British police seek answers after shooting rampage

Baffled police were trying on Thursday to work out why a quiet taxi driver gunned down 12 people around England’s serene Lake District, as Britain debated how to prevent a repeat of its worst rampage for years.

Derrick Bird’s shooting spree on Wednesday through sleepy towns, villages and beautiful countryside in one of Britain’s top tourist spots stunned locals and the entire country, and left authorities grappling for answers.

While the 52-year-old, who was later found dead in the remote Eskdale valley after apparently turning one of his guns on himself, seemed to know some of his victims while others appeared to have been strangers, shot dead at random during a three-hour spree.

Eleven others were injured and seven of them remain in hospital.

Cumbrian police said more than 100 detectives were now piecing together Bird’s trail with evidence scattered across 30 different crime scenes.

“This is understandably a difficult and slow process and we would ask the public and the media to be patient whilst we carry out our thorough investigation to ascertain the facts around this tragic incident,” police said in a statement.

What sparked rampage?
Officers are trying to work out what turned the cab driver, described by friends and colleagues as a nice, quiet, normal man, into a mass killer.

Fellow taxi drivers in the coastal town of Whitehaven where Bird worked told Reuters he had been involved in a dispute with other cabbies the previous night.

Newspapers reported that after the row he had left saying: “There’s going to be a rampage tomorrow”. At least one of those killed was a taxi driver.

There have also been unconfirmed reports that a dispute over a family will might have pushed him over the edge. Lawyer Kevin Commons was one of the victims and media reports said Bird’s twin brother was also among the dead.

“We’ve had lots of speculation, rumour and innuendo about what occurred the night before,” Stuart Hyde, Deputy Chief Constable of Cumbrian Police, told BBC TV.

The rampage was Britain’s deadliest multiple shooting for 14 years since Thomas Hamilton walked into a school in Dunblane, Scotland and shot dead 15 children and their teacher.

It led to new laws which banned civilian ownership of handguns and meant other weapons required a certificate from the police in a bid to prevent any repeat.

Cumbrian Police said Bird, who used a shotgun and a .22 calibre rifle with a telescopic sight, had been licensed to own firearms for 20 years. There are now calls for an investigation into what checks had been carried out.

“Those questions should quite rightly be asked and we will be asking them ourselves as well,” Hyde said.

Local member of Parliament Jamie Reed said there also had to be a review of the existing gun laws. “Whether or not that results in the legislation being changed is a different question altogether,” he told Reuters.

Cumbria is one of the safest places in Britain, and the latest official figures show there were just four homicides in 2008/9. In 2006/7 there was none.

“I think everyone is still in shock,” said Gary Bound (37) who knew two of the victims and was taking his son into a hairdressers in Whitehaven when shots rang out. “I don’t think it has fully sunk in yet what has gone on,” he told Reuters. - Reuters



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