Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

'Gunman's body' found after Cumbria shooting rampage

Derrick Bird
Derrick Bird
Police stand next to a body covered by a blanket following a shooting on Duke Street, Whitehaven, Cumbria,
Derrick Bird

Police hunting a gunman responsible for a killing spree that left several people dead said today they had found his body.

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.

This afternoon, 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.

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

Police said that following the shooting in Whitehaven, the gunman fled south along the coast, going through Gosforth and Seascale before turning inland and ending up in Boot.

Rod Davies, landlord of Gosforth Hall Inn, said he understood the gunman returned to his home in Rowrah and shot his own mother.

Mr Davies, who has lived in Gosforth since 2002, said: "The guy flipped for whatever reason. Whether it was pre-meditated, we don't know.

"We've heard he returned home and shot his mother. Then he has gone on a spree to Seascale, where he's believed to have caused two fatalities.

"He then left Seascale and went through Gosforth where he's believed to have killed a local farmer - shot him at point-blank range.

"He's then headed to the valley where Boot is."

Deputy Chief Constable Stuart Hyde said: "I can confirm that we've found a body in a wooded area near Boot which we believe to be Mr Bird, together with a firearm.

"A formal identification will be made later"

West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven declared a major incident, while the accident and emergency department at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle was on standby.

Boot Inn landlord Sean King said that fellow publican Harry Berger, who runs the Woolpack, was shot in the arm in Seascale and was recovering in hospital.

A member of staff at the Woolpack Inn said a girl had received minor buckshot wounds.

Glenda Pears, boss of L&G Taxis, said Bird and a victim found in Duke Street, Whitehaven, were self-employed drivers and friends.

She said one of her drivers witnessed the aftermath of the shooting at a rival taxi rank in Whitehaven.

She said: "We just don't know what's happened. The lad that's been killed was friends with him. They used to stand together having a craic on the rank.

"He was friends with everybody and used to stand and joke on Duke Street."

One witness said the gunman drove up alongside him at traffic lights by Whitehaven police station in Duke Street.

Alan Hannah, 68, of Great Broughton, told the Whitehaven News: "As I turned past the police station, I saw all these officers running out and realised something major was going on so I moved over to the right-hand lane.

"Then a car pulled up on the left, stopping at the lights.

"I saw a man with a large shotgun and his windscreen was smashed. I drove through the red light to get into Lowther Street and get out of the way. I got home safely but was very shaken."

Cumbria police set up a casualty bureau line on 0845 3300 247.

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

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: "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."

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