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Sunday, 26 October 2014

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Cumbria shooting: Police confirm 'number of fatalities'

At least 10 people are believed to have been killed by a gunman in west Cumbria this morning.

News & Star special edition

A gunman shot at least 10 people dead and injured many more in a series of shootings in Cumbria today. More shots have been heard this afternoon in Boot, Eskdale.

A massive police operation was underway to catch on-the-loose murder suspect Derrick Bird, 52, after shots were fired in Whitehaven, Seascale and Egremont this morning.

Bird, understood to be a taxi driver from Rowrah, near Frizington, was named as armed officers searched a large part of Cumbria for him.

People were urged to dial 999 immediately if they spotted him and warned not to approach him.

At a media briefing in Duke Street this afternoon, Deputy Chief Constable Stuart Hyde described the incident as a ‘shooting spree.’

Police had yet to confirm reports about the number of deaths and casualties – described as “a number” by Cumbria Constabulary this afternoon.

But police sources told the News & Star that the number of dead could be about 10.

Eyewitnesses reported terrifying scenes across Copeland.

One person described how he found a man in Egremont, crawling towards his front door bleeding from his face and neck.

Another eyewitness said three men were shot as they stood next to a taxi rank in Duke Street, Whitehaven, shortly before 10.40am.

One casualty was said to have died at the scene. Two others were taken to hospital.

In another chilling account, a man described how a gunman pulled up alongside him at traffic lights near Whitehaven police station.

Michael Peugh, a taxi driver from Whitehaven, said three of his fellow drivers have been shot.

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Mr Peugh, who has been a self employed taxi driver in Whitehaven for 15 years, said he has known Bird throughout this time.

He said: "Thankfully I am not out on the road today. My son is also a taxi driver in Whitehaven and he is locked up in his home with his family.

“We can't believe this and given the number of drivers shot we can only assume he has been targeting taxis.

“I am totally shocked."

He said Derrick was known locally as ‘Birdy’.

“I knew him to have a chat with,” he said. "He lived on his own. I didn't think he was a bad man, I would never have thought he was capable of something like this.”

A body, covered by a coat, was visible outside a hairdresser and Upper Crust cafe in Duke Street at lunchtime.

After the gunman fled Whitehaven, he is believed to have shot a farmer in a field near the Red Admiral hotel in Gosforth.

A witness told the News & Star he heard two shots at around 11.30 am.

“The driver of a skip wagon came running towards me saying someone has been shot in the head,” he said.

“The skip driver called police. [The farmer] was lying in the gateway of the field. Ten minutes later a helicopter flew over and police came and told us to stay in our homes.”

The road was blocked off and the body was thought to have been removed shortly afterwards.

One businessman, who did not wish to be named, said one of his Whitehaven customers came face to face with the man and the barrel of his gun.

He said: “He told me he was in the town centre and had to dive into a shop doorway to get out of the way.”

A taxi driver and his passenger were also injured on Coach Road, Whitehaven. The extent of their injuries was not known.

Deborah Cunningham, director of White Line Taxis, who the injured driver worked for, said: “We don't know if he has been shot. The first thing we knew the police came over his radio and said he had been injured and his passenger had too.

“We are all waiting anxiously for more information.”

Police released Bird’s name and picture as the search for him continued.

A statement said: “Fifty-two year old Derrick Bird, of Rowrah, near Frizington, is believed to be driving a dark grey or silver Citroen Picasso - registration ND55 ZFC - involved in shooting incidents in Whitehaven, Egremont and Seascale areas.

“Police are asking if members of the public see Derrick Bird, or his vehicle to contact them immediately on 999. Do not approach him.

“He was last seen heading south in the Central Lakes direction. He may have abandoned the car and be proceeding on foot.

“Armed police are currently working to apprehend him and advising members of the public in West and Central Lakes areas to go indoors and stay there until further notice.

“We can confirm that a number of people have been injured after shots were fired in the Whitehaven, Seascale and Egremont areas this morning.

