West Cumbria Shootings

On 2 June 2010, Whitehaven became a focus in the international media in relation to gun laws in the United Kingdom, following a killing spree targeting people living in the western area of the county. After killing his twin brother in Lamplugh, and his family solicitor in Frizington, taxi driver Derrick Bird began the spree in Whitehaven, shooting several people on the streets and at the taxi rank where he worked, killing one.

The Cumbria shootings was a shooting spree which 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, the 1989 Monkseaton shootings, and the 1996 Dunblane school 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 wooded area, having abandoned his vehicle in the village of Boot. Two weapons that appeared to have been used in the shootings were recovered. A total of 30 different crime scenes were investigated. The event was the most deadly shooting incident in the UK since the 1996 Dunblane school massacre, which left 18 people dead.

Queen Elizabeth II paid tribute to the victims, and the Prince of Wales later visited Whitehaven in the wake of the tragedy. The Prime Minister and Home Secretary, David Cameron and Theresa May, also visited West Cumbria. A memorial fund was 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, and shot him 11 times in the head and body with a .22 rifle, killing him.

He then went to Frizington, arriving at the home of the family solicitor, Kevin Commons, whom Bird prevented from driving away by firing twice with a double-barreled shotgun, hitting Commons once in the shoulder. Commons staggered out of his car and onto the entrance to his farmyard, where Bird killed him with two rifle shots to the head. At 10:20 BST, the police were telephoned. Bird then moved on towards Whitehaven. A witness called the Cumbria Constabulary to report the Commons shooting, although her call was delayed by several minutes after she asked neighbours what she should do. She also erroneously described Bird as being armed with an air rifle despite being able to hear the gunshots.

After killing Commons, Bird went to a friend's residence to retrieve a shotgun he had loaned, although he was answered by the friend's wife, who didn't have access to it. Afterwards, at 10:33, Bird drove to a taxi rank on Duke Street, Whitehaven. There, he called over Darren Rewcastle, another taxi driver who was previously known to Bird, and who Bird had conflicts with over Rewcastle's behaviour and poaching fares, and an incident wherein Rewcastle damaged the tyres on Bird's taxi and openly boasted about it. When Rewcastle approached Bird's taxi, Bird shot him twice at point-blank range with the .22 rifle, hitting him in the lower face, chest, and abdomen. Rewcastle died of his injuries, becoming the only person to die in Whitehaven.

Soon after killing Rewcastle, Bird drove alongside another taxi driver, Donald Reid, and shot him in the back, wounding him. Bird then made a loop back to the taxi rank and fired twice at Reid as Reid waited for emergency personnel, missing him. Next, Bird drove away from the taxi rank, stopped alongside another taxi driver named Paul Wilson as he walked down Scotch Street, and called him over to his vehicle as he did with Rewcastle; when Wilson answered his call, Bird shot him in the right side of his face with the shotgun, severely wounding him. As a result of the shootings, unarmed officers at the local police station were informed and began following Bird's taxi as it drove onto Coach Road. There, Bird fired his shotgun at a passing taxi, injuring the male driver, Terry Kennedy, and the female passenger, Emma Percival. Bird was then able to flee the officers after he aimed his shotgun at two of them, forcing them to take cover. However, he did not fire; he instead took advantage of the unarmed officers' distraction to escape.

In the wake of the Whitehaven shootings, residents there and in the neighbouring towns of Egremont and Seascale were urged to stay indoors. A massive manhunt for Bird was launched by the Cumbria Constabulary, which was assisted by Civil Nuclear Constabulary officers. Bird proceeded to drive through several local towns, firing apparently at random, and calling a majority of the victims over to his taxi before shooting them.

Near Egremont, Bird tried to shoot Jacqueline Williamson as she walked her dog, but she managed to escape without injury. Upon arriving in Egremont, Bird stopped alongside Susan Hughes as she walked home from shopping, and shot her in the chest and abdomen with the shotgun. He then got out of his taxi and got into a struggle with her before fatally shooting her in the back of the head with his rifle. Then, after driving a short distance onto Bridge End, Bird fired the shotgun at Kenneth Fishburn as he walked in the opposite direction; Fishburn suffered fatal wounds to the head and chest. This was followed by the shooting of Leslie Hunter, who was called over to Bird's taxi before being shot in the face at close range with the shotgun, then a second time in the back after he turned away to protect himself. Hunter survived his injuries.

