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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

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Bird: ‘Can you win me money?’

A CLOSE friend of Derrick Bird was asked by the killer “Can you win me money on the horses?” just days before he shot 12 people dead and then himself.

P387750
KILLER: A family picture of Derrick Bird

Graeme Curnow, 38, told the inquests into their deaths that the “off-the-cuff” question came as he gave Bird a lift to Whitehaven to pick up his taxi on the Saturday before the June 2 shootings.

He mentioned his tax problems to him for the first time after the remark and then Mr Curnow became involved in the attempt to calm down Bird on June 1 over his fears of going to jail.

Mr Curnow said his friend was “very quiet” when he drove him to Whitehaven.

He said: “He knew I bet on horses and used to have greyhounds. He said ‘Can you win me money on the horses?’ It was an off-the-cuff question really.”

He said Bird then told him for the first time he had tax problems. He met him again on the May 31 Bank Holiday Monday when he went to a motocross race event with Bird’s best friend, Neil Jacques, and Bird’s son Graeme.

The latter pair were racing on the day but Bird was “very quiet”, did not take much interest in the action and spent most of the day sat in a deckchair, he said.

Mr Curnow called round to Mr Jacques’s home in Rowrah in the late afternoon of June 1 for a tyre repair on his motorbike.

Just seconds after he sat down in the house, Bird told him: “Curly (his nickname), I’m going down for a long time.”

He said: “That was his first statement to me, it was quite bold.

“I said was it about the thing he mentioned on the Saturday and he shook his head and went quiet.”

Mr Curnow said Bird then asked what was the difference between a barrister and a solicitor.

Mr Curnow said: “He said ‘Barristers have to be clear as clear. They have got to be clean as a professional.”

Mr Curnow said he thought he was referring to Bird having earlier sought advice from his brother, David, about his tax affairs and that he had recommended him to see solicitor Kevin Commons.

Mr Commons had replied to David that he could not help but could refer Bird to an accountant, he said.

Mr Curnow said it was his understanding Bird had met the accountant and had given him £500 to “keep his books in order”.

He said: “I don’t think the accountant was able to help him. He alluded on that night that they were trying to set him up.

“He came out of this meeting disillusioned and thought he was being set up by David, Kevin and the accountant.

“Following that meeting, Derrick had spoken to Kevin and my understanding is that he thought the accountant was trying to entrap him.’” During this stage of the conversation at the Jacques home, Mr Curnow said, Bird was thinking he was “going to prison the next day because he had made slanderous remarks against the accountant”.

A meeting had been set up at 3pm the next day with the accountant and the solicitor.

Bird was “mixed up and confused” at this point and may have thought Mr Commons was going to represent him over any slander accusations, he said.

Mr Curnow said: “I said: ’You are not going to get locked up’. They are there to help you. They are going to get your books in order.

“Derrick did not have a clear idea of why he was going to that meeting.

“I asked to see his tax form and he said ‘No’.

“I said ‘Shall we go and phone David?’ He said ‘No’.”

Mr Curnow said he thought he had got his message across to Bird before he left the house.

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