Published June 04, 2010
LONDON – LONDON (AP) — A taxi driver killed 10 victims in a single hour during a shooting rampage in rural England in which he murdered 12 people and wounded 11 others, police said Friday.
Craig Mackey, chief of police for the county of Cumbria, said Derrick Bird murdered his twin brother and a family lawyer "before departing on a 45-mile rampage across west Cumbria." He shot a fellow cabbie at a taxi stand and then drove through the countryside in his cab, blasting victims seemingly at random. Many were shot in the face.
Police said the 52-year-old, who committed suicide after the attacks, used his knowledge of the area's narrow country roads to elude police.
"Twelve innocent people — mother, fathers, partners and friends —were brutally murdered as they went about their daily lives," Mackey said. He said investigations had found that Bird killed 10 of his victims in about 60 minutes on Wednesday.
Prime Minister David Cameron visited the area — about 350 miles (560 kilometers) northwest of London — Friday, as police investigated the killer's financial affairs and family situation for clues to his rampage.
Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May met with survivors and staff at West Cumberland Hospital and law enforcement officials investigating Britain's worst mass shooting since 1996.
The British leader said he had heard "incredible tales of bravery" from the traumatized community and promised government support. But he cautioned that the full reasons for the massacre may never be known.
"There will be some parts of this that we will never understand. There were some random acts of killings and people who will have lost loved ones will ask why it happened to them," Cameron said.
A friend of Bird, Mark Cooper, said the cabbie had told him he was being investigated by tax authorities and feared going to jail.
"He said, 'They have caught me with 60,000 pounds ($88,000) in the bank, the tax people,'" Cooper said. "He just said, 'I'll go to jail.'"
Cumbria Police said Bird's financial situation was one "ongoing line of inquiry."
Mackey explained Friday how armed officers — including police guarding a nearby nuclear power plant — flooded the area after initial reports of the killing, but were unable to intercept the taxi driver.
"Our officers were on the scene within minutes but, due to Bird's knowledge of local roads, he had fled in his vehicle and was traveling south, firing shots along his way," Mackey said. The police chief said Bird "was firing shots out of his vehicle, moving from place to place."
"As far as we know, at no stage did any police officer have the chance to end this any sooner," Mackey said.
The dead include a farmer who was shot while trimming hedges in a field, a man on his bicycle, a retired couple and a woman carrying her shopping.
Police said Bird held licenses for both of the weapons — a shotgun and a .22-caliber rifle with a telescopic sight — that were recovered beside his body.
Cameron has cautioned against a "knee-jerk" decision to change Britain's already stringent gun laws.
Rules on gun ownership were tightened after two massacres in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1987, gun enthusiast Michael Ryan killed 16 people in the English town of Hungerford. In 1996, Thomas Hamilton killed 16 children and a teacher at a primary school in Dunblane, Scotland.
Associated Press Writer David Stringer contributed to this report