Cumbria Constabulary face a number of questions over their handling of the Cumbria shootings, in which maniac Derrick Bird killed 12 people and injured 25.

Taxi driver Bird travelled on his 45-mile murderous journey along Cumbria's mountainous countryside in his taxi with two guns, a .22 rifle and a shotgun.

It's emerged that only as Bird's bloody journey came to an end did cops finally close in on Bird when they decided to drop in marksmen from a helicopter to set up an ambush at treacherous Hardknott Pass, the UK's steepest mountain road, 1,300 feet above sea level and two miles east of the village of Boot.

Bird did not reach the pass. His car hit a rock, bursting a tyre and forcing him off the road into woodland near Boot, where he chose to end his life by shooting himself.

An eyewitness has also come forward to say that cops chasing Bird managed to get within just 5 yards of Bird but he managed to give them the slip.

Labourer Billy Robinson, 28, says that three cop cars chased Bird through the village of St Bees, three miles south of Whitehaven, when Bird turned left at a junction. But the three police cars instead went straight on, despite Billy and his workmates pointing out to the police as they came past which direction Bird went.

It is still not known why Bird went on his murder spree, but it's likely to be over an argument he had with his twin brother David over his mother's will.

Police are working on a theory that the massacre was triggered by Bird's belief that his solicitor Kevin Commons had drawn up his mother's will favouring Bird's twin brother David and Bird needed a cash legacy to pay off tax demands - Bird never paid tax in 14 years as a taxi driver and he owed the taxman £60,000.

David and Kevin were Bird's first two victims. After that, even though one of his victims, Darren Rewcastle, was a friend and fellow taxi driver, his victims may have been picked off at random.

And two friends of Bird said they spoke to him just the night before he went on his killing spree.

Bird knocked on the door of his neighbours, Neil Jacques, 52, and his wife Carol, 10 doors down from Bird's home, at 8pm on Tuesday night suffering depression.

Yesterday Neil and Carol, also 52, revealed how Bird was due to meet Mr Commons and an accountant that afternoon to discuss his £60,000 tax debt. And, they said, the 3pm meeting had been set up on Bird's behalf by twin David, who ended up slaughtered as he slept, hours before the meeting was supposed to happen.

Last night bewildered car mechanic Neil said: "He just wasn't himself at all. He was bothered to bits about getting locked up. I tried to persuade him that at the meeting they were trying to help him. I tried to persuade him it wouldn't happen."

He sat on their sofa for 5 hours saying over and over how he feared going to jail for tax evasion.

Police have now released the names of all of Bird's victims and the order in which they were killed.

Bird's first victim was his twin brother David, who was shot in his bed at approximately 5.00am at his home at High Trees Farm in Lamplugh.

Bird's next victim was his solicitor Kevin Commons, who was shot dead at about 10.20am on the driveway of his farm home at Frizington, two miles from where David lived.

Bird then drove to Whitehaven where, at 10.32am, he shot dead his friend and fellow taxi driver Darren Rewcastle at the Duke Street taxi rank.

Between 10.55am and 11.02am Bird drove through the villages of Egremont and Wilton. At Egremont, Bird shot dead former soldier and UN Peacekeeper Kenneth Fishburn, 71, on a bridge and Susan Hughes, 57, who was coming back from a shopping trip. In Wilton, he shot dead elderly couple James Jackson, 67, a retired Inland Revenue officer, and his wife Jennifer, 68.

A few minutes later, mole-catcher Isaac Dixon, 65, was shot dead in a remote area near the village of Carleton.

At 11.20am, farmer and rugby league player Garry Purdham, 31, was gunned down by the side of the road near Gosforth as he trimmed hedges.

At about 11.30am, Bird arrived in Seascale where he murdered his last three victims. Michael Pike, 64, was killed whilst he was having his daily bicycle ride, 66-year-old charity worker Jane Robinson was killed a few yards down the road seconds later as she delivered catalogues and then James Clarke, 23, the youngest victim, was shot as he drove his car. It is not known whether he was killed by his gunshot wound to the chest or by the car crash.

Being a rural, sparsely populated county, Cumbria Constabulary is one of the UK's smallest police forces, despite Cumbria's vast land area.

