4 June 2010


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.


  1. And in lovely Cumbria too! My lovely Cumbria where I always feel safe and happy. Just terrible.
    I'm loving your family history posts, by the way.

  2. I used to be really left-wing when it came to gun law- anyone who carried one was a maniac, social misfit or Charlton Heston.

    However, there are much more responsible people in the world that do carry guns and some would argue, though not me, we now live in a world where it is imperative that 'every man and woman is for themselves' in every situation.

    And here in lies the problem- with no society there is no reponsibility for 'the other'- started in the 60s and ended in the 80s by Reagan/Thatcher- is it no coincidence that they both died/are dying through debilitating mental illness.

    Bird and Bird's victim have that to blame not the gun laws.

    You seem to contradict yourself slightly here, YP, with this and your Tony Martin post, if you don't mind me saying so...

  3. Ah YP, don't worry, we got it on the news here, right from the start, and every update from then on, hourly. Big news over here too. Shocking. Thank goodness it IS still shocking and not a regular occurrence.

  4. A horrible tragedy.Details have been filtering down and from what I've seen on the news Bird went amok because of his inheritence in his mother's Will.
    Its worrying because cases like this are not all that rare in France.It seems like once a month there's a case of someone running amok with a gun.
    Last week a Doctor killed his family and then took his life because he was worried about the future.
    Guns in society or society with guns its a frightening amalgam.

  5. I agree with you YP, I see no place for guns in society (except the few exceptions you mention). I have never believed in hunting for fun/sport, even when its supporters claim it's necessary - surely there is a better way to "supervise" wildlife which does not involve gaining pleasure from killing.
    Back to the nutter in question - if idiots like him had no guns, they would still go crazy, but there options for mayhem would be reduced, and presumably fewer people would die.

  6. Elizabeth11:58 am

    So terribly sad that such a thing happened in such a beautiful place. Whatever he perceived had gone wrong in his world, this man must have been in terrible mental anguish to carry out such an act.

    Outlawing fire arms for civilians altogether? A difficult one. As a farmer's daughter, I would have once said that wasn't necessary. I was taught to use an air gun almost as soon as I could walk and on occasion allowed the 'thrill' of pointing the 'big gun' at a rabbit. Having seen at first hand the devastation caused by two shootings - both fatal,one accidental, one deliberate and numerous incidents of farmers taking their own lives by their shotgun, added to which I still remember the fear across North Yorkshire when Barry Prudom was at large and can still hear with absolute clarity the police shot that killed him when he was eventually cornered in Malton tennis courts, I wouldn't feel confident to make any such assertion.There always will be scattered amongst the responsible those who are fragile, unstable, curious or just plain evil, be they uniformed or not.

  7. Occupiedcountry11:02 pm

    Everything will be fine YP, they're holding special services in Cumbria's churches this morning.. He don't 'alf move in mysterious ways don't he?

  8. Hi YP,

    Yes. It has affected us badly too. Wonderful place. I still intend to explore it some time. I've just written about it too. I haven't made my mind up about the guns issue. You could argue that cars create even more havoc. I think, in a way, I'd rather ban cars.

  9. HADRIANA Hail daughter of Hadrian!...Doh! If they banned cars nobody would visit your B&B! But point taken - there are so many unnecessary deaths on roads all over the world. It is often said that during "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland people had much more chance of dying on the roads than by politically inspired "terrorist" atrocities.

  10. DAPHNE It will still be lovely - when it's not raining! But Bird has left behind an aura of tragedy that will remain for years. Glad you've appreciated my family pieces. Thanks.
    SEAMUS O'BOOTH Fascinating take on the issue. Regarding Tony Martin, yes, if you follow my argument through and if events were repeated, he wouldn't have a gun to bring downstairs when he heard the thieving scumbags in his home. But that was then. This is now. He'd have to drive them away with a pair of vicious Rottweilers called Angela and Weston.
    KATHERINE I always feel that the coverage such atrocities receive will actually stir evil plans in the minds of a handful of other deranged egotists. There's a copycat element to such events.
    JEAN What can we say? All I know for sure is that we haven't seen the last of these terrible rampages. It's just a question of time before the next one - in North America, Finland, China, France - who knows where the madness will strike next?
    BRIAN Exactly! A man after my own heart. Deny these freaks the means to perform their deadly acts.
    ELIZABETH Clearly the gun question is one you have considered before. It seems to me that just to possess a gun gives a warped sense of power and occasional perhaps unspoken fantasies of death scenes. I don't have one and in this country I currently don't know anybody who owns one. We don't want them and we don't need them.
    STEVE O'COUNTRY Such horrific events only go to reinforce my belief that there is no God but if that community finds a sense of togetherness and strength under the religious banner then that's okay with me.

  11. Elizabeth1:18 am

    I realise that read wrongly. After much reflection on the subject over many years,I agree that the argument for carrying a gun is very weak. As Brian said, even within the farming community there is a need to manage things in a different way - which it has to be said, is, albeit very slowly, happening.
    Incidentally, I don't think any minister or preacher worth his salt would have the arrogance to assume that 'everything will be fine' because services have been held this morning, but rather simply express community support and empathy in what have been very tragic and harrowing circumstances. x

  12. craig1:19 am

    I also agree with your sentiments yp, but the thing is the wrong people will always have access to guns no matter how hard the law is against honest people owning firearms.


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