“There are a number of fatalities and police are working to identify the individuals and inform relatives. Ambulance crews are in attendance across the area.

“A police search was launched at 10.35am after shots were fired in Duke Street in Whitehaven.

“The search has now extended to the Ambleside, Coniston and central lakes areas so police are urging all members of the public in these areas and across the West Lakes area from Whitehaven to Ravenglass to go indoors and stay there until further notice.”

Bird was said to have abandoned his car in Boot, Eskdale, and was believed to be travelling on foot.

Police pursuing him urged people there to stay indoors and asked walkers and tourists in the area to be vigilant.

Cumbria’s most senior detective described the incident as a “fast-moving situation”.

Businesses across Cumbria were closed as the hunt for him continued – with the Sellafield nuclear plant closing its gates.

Detective Chief Superintendent Iain Goulding said: “We’re trying to get the message out. This is an active situation. People should stay in their homes and not go out on the streets.”

In Whitehaven’s Duke Street, there were three abandoned taxis with England flags flying.

Ten police officers stood in the street, which was cordoned off around the taxi rank. The town centre was deserted and business owners said they had been told by police not to speak to the media.

Those who did said they had been contacted by social services and told to stay indoors.

As the scale of the horror emerged, people spoke of accounts of the shootings and sightings of Bird.

Alan Hannah, 68, of Great Broughton, described how a gunman drive up alongside him in Whitehaven town centre and told of how he heard a loud bang as he pulled up Church Street, turning into Duke Street.

He said: “As I turned right I saw people standing around the taxi rank looking stunned.

“As I turned past the police station I saw all these officers running out and realised something was major going on so I moved over to the right-hand lane.

“Then a car pulled up on the left, stopping at the lights. I saw a man with a large shot gun and his windscreen was smashed.

“I drove through the red light to get into Lowther Street and get out of the way.”

Another eyewitness said: “I can’t stop seeing the that gun or thinking about what could have happened if he’d looked at me when I looked at him.”

People across the western and central Lakes – from Millom up the Cumbrian coast – were warned to stay indoors until the suspect had been arrested from mid-morning.

And at 12.15pm that appeal was extended to Ambleside, Coniston and Hawkshead as the search for the suspect continued.

Armed police were immediately deployed following reports of the shootings.

There was a surge of police activity across west Cumbria.

Police vehicles were spotted in Frizington in their number just after 11.20am.

In Whitehaven’s John Paul Jones pub in Duke Street, staff said they had not seen anything but were told their had “definitely been a shooting.”

The pub was closed as the police operation continued.

Coach Road and Duke Street were cordoned-off with cars abandoned in the streets.

In Egremont, the crossing at Bridge End was cordoned off.

The operation to capture the suspect is even thought to have extended into north Cumbria, with officers stationed at the Thursby roundabout, west of Carlisle, monitoring traffic.

As details of the tragedies began to emerge, a Cumbria police spokeswoman said: “Police can confirm that a number of people have been injured after shots were fired in the Whitehaven, Seascale and Egremont areas this morning.

“Ambulance crews are in attendance across the area.

“Armed police are in attendance and working to apprehend a man. Police are asking if members of the public see the vehicle to contact them immediately on 999.”

Access to the Sellafield nuclear complex was closed as the hunt for the gunman continued.

A spokesman said: “Following an off-site incident this morning, which is not connected to the Sellafield site, we have as a precaution closed all our site access gates.

“Our current priority is the welfare of our employees and until we have further understanding of what is happening the gates will remain closed.

“We are coordinating our approach to shift changeover and will communicate through local radio and our website – sellafieldsites.com

“Our current actions are not expected to impact on site operations.”

Updates to follow

Have you any information, photos or video of the incidents? Call our newsroom on 01228 612677

Have your say

I among others find the latest news regarding Bird shooting at the police hard to believe, none of this was mentioned until the Police let people know they followed him and he got away. You messed up lads, end of story!

Posted by Sentient6 on 8 June 2010 at 22:51

Why didn't the police close the A595 at Calderbridge

Posted by anon on 6 June 2010 at 22:43

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