Thanks to Britain's strict gun laws, gun massacres such as this are extremely rare in Britain. Before Wednesday's shooting, the last gun massacre occurred in the Scottish village of Dunblane in 1996 when Thomas Hamilton shot dead 16 children and their teacher at their primary school.

Helicopter ambush... but it was all too late: Police planned armed showdown at Hardknott Pass – but in the end flat tyre halted killer Bird

By Nick Craven (external - login to view)
6th June 2010
Daily Mail

The Cumbria county police force claimed it scrambled 42 of its 97 armed officers as the tragedy unfolded

The full details of how police set up an elaborate ambush on a remote mountain pass in an attempt to trap Cumbria killer Derrick Bird were revealed yesterday.

It came as the county force, one of Britain’s smallest, faced a number of questions over their handling of Bird’s 45-mile murderous trek, with witnesses claiming that, in one case, officers had only reached the scene of an injured woman nearly an hour after she had been shot.

The force has already said that it will refer its conduct to watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which will investigate.

Police have claimed that the force had scrambled 42 of its 97 armed officers as the tragedy unfolded.

Darren Rewcastle with his newborn son Kori in 1998. Darren, a friend of Bird's and a fellow taxi driver, was Bird's third victim, shot at Whitehaven's Duke Street taxi rank

However, they have repeatedly refused to disclose in detail how many officers were dispatched or at what time they reached the crime scenes – in contrast to other emergency services.

Only as the drama drew to a close did police close in on their quarry. Marksmen, believed to have been dropped in by helicopter, set up an ambush for Bird, lying in wait at Hardknott Pass, nearly 1,300ft above sea level and two miles east of Boot, as he drove down the only road into the village.

Their plan appears to have been to cut him off if he tried to negotiate the sole escape route from the village, a steep winding mountain road over the Cumbrian Fells which leads to the packed Lakeland tourist resorts of Ambleside and Windermere, where the carnage could have been even greater.

Other officers were pursuing Bird by car down the Eskdale Valley into Boot.


Derrick Bird spent the night before the violent massacre watching a violent film at his best friend's house.

Bird was at neighbour Neil Jacques' home at Rowrah for nearly six hours. He drank coffee all night with Mr Jacques and watched the Steven Seagal film On Deadly Ground - in which the hero saves a small Alaskan town by gunning down men who have wronged him.

Mr Jacques said: 'He had something on his mind - that he was going to go to jail over tax evasion. At the end of the film I said I would ring him tomorrow.

'The last thing he said to me was "Do you think I am paranoid?" I said '"You are. You are not going to jail for something like that."'

Treacherous Hardknott Pass is the steepest mountain road in the UK, with a gradient in places of 1-in-3 and tight hairpin bends reminiscent of the Swiss Alps.

In the event, Bird did not reach the pass. His car hit a rock, bursting a tyre and forcing him off the road into woodland near Boot, where he chose to end his life.

It has also come to light that police called Bird’s mobile phone and his cab radio in an attempt to halt his killing spree, and that Bird left no suicide note or hit-list of victims.

Mountainous: Hardknott Pass

Deputy Chief Constable Stuart Hyde said yesterday: ‘There was no letter to anyone stating his intentions, in any form that could normally be considered as a suicide note at all.

‘The operation to piece together the jigsaw of what prompted Mr Bird to turn from a cab driver to a killer is going to take a long time to complete.

A Cumbria murder victim lies on the pavement in Egremont. Murders by firearms are extremely rare in Britain, a country with the world's strictest gun laws. In the whole of 2009, there were 39 firearm murders in the UK - compared to 35 per day in the United States

