Derrick Bird and the Cumbria Shootings
The Cumbria shootings was a killing spree that occurred on 2 June 2010 when a lone gunman, Derrick Bird, killed 12 people and injured 11 others before killing himself in Cumbria, England. Along with the 1987 Hungerford massacre, 1989 Monkseaton shootings and the 1996 Dunblane massacre, it is one of the worst criminal acts involving firearms in British history.
The series of attacks began in mid-morning in Lamplugh and moved to Frizington, Whitehaven, Egremont, Gosforth and Seascale, sparking a major manhunt by the Cumbria Constabulary, with assistance from Civil Nuclear Constabulary officers.
Bird, a 52-year-old local taxi driver, was later found dead in a forested area, having abandoned his vehicle in the village of Boot. Two weapons that appeared to have been used in the shootings were recovered. There were 30 different crime scenes investigated, and police confirmed it was the worst shooting incident in Britain since the Dunblane massacre of 1996, in which 18 people died.
Queen Elizabeth II paid tribute to the victims and the Prince of Wales later visited Whitehaven in the wake of the tragedy. Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May also visited West Cumbria. A memorial fund has been set up to aid victims and affected communities.
In the early hours of 2 June, Bird left his home in Rowrah and drove his Citroën Xsara Picasso to his twin brother David’s home in Lamplugh, where he shot him eleven times in the head and body, killing him. He then went to Frizington, arriving at the home of the family solicitor, Kevin Commons, whom he prevented from leaving before firing twice with a double-barreled shotgun, hitting Commons once in the shoulder. Commons staggered onto the driveway of his home, where Bird killed him with another single gunshot to the head. At 10:20 BST, the police were telephoned. Bird then moved on toward Whitehaven.
At 10:33, Bird drove to a taxi rank on Duke Street, Whitehaven, where he opened fire on several people. Four taxi drivers were hit by the gunfire: Darren Rewcastle, Don Reid, Paul Wilson, and Terry Kennedy. Rewcastle, who was known to Bird, was the only person to die in Whitehaven, being shot at point-blank range.
Soon after killing Rewcastle, Bird drove onto Coach Road and fired his shotgun at a passing taxi, injuring the male driver and the female passenger. Residents in the towns of Whitehaven, Egremont and Seascale were immediately urged to stay indoors. Bird proceeded to drive through several local towns, firing apparently at random, calling over a majority of the victims to his taxi before shooting them. In Egremont, Bird killed Kenneth Fishburn on a bridge, and then fatally shot Susan Hughes in the head and chest as she walked home from shopping.
He then travelled to the village of Wilton, where he tried to visit Jason Carey, a member of a diving club that Bird was also in, but left when Carey’s wife came to the door. Soon after, he shot Jennifer Jackson once with his shotgun and twice with his rifle, killing her, then also fatally shot her husband James and wounded a woman named Christine Hunter, who was visiting the Jacksons. This was followed by Isaac Dixon, a mole-catcher who was talking to a farmer in a field at Carleton when he was fatally shot. A former semi-professional rugby league player, Garry Purdham, was soon shot and killed while working outside the Red Admiral Hotel at Boonwood, near Gosforth.
Bird then drove into Seascale, where he shot a motorist named Jamie Clark, who died, although it was not clear at first whether he died from gunshot wounds or the resultant car crash. After shooting and injuring another motorist named Harry Berger, he killed Michael Pike, a retired man who was bicycling down a street. Seconds later, Bird fatally shot Jane Robinson on the same street at point-blank range.
Search for the suspect, suspect’s suicide
At 11:33, Police Constables Phillip Lewis and Andrew Laverack spotted Bird as his car passed by their vehicle. They attempted to pursue him, but were delayed in roadworks and lost sight of him a minute later. Soon afterwards, Bird drove to Eskdale Valley where he opened fire on seven people, hitting and wounding four. He then abandoned his car when it ran out of fuel at a beauty spot, called Doctor Bridge, near the village of Boot. A family of four that was nearby offered assistance to Bird, but were quickly turned down and advised to leave. Bird was last seen alive at 12:30; shortly after 12:30, police confirmed that there had been a number of fatalities and that they were searching for a suspect. Police later announced they were searching for the driver of a dark-grey Citroën Xsara Picasso, driven by the suspect identified as Bird.
