British cabbie who shot dead 12 was 'nicest man': sons

6th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

The sons of a cab driver who killed 12 people in a gun rampage across rural northwestern Britain described him as "the nicest man you could ever meet" Sunday, adding they were baffled by his crimes.

Derrick Bird, 52, killed his twin brother David and their family's lawyer plus 10 other people and also injured 11 Wednesday.

Most of the killings came as he drove around taking pot-shots at passers-by near the Lake District in the sleepy county of Cumbria.

In their first public comments on the tragedy, Bird's two sons Graeme, 28, and Jamie, 16, said their father was a "loving, cheerful" man whose death had left them "devastated".

"To us, he was the nicest man you could ever meet," they said in a statement read out to journalists by a local clergyman.

"We would like to say that we do not know why our dad committed these horrific crimes. We are both mortified by the sad events."

The brothers also sent their condolences to the families of those killed.

Police confirmed Saturday they were investigating Bird's tax affairs, although they said they were still unsure of a motive for the killings.

A friend of Bird, Mark Cooper, said the cabbie had told him: "'They have caught me with 60,000 pounds (90,000 dollars, 70,000 euros) in the bank, the tax people'." Cooper added: "He just said: 'I'll go to jail'."

Another friend, Neil Jacques, told the Sunday Telegraph he had spent the night before the killings with Bird.

"He had something on his mind -- that he was going to go to jail over tax evasion. I said he needed to talk to the solicitor (lawyer). He said he was going to see the solicitor the next day."

Jacques said the last thing Bird said to him was: "Do you think I'm paranoid?"

Reports suggested Bird had argued with his twin David -- who was found dead in the bedroom of his home -- over money and their mother's will.

But Bird's surviving brother Brian and his family stressed that they knew of no apparent motive for the "devastating" losses.

"We cannot offer any reason why Derrick took it upon himself to commit these crimes," they said in a statement.

A number of commemorative events were held in the area Sunday, including outdoor religious services in the towns of Whitehaven and Seascale, which were among those affected by the killings.

A message of condolence from Prince Charles was read out to about 1,000 people at a vigil in Whitehaven, in which the heir to the throne said he was "utterly horrified" at the shootings.

"We would be so grateful if you could somehow convey our deepest condolences and heartfelt sympathy to the poor families whose lives have been torn apart in such gravely tragic circumstances.... Our hearts go out to Cumbria," he said.

The clergyman who read out the family statements, Reverend Jim Marshall, told reporters afterwards that neither family members nor local people blamed Bird for what had happened.

"The family puts no blame on Derrick," he said.

"They knew Derrick for 52 years. There was a new Derrick for a few hours of last Wednesday and the two things were very separate in the minds and memories of the family."

© 2010 AFP

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