I guess that some of my blog visitors from overseas will not yet have heard the name - Derrick Bird. In seven sunlit hours on Wednesday June 2nd, this unremarkable fifty two year old taxi driver guaranteed his place in English criminal history for all time. He shot dead twelve people and failed to kill a further twelve who all finished up in hospital. Then - though the full details are not yet out - he killed himself, leaving behind so many tears, so many broken hearts and so many questions.
It happened on the coast of Cumbria, England's most northwesterly county, in and around the sleepy little port of Whitehaven. It seems that Bird knew four of his victims, one of whom was his twin brother - in his mind he was no doubt out for revenge - but the other eight just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and he shot them down as if they were aliens in a space invaders game machine.
So I dedicate this post to his victims - good people who deserved to die of old age - not like this - the targets of a deranged and bitter man. So farewell to David Bird (52) the killer's twin brother and to Kevin Commons (60) his lawyer, Darren Rewcastle a fellow taxi driver, retired husband and wife James and Jennifer Jackson, Kenneth Fishburn (72) a former chef in the British army, Jamie Clark (23) a property lettings agent, Michael Pike (64) who was just out for a bike ride, Susan Hughes (57) who had devoted much of her adult life to selflessly supporting her disabled daughter, Gary Purdham (31) a farmer and former rugby league player, local mole catcher Isaac Dixon (65) and bird sanctuary worker Jane Robinson (66) who like Bird himself - was a twin.
Britain has some of the toughest gun laws in the world but they did not prevent this horror. This may seem controversial but in my book only police marksmen, military personnel on duty, rural vets, nominated abattoir workers and licensed pest control officers should be legally allowed to possess and use guns. This would not go down well with the hunting fraternity or some farmers but it would go a long way to reducing still further the possibility of future murderous rampages. That would arguably be a more suitable memorial to the Cumbrian dead than an inscribed stone with wilting flowers and plaintive notes blurred by tears or raindrops.