Briton 'warned of rampage' before shooting 12 dead

3rd June 2010, Comments 0 comments

A taxi driver declared "there's going to be a rampage" hours before shooting 12 people dead in a killing spree in a top tourist area which shocked Britain, reports said Thursday.

Derrick Bird, 52, also wounded 11 people as he drove through the picturesque Lake District region of northwestern England on Wednesday, getting out to gun down residents or taking pot shots from the window of his car.

The balding cabbie had had a row with fellow taxi drivers, at least one of whom was shot dead, while a family dispute may also have triggered the massacre, according to reports which said he killed his twin brother.

Police confirmed that the family solicitor, Kevin Commons, was among the dead, reportedly murdered along with Bird's brother before the shooting of three cabbies at a taxi rank in the town of Whitehaven.

Other reports said Bird's former wife may also have been killed.

After the murderous three-hour spree, with armed police closing in on him, Bird took his own life in a wood near the village of Boot.

Officers recovered a shotgun and a .22 rifle fitted with a telescopic sight.

Britain's interior minister Theresa May told parliament the gunman had held a valid shotgun certificate since 1995 and obtained a firearms licence three years ago.

More than 100 detectives were working Thursday to retrace Bird's deadly journey through this rural area, to establish why a quiet man, described by neighbours as a "normal bloke", caused such devastation.

"We are not able to understand at this stage the real motivation behind it or establish whether this was a premeditated or a random attack," Deputy Chief Constable Stuart Hyde said Wednesday.

On Thursday he declined to comment on reports of what led up to the killing, telling the BBC: "We've had lots of speculation, innuendo and rumour what happened the night before."

He described it as "probably the blackest day in our community's history".

People who knew "Birdy", as the killer was widely known, described a man who lived alone but was quite popular. He was divorced, had two children and had recently become a grandfather.

However, reports suggested Bird might have planned the attacks the night before, when he got into an argument with other taxi drivers.

"Afterwards Derrick shook all their hands and said, 'There's going to be a rampage tomorrow'," one of his colleagues told The Sun newspaper.

The Times also reported an old friend of Bird's recalling that the killer had told him late Tuesday: "I won't see you again."

The newspaper speculated that the attacks were motivated by a feud over his mother's will.

Don Reed, a cabbie at the rank in Whitehaven, described how he was targeted by Bird, who had just called fellow taxi driver Darren Rewcastle over to his car and shot him dead.

"He then drove up by me, pointed (the gun) at me and I just took a dive and he went at me," Reed told the Liverpool Echo.

"He shot me in the back. I'm an ex-soldier so it all kicked in.

"I started crawling on my hands and knees. My head's a mess. I've had half a bottle of whisky tonight."

Bird then drove to the village of Egremont, where local resident Gary Toomey recounted how he found an injured man on his doorstep.

"I saw a car screeching off and a man saying 'help me'. He was bleeding heavily from the side of his face," Toomey told local media.

"He said he dived out of the way of the shot, and the man in the car pointed the gun down and shot him again in the back from about six feet (two metres) away as he lay on the floor."

Bird then headed into Seascale, where eyewitnesses said he took "pot shots" at people.

Among the reported victims there were Jane Robinson, an elderly woman killed as she delivered catalogues door-to-door, and 64-year-old Michael Pike, who was shot dead as he rode his bicycle.

The attacks were the worst in Britain since the shooting of 16 primary school children and their teacher in the Scottish town of Dunblane in 1996.

Tight controls on gun ownership were introduced in Britain after both the Dunblane massacre and a 1987 shooting in Hungerford, southern England, where 14 people died.

May, the Home Secretary, said the government would review the laws once the police had completed their investigation.

She told lawmakers: "Undoubtedly, yesterday's killings will prompt a debate on our country's gun laws. That is understandable, but it would be wrong to react before we know the full facts.

"Mass killings are fortunately extremely rare in our country, but that doesn't make it any less painful and it doesn't mean we shouldn't do everything we can to stop it happening again."

© 2010 AFP

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