Thanks to Britain's gun laws, which are one of the strictest in the world, gun crime is extremely rare in Britain. In 2009, 39 people were murdered by firearms in Britain - compared to 35 a DAY in the United States. Before Wednesday's incident, the last gun massacre in the UK occurred in the Scottish town of Dunblane in 1996, and the last one before that occurred in the Cambridgeshire town of Hungerford in 1987. In the UK, forms to apply to own a gun can only be picked up in police stations. Strict checks are performed on the person wanting to own a firearm: a positive verification of identity, two referees of verifiable good character who have known the applicant for at least two years (and who may themselves be interviewed and/or investigated as part of the certification), approval of the application by the applicant's own family doctor, an inspection of the premises and cabinet where guns will be kept and a face-to-face interview by a Firearms Enquiry Officer (FEO) also known as a Firearms Liaison Officer (FLO). A thorough background check of the applicant is then made by Special Branch on behalf of the firearms licensing department. Only when all these stages have been satisfactorily completed will a licence be issued. Any person who has spent more than three years in prison is automatically banned for life from obtaining a gun licence. Similarly, persons applying for licences with recent, serious mental health issues will also be refused a certificate. Any person holding a gun licence must comply with strict conditions regarding such things as safe storage. These storage arrangements are checked by the police before a licence is first granted, and on every renewal of the licence. The penalty for possession of a prohibited firearm without a certificate is a maximum of ten years in prison AND an uncapped fine. A firearm certificate may be granted to any person aged between 14 and 18 years of age, but they may not themselves purchase any guns or ammunition. No person under 14 may be granted a firearm certificate, or use firearms other than on an approved range or shooting gallery, such as at a fairground (where the maximum calibre allowed is .23 inch). In March 2009, there were just 1,366,082 shotguns registered on police-issued certificates in the whole of the UK for a population of 62 million people.

‘It may be that we never know the full reasons why he did this, or exactly what was in his mind at the time he started shooting.

‘Clearly the killing of solicitor Kevin Commons was, or appears to have been, planned.’

But he added that he could not conclude that there had been a family feud, despite reports Bird and his brother had fallen out over the wills of his deceased father, Joseph, and his mother Mary, who is dying of cancer.


Officers have taken away Bird’s computer and confirmed the state of his tax affairs were forming part of their investigation.

Police have seized documents thought to relate to an ongoing investigation by the taxman into his finances.

Bird’s mayhem began in the early hours of Wednesday at the home of his twin brother David, in Lamplugh, where it is believed he was shot in bed at the farm where he lived alone.

Bird was then seen at 5.30am in Frizington, two miles away, in the driveway of the farm belonging to his solicitor Kevin Commons, who also lived alone. But it wasn’t until 10.20am that the sound of gunfire was reported and Mr Commons was found dead outside his home.

Bird then moved into Whitehaven, where at 10.32am, he shot dead fellow taxi driver Darren Rewcastle. Residents in the town said armed police were on the scene quickly in Whitehaven and people were advised to stay indoors.

Between 10.55am and 11.02am, Bird drove through Egremont and Wilton, killing former soldier Kenneth Fishburn, 71, and Susan Hughes, 57. He also shot retired Inland Revenue officer James Jackson, 67, and his wife Jennifer, 68.

One resident in Wilton said: ‘It was around 20 minutes after the shootings before the police car arrived in the village. I don’t know what else the police could have done as the guy was in a car and driving around the back roads. It must have been very confusing.’

Rampage: Derrick Bird killed 12 people on his shooting spree through Cumbria

Another woman in Wilton said: ‘I don’t want to criticise the police but one thing that did upset us was that the couple’s bodies stayed where they were until 10.30pm.’

Part-time mole catcher Isaac Dixon, 65, was shot dead in a remote area near Carleton, a few minutes later, and at 11.20am, farmer and rugby league player Garry Purdham, 31, was gunned down by the side of the road near Gosforth.

By 11.29am, Bird had moved on to the seaside resort of Seascale, where he killed former Sellafield trade union official Michael Pike, 64 who was riding his bicycle.

Seconds later, he blasted 66-year-old charity worker Jane Robinson a few yards down the road, and his final fatal victim was estate agent Jamie Clark, 23 – shot in his car.

Locals said it was around 15 to 20 minutes before armed police – from the Civil Nuclear Force at nearby Sellafield – arrived on the scene.

Guest house owner Harry Berger was also shot in the shoulder. But it wasn’t until an hour after the shootings that an air ambulance arrived. Cumbria Police had called in assistance from neighbouring forces as well as the officers at Sellafield.

Shortly after 11.30am in the village of Drigg, near Seascale, pensioner Jacqui Lewis was shot in the head. It took nearly an hour for police to arrive on the scene.

Two window cleaners attempted to give her first aid while speaking to the ambulance service on a mobile phone for advice.

