Thursday 19 April 2018

'Normal bloke' who became a killer

To his neighbours in the Cumbrian village of Rowrah, Derrick Bird was just the "normal bloke" who lived down the road.

Known as "Birdy" to his friends, the 52-year-old grandfather was often seen enjoying a pint and a chat with locals in The Hound Inn.

Likewise, those who knew him as a taxi driver in nearby Whitehaven saw him as a pleasant, unassuming man - "a quiet little fellow", said one work associate.

None appeared to have had the slightest inkling that Bird possessed the capacity to kill.

With short receding hair and a heavy physique, pictures released of the middle-aged man appear to show a relaxed figure.

He was divorced and lived alone in Rowrah, near Frizington.

But those who knew him did not build up a picture of an embittered or violent loner.

Ryan Dempsey, 26, who lived two doors down from the killer, said: "I have known him for 15 years. He was always pleasant, always had time to say hello.

"He was often on the roadside fixing his car. I knew his job was a taxi driver and I think he loved his car, he was always tinkering with it."

Mr Dempsey said he had never seen Bird carrying a gun or a shotgun, but he added that, in that part of the countryside, game shooting is not uncommon.

He said: "As far as I'm concerned this is completely out of character. I had never seen him in a bad mood."

Sue Matthews, a telephonist at A2B Taxis in Whitehaven, gave a similar account of Bird, a self-employed driver of 23 years.

She said: "To be honest, he was a quiet fellow. I am in absolute shock. I can't believe he would do that - he was a quiet little fellow.

"I know him through work. He was self-employed but it's a small place."

She described Bird as a regular in town who would often be seen on nights out.

"I would say he was fairly popular. I would see him once a week out and about. He was known as Birdy," Ms Matthews said.

Glenda Pears, who runs L&G Taxis, described him as a "real nice man".

Bird had two grown-up sons, one of whom became a father for the first time two weeks ago.

It is believed that his ex-wife lives in the nearby village of Lamplugh, home also to one of his two brothers, local residents said.

Michelle Haigh, the landlady at The Hound Inn in Frizington was shocked to find that one of her regulars was responsible for the rampage that left 12 dead.

He would often stop off at the pub, which is about three quarters of a mile from his home.

Ms Haigh said: "He was just a normal bloke. He was a nice guy, nothing out of the ordinary. He would come into the pub, have a couple of pints, have a chat with his friend and go home.

"This is not in character with the Derrick Bird we know."

She added: "He was just a nice guy. Everybody is shocked."

The 41-year-old landlady said no one she had spoken to could think of any trigger for the change in his behaviour.

Press Association

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