Sat, Jun 05, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Grudges may have ignited killing spree

SHOOTING RAMPAGE Derrick Bird held guns used in the killings legally and had no history of violence, and David Cameron ruled out a ‘knee-jerk’ rush to tighten gun laws

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

A taxi driver’s killing spree that left 12 dead and 11 injured in Cumbria, north west England, was fueled by a grudge that spiraled into “simply random killings,” police believe.

As detectives examine the financial and domestic pressures on Derrick Bird, 52, whose rampage on Wednesday left communities scarred and shattered, speculation centered on two feuds — one with his twin brother, David, whom he shot dead, and another with fellow cab drivers in the coastal town of Whitehaven.

It was also disclosed that Bird had legally held the shotgun and the .22 rifle he used in the killings, but government ministers ruled out what were described as “knee-jerk curbs” on gun laws.

Bird had a shotgun licence for 15 years and a firearms licence covering the rifle since 2007. Police said he had never been to prison — although he was convicted of a theft offense 20 years ago.

He had no history of mental health problems and there was no record of him being on medication.

The leading detective on the case, Chief Superintendent Ian Goulding, said police were looking at why certain individuals had been singled out.

“A key part of the ‘why’ in this inquiry is to try and establish why those killed were chosen. Because of a ... grudge or simply random killings,” Goulding said. “Our ­initial assessment shows we have a combination of both and I will not speculate further at this time.”

Bird may have taken his motive to the grave, he added.

Unconfirmed reports have suggested Bird was upset over a will drawn up by his terminally ill mother, Mary, 90. But as police searched for a motive, the devastated daughters of Bird’s twin — believed to have been his first victim — denied a family rift.

In a statement, David Bird’s children Rachel, 28, Tracey, 26, and Katie, 19, said: “We are utterly devastated about the death of our dad. He was the nicest man you could ever meet. He was a loving husband and doting dad and grandad. We would like to take this opportunity to say there was absolutely no family feud. Our dad’s only downfall was to try and help his brother.”

David Bird, who lived alone, was found dead at his house in Lamplugh.

Derrick Bird was also embroiled in a dispute with other taxi drivers, including Darren Rewcastle, whom he shot at point blank range, over touting at the Duke Street rank in Whitehaven where he worked.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and British Home Secretary Theresa May are to visit west Cumbria today, with the government promising that Cumbria police would be provided with additional funding for their investigation if necessary.

Both warned against a rush to further tighten the gun control laws in the aftermath of the shootings. “You can’t legislate to stop a switch flicking in someone’s head and for this dreadful sort of action to take place,” Cameron said. May, however, promised that once “all the facts are known” all the options for gun law reform would be considered.

Seven of the 11 injured in the shooting spree remained in hospital yesterday. Two were in a serious but stable condition. Surgeons treating them revealed five had been shot in the face.

About 100 detectives are working on the case, described by Cumbria’s chief constable, Craig Mackey, as “the most horrific incident I’ve seen in 25 years of policing.”

It also emerged that Bird was due to have an appointment with Kevin Commons, the family solicitor whom he killed, sometime on Wednesday, though it remained unclear what it was about.

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