A farm worker who witnessed the scene, said: ‘It was a bloody disgrace that we didn’t see a police car here for nearly an hour after the shooting. Everyone was calling 999, and Bird had clearly moved on elsewhere, but no one came.

‘In the end, she was taken to hospital in a police car rather than an ambulance.’ Mrs Lewis was yesterday in a stable condition in hospital in Newcastle.

After passing through Drigg, Bird set off on the largely single track road through Eskdale, ending up in Boot, where he shot teacher Samantha Christie in the face.

A post mortem will see if Bird was drunk or on drugs.

He sat on our sofa for 5 hours before he left to kill: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2010/06/06/he-sat-on-our-sofa-for-5hrs-left-to-kill-115875-22313528/ (external - login to view)

"I'll be home for my dinner, man." Darren Rewcastle's last words to his mother: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2010/06/06/i-ll-be-home-for-my-dinner-mam-115875-22313529/ (external - login to view)

‘Have a nice day’ – Bird’s taunt as he shot woman in the face

By Amanda Perthen and Ross Slater
Daily Mirror

Derrick Bird taunted one of his victims with the words ‘Have a nice day’ as he shot her in the face.

School teacher Samantha Christie was taking a photo on a country lane in Boot when the gunman opened fire and was only spared death because the camera took most of the impact.

Samantha and her boyfriend Craig, both in their 20s, were on a week-long holiday in the Lake District and were staying at the nearby Fisherground Campsite.

Bird, by now 90 minutes into his killing spree, drew up alongside them in his car and shot Samantha in the mouth at point-blank range.

Campsite owner Mick Parkin, 49, said: ‘Craig said that it was only the fact that Samantha was holding a camera that had saved her life.

‘The only thing Samantha remembers about the incident is Bird saying to her, “Have a nice day” as he shot her in the mouth.

‘It was just like something out of The Terminator.’

Scenes of horror: Police were called in to stand guard over bodies at the shooting sites, like this one in Gosforth

As Bird drove off, Craig desperately tried to find help for his girlfriend and ended up at Brook House pub, a few hundred yards down the road.

Landlady Christine Thornley said: ‘No one warned us that Bird had headed this way.

‘We knew there was a shooting incident in Whitehaven, which is a 45-minute drive away, but for some reason the police had phoned the other two pubs in the village and forgotten about us.

‘It was such a lovely day that our staff were laying the tables outside at the front for the lunchtime custom when Bird would have driven past. He would have been a couple of feet away from them.

‘The first we knew was when someone came running into the pub asking if anyone could do first aid as someone had been hit by a passing car. We assumed that someone had been clipped by a car as it drove down the lane but then Samantha was driven into our car park with these horrific facial wounds.

‘I really thought she was going to bleed to death in our lobby. My son was trying his best to deal with the flow of blood but she had been shot through the mouth and she seemed to be losing an awful lot.

‘Her poor boyfriend was in pieces. We had rung for an ambulance but after 20 minutes we rang again. They told us they were on stand-off, which either meant they did not want to be shot at or were too busy picking up other injured people.

‘After 45 minutes a policeman came to look at Samantha and rushed her to hospital in his car. Later we found out that she had lost some teeth, had a cut on her face and had undergone surgery to remove pellets from her mouth.’

Yesterday Samantha was recovering in Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary with her parents and New Zealand-born boyfriend at her bedside.

Eyewitness saw police lose Cumbria killer Derrick Bird

Exclusive by Gary Anderson, Alastair Self and Paul Henderson
Daily Mirror

Billy Robinson at the spot where Bird evaded the police

AN EYEWITNESS says three chasing police cars came within
FIVE YARDS of killer Derrick Bird as he rampaged through Cumbria.

But moments later the murderous taxi-driver gave them the slip.

The witness says he turned left at a junction while the police raced straight on, despite locals shouting and pointing which way hed gone.

Critically Bird had killed three people by then, and was to go on to take another nine lives.

Labourer Billy Robinson, 28, said: "It's terrible to think that if those officers had seen us shouting and waving those people might still be alive."

Mr Robinson's dramatic testimony will fuel demands for an inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. A golden opportunity to stop Bird could have been missed as he drove through the picturesque village of St Bees, three miles south of Whitehaven, where he had already killed his twin brother David,solicitor Kevin Commons and fellow cabbie Darren Rewcastle.

