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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

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Bird legally owned guns he used to kill

DERRICK Bird legally owned the two guns he used to wreak carnage in West Cumbria, the inquest heard.

Shortly after the hearing began, the jury and relatives who had attended were shown a video presentation about the two weapons – a sawn-off double-barrelled shotgun and a .22 rifle.

Forensic scientist Martin Parker gave a chilling illustration of the deadly potential of the two guns.

He explained how the shotgun – described as an “old English farmer’s gun” – had been sawn off to reduce the barrel’s length to 16 inches.

The rifle – equipped with a silencer and a telescopic sight – was capable of firing 10 bullets from each magazine.

There was also evidence from Alison Jackson, the senior firearms licensing officer with Cumbria police.

She confirmed Bird had complied with all the necessary regulations and there had been no reason for the authorities to be concerned about his fitness to hold the necessary licences he had.

Asked by the coroner, Mr David Roberts, whether medical checks are done on individuals who apply for firearms licences, Mrs Jackson said: “The application form requires a medical declaration.”

She said this included a requirement to state whether or not there had been any mental illness or incapacity.

She confirmed this system of self-declaration was standard throughout the UK.

The rules of gun ownership meant Bird was allowed to have up to 1,500 rounds of .22 ammunition. There was no limit on the number of shotgun cartridges a licence holder could have.

Earlier in the hearing, the jury was told officers who searched Bird’s home after the shootings found he had stored there 750 rounds of .22 ammunition – well within the legal limit. He also had 240 live shotgun cartridges.

There was evidence the taxi driver had a long-standing interest in shooting.

As the inquest got under way, Mr Roberts spoke of the impact of the shootings.

The coroner also hinted he may, at the end of the hearing, submit a report on lessons that might be learned to help prevent a repeat of the tragedy.

There was also evidence of the massive police response to the shootings as the tragedy unfolded. On the day itself, 140 officers worked on the investigation, as did 29 scenes of crimes officers, while the victims and their families were supported by 44 police family liaison officers.

The huge investigation involved gathering information from around 2,000 people and taking statements from more than 1,330 witnesses.

As the hearing continues, there are likely to be accounts of how some officers and members of the public made courageous attempts to stop the gunman as he drove from street to street, firing at victims.

They included PCs Leesa Edwards and James Fitch, who were both unarmed and yet attempted to follow Bird in their police van as the killer fled from Whitehaven; and PCs Philip Lewis and Andrew Laverock, who tried to pursue Bird near Seascale.

Another officer, PC Mick Taylor, got in to a car driven by civilian Paul Goodwin to follow Bird on the outskirts of Whitehaven. They had to abandon the pursuit to give first aid to a victim.

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