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Thursday, 18 December 2014

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CCTV footage of Cumbria gunman Derrick Bird released

The first CCTV images of gunman Derrick Bird driving through west Cumbria on the day of his killing spree have been released.

The footage shows Bird’s Citroen Xsara Picasso driving into Frizington towards Kevin Commons’ at 5.14am on June 2 last year and leaving in the opposite direction, towards Rowrah, at 10.10am, minutes after he shot dead the solicitor.

It was made public after a collective application by members of the national press, the BBC and ITV for the release of evidence shown during the month-long hearing.

Evidence still to be released includes video of Bird driving around Whitehaven town centre, with passers by running for cover as he fires shots near the Duke Street taxi rank.

That footage, which shows Bird at the wheel of his car with what appears to be a gun pointing out of the window, was first shown at the inquest last week when details were given of the chronology of the shootings.

North and West Cumbria coroner David Roberts said the footage could be released once all evidence about the Whitehaven town centre incident had been heard.

Transcripts of 999 calls from Susan Rooney (full transcript here), who witnessed the shooting of Kevin Commons and Barbara Tingey (full transcript here), who saw Bird gun down fellow taxi driver Darren Rewcastle, have also been released.

The releases came after Guy Vassall-Adams, counsel for the media organisations involved in the submission, told Mr Roberts: "It's a major national news story. Reporting of this inquest is something the media wish to be able to do as fully and fairly as possible."

Accepting that the media had no fundamental right to the material, Mr Vassall-Adams argued that the principle of open justice - in which justice is done and seen to be done - should apply and called on the coroner to exercise his discretion and release the items in question.

He said the media would not want to publish images of victims' bodies but, referring to the other evidence, added: "The media has a vital role to play as a public watchdog. The public has a right to receive that information. Any restriction must be necessary and proper."

Fiona Barton, counsel for Cumbria Constabulary, said the force had no objection to the release of the CCTV footage of Bird in Whitehaven but would not want images released showing victims' bodies, either explicitly or under covers.

She added that the families of some victims had expressed objections to the release of further video and photo evidence to the media.

The distress to the families was already huge, she said, and added: "Publishing further information to the world would escalate it even more."

Agreeing to disclose some evidence to the wider public, Mr Roberts ruled that CCTV images showing victims would not be released and nor would footage from a private camera, which also showed part of the inside of a house.

Recordings of 999 calls would also not be released, he said, as the callers involved were victims in their own right who had “suffered great trauma”.

He added: “In taking the practical steps I have I’m ensuring the public have more than enough detail to help them understand the events of June 2 last year while at the same time protecting the emotions of those most centrally involved and the families in this case.”

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