Shocked friends say British killer was a 'normal bloke'

3rd June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Friends and neighbours of Derrick Bird, who killed 12 people on a shooting spree in northern England, have expressed shock that a "normal bloke" could wreak such devastation.

But there were reportedly some prior warnings of the killings, which media reports suggest could have been caused by a family feud or a row at work -- and which caused the normally conposed Bird to explode.

The 52-year-old taxi driver drove through the picturesque Lake District on Wednesday morning on 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.

Some 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.

Meanwhile The Sun quoted a fellow taxi driver as saying that Bird had been involved in a row with his colleagues on Tuesday night, hours before the killings, over the issue of queue-jumping in the taxi ranks.

"Afterwards Derrick shook all their hands and said, 'There's going to be a rampage tomorrow'," the unnamed colleague said.

Peter Ledder, a friend of Bird's going back 20 years, also told The Times that there had been some indication of what he was going to do.

In a conversation at midnight on Tuesday, Bird told him: "I won't see you again."

Local people expressed shock that the killer was the quiet divorcee who lived alone in the village of Rowrah, worked hard and enjoyed holidays abroad.

"Birdy", as he was known, had two grown-up sons, one of whom had recently had his first child. Some newspapers reported that Bird's father had left him his guns when he died years ago.

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.

© 2010 AFP

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