "alarmed and shocked by the events unfolding in Cumbria" where at least five people had died in the shootings.

He said: "The Government will do everything it possibly can to help the local community and those affected, and to keep the House informed. A full statement will be made to Parliament tomorrow.

"When lives and communities are suddenly shattered in this way, our thoughts should be with all those caught up in these tragic events, especially the families and friends of those killed or injured."

A Whitehaven cab driver said he understood a total of three taxi drivers had been shot, two fatally.

The man, who did not want to be named, claimed an argument broke out between Bird and the other three men last night at the Duke Street taxi rank.

He said: "All of the taxi drivers were friends. But I heard last night there was an argument on the taxi rank.

"I don't know what caused it, but something must have happened last night. Derrick Bird took off in his car and went home. I don't know what time of night it was."

He said he knew one of the victims, describing him as "a real character".

The taxi driver, who had known Bird for 10 years, said he believed the gunman grew up in the Whitehaven area and had lived there all his life.

He said: "It's all very, very strange. He was a nice guy. He was quiet, but we used to have a laugh.

"He was quite a friendly person. This has been a shock to all the taxi drivers. It's just a tragic thing."

The man said Bird enjoyed foreign holidays, travelling to Thailand each year with friends. He rarely spoke of any family.

He said he was not aware of Bird owning a gun, or being a member of any gun club.

Press Association

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