At 14:00, Deputy Chief Constable Stuart Hyde announced that a body, believed to be that of Bird, had been found in a wooded area, along with a rifle. Police confirmed shortly afterwards that members of the public who had previously taken shelter during the incident could now resume their normal activities.
During the manhunt, the gates of the nearby Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant were closed as a precaution, and the afternoon shift was told not to come to work. This was the first lock-down in the history of the plant.
At 15:00, Prime Minister David Cameron, taking his first session of Prime Minister’s Questions, announced that “at least five” people had died, including the gunman. Later that evening, a police press conference in Whitehaven announced that 12 people had been killed, that a further 11 people were injured, and that the suspect had killed himself. They also confirmed that two weapons (a double-barrelled shotgun and a .22-calibre rifle with a scope and silencer) had been used by the suspect in the attacks and that thirty different crime scenes were being investigated.
Over the next few hours, Bird’s shooting of his brother and solicitor was revealed. The police stated that the shootings took place along a 15-mile (24 km) stretch of the Cumbrian coastline. Helicopters from neighbouring police forces were used in the manhunt, while those from the RAF Search and Rescue Force and the Yorkshire Air Ambulance responded to casualties. A major incident was declared by North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust at West Cumberland Hospital, Whitehaven, with the accident and emergency department at the Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle, on full incident stand-by.
Bird had been a licensed firearms holder and the incident sparked debate about further gun control in the United Kingdom; the previous Dunblane and Hungerford shootings had led to increased firearms controls.
Derrick Bird (born 27 November 1957) was a son of Joseph (1916–1998) and Mary Bird. He had a twin brother, David (1957–2010) and an older brother. He lived alone in Rowrah, and had two sons with a woman from whom he separated in the mid-1990s. He became a grandfather in May 2010, and was variously described as a popular and quiet man who worked as a self-employed taxi driver in Whitehaven. There are unconfirmed reports that he had previously sought help from a local hospital due to his fragile mental state. Bird had held a shotgun certificate since 1974 and had renewed it several times, most recently in 2005, and had held a firearms certificate for a rifle from 2007 onwards. He was being investigated by HM Revenue and Customs. The body of Bird was formally identified at Furness General Hospital in Barrow-in-Furness, and he was cremated at a private service on 18 June 2010.
There has been speculation that Bird may have had a grudge against people associated with the Sellafield nuclear power plant that he worked for as a joiner, resigning in 1990 due to an allegation of theft of wood from the plant. He was subsequently convicted, and given a 12 month suspended sentence. Three of the dead were former employees although there is no evidence that any were involved with his resignation.
Derrick Bird with Thai girl
A fellow taxi driver, who described himself as one of Bird’s best friends, and was wounded by Bird, has claimed that Bird had a relationship with a Thai girl he met on holiday in Pattaya, Thailand. It has been further claimed by another friend of Bird that he had sent £1,000 to the girl, who subsequently ended their relationship via a text message; he added that Bird had been “made a fool out of”.
It has also been speculated that Bird had been involved with a family dispute over his father’s will. The speculation was heightened when it was revealed that Bird had targeted both his twin, David, and the family’s solicitor, Kevin Commons, in his attacks, killing both.
Police investigating the killings have also found that Bird was the subject of an ongoing tax investigation by HM Revenue and Customs for tax evasion and the threat of possible future prosecution and punishment might have contributed to his action. According to Mark Cooper, a fellow taxi driver who had known him for 15 years, Bird had accumulated £60,000 in a secret bank account and was worried he would be sent to prison for hiding the cash from HM Revenue & Customs.