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Land of Hope and Glory
Cumbrian Gunman Kills 12
By Shane Clarke
London Correspondent
Cumbria is a county in north-west England. It is one of the most picturesque, beautiful areas of the country. The Lake District is there, the Beatrix Potter museum, quaint little towns, and some of the most breathtaking sights in the UK.

Yesterday, Wednesday 2nd June, things in Cumbria turn ugly; even horrific, as Derrick Bird, a 52-year-old taxi driver, went on a rampage with two guns, killing 12 people – including his own twin brother – and injuring 25 more, before turning the gun on himself. The killings were random, merciless, and apparently without any motive whatsoever.

He didn’t even fit the usual profile. Almost without exception, people who have committed such terrible acts as this have been described as quiet, odd, a loner, a little weird even. But Derrick Bird has been described by locals as a nice, affable man with a social disposition. Some described him as “popular” and “a laugh”.

He was divorced, with two children. He had recently become a grandfather. He was a normal, outgoing man, and yet yesterday he became a monster who went on the rampage and gunned down 12 people.

Peter Leder, a friend of Bird’s who was also a taxi driver at L&G Taxis in Whitehaven, told CNN, “he was an outgoing, well-known guy who everyone liked.” However, as Bird said goodbye to him on Tuesday night, Bird – also known as “Birdy” – said, “You won’t see me again.”

At the time, Mr Leder dismissed this comment. However, in hindsight, it could be inferred as a portent of the massacre to come.

It started at 10.35 in the morning, when Cumbria Police were called to a shooting in the town of Whitehaven. At that point, no one knew of the horror that was unfolding before them on that black day. All they knew was that shots had been fired, and the male perpetrator was driving a silver/grey Citreon Picasso car.

By 11.56, it emerged that someone had been shot dead in Whitehaven. Within 20 minutes, the true horror of what was taking place in these rural villages and towns in West Cumbria was becoming frighteningly clear. A number of people were injured in Whitehaven, Seascale and Egremont as shots were fired. Police asked residents of these towns, as well as Millom, Broughton, Central Lakes and West Lakes, to stay indoors and to tune in to local radio to keep up to date with the situation.

Another 20 minutes later, police announced they were looking to apprehend 52-year-old Derrick Bird, of Rowrah, near Frizington. They also confirmed that there had been “a number of fatalities.”

At 13.11, police reported that Bird had abandoned his car in the Boot area. Less than five minutes later it was reported that a farmer had been shot dead at point-blank range.

Armed police scoured West Cumbria, desperately searching for the taxi driver who was moving about the county, seemingly killing indiscriminately. The Landlord of the Boot Inn reported that about 25 people, including a number of “shell-shocked” tourists, were holed up in his pub.

At 14.10, police confirmed that they had found Derrick Bird’s body in the wood near Boot village, where he had apparently turned a gun on himself. Police also confirmed that a firearm had been recovered from the scene.

With the county in shock, details of the massacre began to emerge, the true horror of what took place in one of the UK’s most popular tourist destinations revealing itself. 12 people dead, and at least 25 injured.

Now it’s time to pick up the pieces, to start rebuilding, and ask questions, such as: Why did this apparently normal man suddenly turn into a cold-blooded killer? Why was he in possession of two licences to own the guns he used to murder a dozen people? Why has this been allowed to happen again?

This is the third such mindless massacre in the UK.

In 1987, Michael Ryan, an unemployed labourer, went on a murderous rampage in the town of Hungerford, Berkshire, in southern England. Armed with semi-automatic weapons and a handgun, he shot and killed 16 people, including his mother, and wounded 15 more before turning the gun on himself. Just like Derrick Bird, Ryan was licensed to own the weapons with which he wreaked such havoc.

Less than a decade later, in 1986, the worst mass murder in Britain in modern times took place. This one was made all the more tragic in that young children were involved.

Thomas Hamilton, an unemployed former shopkeeper and scout master, entered Dunblane Primary School, in the little town of Dunblane in Scotland, carrying two 9mm Browning HP Handguns, and two .357 Magnum revolvers. He had 743 cartridges, including hollow-point and full metal jacket. He entered the gymnasium where a class of 5 and 6 year olds were, and opened fire on them. By the end of his murderous rampage, he had fired his guns 109 times, and 16 children aged only 5 and 6 lay dead, along with a female teacher, and Hamilton himself as he turned his guns on himself. Tennis Player Andy Murray was a pupil at the school at the time of the massacre.

Following this latest outrage, many questions have arisen again, two of the most important being Why did this happen? And how can we prevent it happening again?

A helpline has been set up for anyone worried about relatives: 0044 800 0960095.



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Shane Clarke serves as London Correspondent for The Seoul Times. He has been involved in humanitarian work for numerous years. He’s also a freelance management consultant. Having completed an honors degree in Law at Wolverhampton University, he then moved on to an MBA at Warwick Business School. He’s heavily involved in the fight against international parental child abduction to Japan.

 

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