Bird then went south towards Thornhill, where he fired his shotgun at a teenage girl named Ashley Glaister but missed her. He then passed Carleton and travelled onto the village of Wilton, where he tried to visit Jason Carey, a member of a diving club Bird also belonged to, but Bird left when Carey's wife came to the door. Soon afterward, Bird shot Jennifer Jackson once in the chest with his shotgun and twice in the head with his rifle, killing her. Bird then drove past Town Head Farm, but turned back towards it and fired his shotgun, fatally hitting Jennifer Jackson's husband James in the head and wounding a woman named Christine Hunter-Hall in the back. He then drove back to Carleton and killed Isaac Dixon, a mole-catcher who was talking to a farmer in a field when he was fatally shot twice at close range by Bird's shotgun. A former semi-professional rugby league player, Garry Purdham, was soon shot and killed while working in a field outside the Red Admiral Hotel at Boonwood, near Gosforth.

Bird then drove towards Seascale. Along the way, he began driving slowly and waved other motorists to pass him. He shot a motorist named James "Jamie" Clark, who died of a shotgun wound to the head, although it was not clear at first whether he died from the gunshot wound or the subsequent car crash. Bird then encountered another motorist named Harry Berger at a narrow, one-way passage underneath a railway bridge. When Berger allowed Bird to enter first, Bird fired at him as he passed by, shooting him twice and causing severe injury to his right arm. Three armed response vehicles attempting to pursue Bird were later blocked out of the tunnel by Berger's vehicle; it had to be pushed away to let them pass.

Meanwhile, Bird had driven along the seafront and onto Drigg Road, where he fired twice at Michael Pike, a retired man who was cycling in front of him; the first shot missed, but the second hit Pike in the head and killed him. Seconds later, while on the same street, Bird fatally shot Jane Robinson in the neck and head with his shotgun at point-blank range after apparently calling her over.

After the killing of Jane Robinson, who was the last fatality in the shootings, witnesses described Bird as driving increasingly erratically down the street. 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 afterward, Bird drove into Eskdale valley, where he wounded Jackie Lewis in the neck with his rifle as she was out walking. At this point, his route had become clearer to police during their search for him. Next, Bird stopped alongside Fiona Moretta, who leaned into his passenger window, believing he was going to ask her for directions. Instead, he injured her in the chest with the rifle, then continued onward towards the village of Boot.

Arriving there, Bird briefly stopped at a business premises called Sims Travel and fired his rifle at nearby people, but missed. Continuing further into the village, he continued firing at random people and missing. Bird eventually fired his rifle at two men, hitting and severely wounding Nathan Jones in the face. This was shortly followed by a couple who had stopped their car to take a photo; Samantha Chrystie suffered severe wounds to the face from a rifle bullet. Chrystie's partner, Craig Ross, fled upon Bird's instruction and was then fired at, but escaped uninjured.

Shortly after firing at two cyclists, Bird crashed his taxi into several vehicles and a stone wall, damaging a tyre. Briefly continuing onward, he abandoned his car at a beauty spot, called Doctor Bridge, near Boot, when the damaged tyre deflated. A nearby family of four, who were unaware of the shootings, offered assistance to Bird, but were quickly turned down and advised to leave. He removed the rifle from his taxi and walked over a bridge leading into Oak How Woods. Bird was last seen alive at 12:30; shortly after 12:30, police confirmed that there had been 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, who was identified as Bird. At around 12:36, armed police officers and dog handlers arrived at the scene of Bird's abandoned taxi and began a search in and around the wooded area.

At 14:00, Deputy Chief Constable Stuart Hyde announced that Bird's body had been found in a wooded area, along with a rifle. Police confirmed shortly afterwards that members of the public who had 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 during his first session of Prime Minister's Questions, David Cameron confirmed 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, three of them critically, 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. The shootings were considered the worst mass-casualty shooting incident in the UK since the 1996 Dunblane school massacre, which left 18 people dead. A report later determined that Bird fired at least 47 rounds during the shootings (29 from his shotgun, 18 from his .22 rifle). Six live .22 rounds were also found on Bird's body, while an additional eight were found held inside the rifle. A search in Bird's home later recovered over 750 rounds of live .22 ammunition, 240 live shotgun shells, and a large amount of financial paperwork.

Over the next few hours, Bird's shooting of his brother and solicitor was announced. The police stated that the shootings took place along a 24 kilometres (15 mi) 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 school massacre and Hungerford shootings had led to increased firearms controls.

Cumbria Police
Cumbria Police

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ABOUT WHITEHAVEN
Whitehaven had been small harbour and fishing village from 13th century or earlier. Expansion began in mid-17th century with building of piers by Lowthers 1632-4 and 1679-81 and granting of market charter 1660. By the 1680s it had grown rapidly, expanding from village of c.30 households in early 17th century to a town of over 1,000 inhabitants by 1685, which more than doubled to 2,281 by 1696. Sir John Lowther had laid out grid of streets by 1680s, making Whitehaven the earliest planned new town in post-medieval Britain.

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