Armed police 'passed gunman Bird'
Armed police chasing Derrick Bird during his shooting rampage passed his taxi coming the other way and then lost him after their car was delayed in roadworks, an inquest has been told.
The two officers manning the armed response vehicle (ARV), advanced police driver Pc Phillip Lewis and his passenger Pc Andrew Laverack, first got information about the shootings around 10.30am and were immediately given authority to use lethal force if necessary to stop Bird.
They immediately headed to west Cumbria, where Bird launched his crime spree, killing 12 and injuring 11 on June 2, last year, the hearing heard.
"I shouted at Pc Laverack 'That's him, that's the driver, that's the taxi!'" Pc Lewis told the inquest, as he rounded a bend at 60mph to be confronted by Bird's silver Citroen Picasso taxi coming the other way.
But the officers did not have time to draw weapons and by the time they had turned around and been delayed in the road works Bird had vanished, Pc Lewis told the inquest into the deaths, at the Energus centre in Workington.
Bird had left his last two murder victims for dead in Seascale when the officers rounded a bend on a road outside the village of Holmrook and caught a fleeting glimpse of the killer's car coming towards them.
Bird was "cruising" along at 30mph and contact between the two cars was estimated at just five seconds - with no time for the armed officers to draw their weapons and shoot.
"I remember asking myself, is this the car?" Pc Lewis told the inquest. "I looked up and saw the male driver and I initially asked myself, is he going to shoot at us?
"I remember being surprised as I expected a person who had just shot and killed someone to be driving at excess speed and erratically, but he was just driving at normal speed for the road conditions."
He slammed the brakes on, turned the car around and screeched after the taxi but lost sight of Bird's vehicle and then later got delayed in roadworks.