Shocked friends say British killer was a 'normal bloke'
Friends and neighbours of Derrick Bird, who killed 12 people on a shooting spree Wednesday in northern England, have expressed shock that a "normal bloke" could wreak such devastation.
But according to one friend, Bird may have planned his killings in advance.
The 52-year-old taxi driver drove through the picturesque Lake District picking off his victims with rifle and a shotgun, witnesses said, in a terrifying rampage that only ended when he turned the gun on himself.
Police do not yet know what motivated the attack. He had no history of mental illness, according to the local health authorities, but reports suggested a family rift over his mother's will could be to blame.
The Times newspaper reported that Bird's twin brother David was among his victims, as was the family's solicitor, Kevin J. Commons.
Peter Ledder, a friend of Bird's going back 20 years, told The Times that there had been some indication of what he was going to do.
In a conversation at midnight on Tuesday, less than 12 hours before he began his murderous attacks, Bird told him: "I won't see you again."
"He had never said anything like that before. I came into work in the morning and heard what was happening. He must have had it pre-planned," Ledder said.
Several local people expressed shock that the killer was the popular but quiet divorcee who lived alone in the village of Rowrah, who many just knew as "Birdy".
He had two grown-up sons, one of whom had recently had his first son.
Michelle Haigh, the landlady at The Hound Inn pub where Bird would regularly pop in for a drink, said: "He was just a normal bloke.
"He was a nice guy, nothing out of the ordinary. He would come into the pub, have a couple of pints, have a chat with his friend and go home. This is not in character with the Derrick Bird we know."
"I have known him for 15 years. He was always pleasant, always had time to say hello," added Ryan Dempsey, 26, a neighbour in Rowrah.
He added: "As far as I'm concerned this is completely out of character. I had never seen him in a bad mood."
Sue Matthews, who works at A2B Taxis in Whitehaven, where a number of the victims were killed, was similarly stunned by his actions.
"To be honest, he was a quiet fellow. I am in absolute shock," she said.
She described him as "fairly popular", although one taxi driver who asked not to give his name said an argument had broken out between Bird and some of his fellow drivers on Tuesday night.
"I don't know what caused it, but something must have happened last night. Derrick Bird took off in his car and went home," he said.
One of the dead was named locally as taxi driver Darren Rewcastle.
© 2010 AFP