Yesterday, Mr Robinson said he and two co-workers watched in amazement as three marked cars lost Bird when he turned off the main road.

As the killer turned east towards Egremont, where minutes later he would shoot dead Susan Hughes and Kenneth Fishburn, the police continued south, possibly costing crucial time in ending the rampage.

It is not clear whether the police simply missed Bird turning left or whether they did not realise that they were right behind their quarry.

As the trail went cold desperate detectives tried to contact Bird on his phone and cab radio as he blasted another 16 bystanders before turning his gun on himself in a remote Lake District forest near Boot.

On Friday officers involved in the pursuit told Prime Minister David Cameron they only got within 30-60seconds of Bird as they chased him through the countryside. But the testimony of Mr Robinson, who says he is willing to pass his evidence on to any police inquiry, suggests they were much closer.

Mr Robinson, an agency worker from Whitehaven, recalled: Me and the other lads were taking a break at about 10.20am on Wednesday. We parked the van up on the main road and left Radio Cumbria on while we leaned against some railings and drank our Cokes.

Shortly after 10.35am we heard the first reports on the radio of shootings in Whitehaven and I checked the news on a website using my phone. There Billy saw the early reports warning of a gunman travelling in a silver Citroen Picasso with the registration number ND55 ZFC.

He said: "Three or four minutes later this silver car came up the main road towards us doing about 30mph. It slowed to let another car through where the road narrows and as it did we saw three marked police cars coming up the hill with blue lights flashing, but no sirens.

"They caught up with the Picasso and was just five metres away as the it pulled off again.

"As he drove past, I recognised Derrick Bird I live in Whitehaven and Ive been in that Picasso with him, probably a dozen times in the last two years.

"He looked totally calm as he drove past it was only as drove past us that I clocked the reg properly and realised it was him they were after.

"Bird carried on and sped up so he was maybe 50 yards ahead of the police as he turned left.

"As the police cars passed us, we were all yelling Thats him! He went that way! and pointing up the road. But they kept going straight ahead on the road heading south.

"I couldn't believe it I can only think they didn't spot the reg because they had just caught up with him for the first time or maybe they were led to believe he was further up the road."

About ten minutes later, possibly realising he was no longer being closely followed, Bird arrived at Egremont where he turned his guns in quick succession on former Sellafield worker Kenneth and Susan Fishburn. The Sunday Mirror spoke to a second witness, who wished to remain anonymous, but whose account supports Billys version of events.

He said: "I was 100 metres from the junction and saw Bird slow to let another car through. As he did the three police cars came past me, almost catching him up.

"They were probably about 50 metres behind him when he made his turn, but I'm sure they should have been able to see car. I was shocked when they went straight on at the junction."

Deputy Chief Constable Stuart Hyde yesterday told how officers tried to contact Bird, but hell-bent on continuing his slaughter, he had ignored them.

During his 45 miles of carnage through the Cumbrian countryside a posse of armed officers also tried to head Bird off at Hardknott Pass, but he dodged them and went on to increase his toll of victims.

"There were armed officers at the far end of the pass," said Mr Hyde.

Police then lost touch with Bird who abandoned his taxi and fled down a single track road into woodland where he shot himself. By then 13 people, including the killer himself, were dead and another 25 injured.

Police are working on a theory that the massacre was triggered by Birds belief that Kevin Commons had drawn up his mothers will favouring his brother David and he needed a cash legacy to pay off tax demands.

Others, including a mother shopping and an estate agent, were shot at random.

The police chief disclosed that another shotgun and ammunition were found in Bird's tiny terraced house but denied claims that the killer was stockpiling weapons and ammo. No suicide note has been found, but officers are still sifting through documents.

Mr Hyde said: "We have a lot more information that is helping us to understand the what, and we are using that to understand the why... why he turned from taxi driver into killer.

"We are trying piece together what happened before the shootings to discover what made him carry them out."

When the Sunday Mirror put Mr Robinson's claims to police, Mr Hyde said yesterday: "That is certainly something I'm not aware of. Definitely not. We can look at that."

Last edited by Blackleaf; Jun 6th, 2010 at 11:52 AM..