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Saturday, 23 August 2014

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Family of victim condemns Bird’s ‘mindless brutality’

THE family of a woman killed by gunman Derrick Bird have condemned the “sheer mindless brutality” of her death.

Cumbrian shootings photo
Susan Hughes

Mum-of-two Susan Hughes was killed by Bird during his rampage across west Cumbria on June 2 last year.

In a statement issued yesterday, her family said: “The sheer mindless brutality of Susan’s death is something that will never leave us.

“The fact Bird appears to have manhandled her during this horrendous attack only serves to increase the absolute contempt we feel towards him.

“One of the haunting memories of the day is the fact Susan’s body lay on the streets of Egremont for hours. This enabled photographs to be taken and appear on television, newspapers and internet – not the way you would want a loved one remembered.

“In contrast Derrick Bird not only chose to take his own life, but also the place where it would happen.

“Whether by accident or design, this location happened to be quiet and secluded; so not for him the indignity of prying lenses to record where he lay.

“To us it seems perverse in the extreme the man who caused such carnage and heartbreak should find such an idyllic place to end his days – something he denied his victims.”

Day eight of the shootings inquest heard from David Bell, who was travelling in his car with his wife and seven-year-old son when he saw Bird standing outside his taxi at Hagget End, Egremont, gripping onto Mrs Hughes with his arm around her neck and shoulder.

The family came across Bird’s taxi, its open door obstructing the road way, as they travelled towards Seascale.

Mr Bell, from Cleator Moor, said: “We passed slowly. As I looked to the left, I noticed a woman. There was a man on her right. He had his arm round her neck and shoulder. She was looking at me. She had her hands stretched out to me.

“At that split second I thought she was the taxi driver and she was helping this man to the door.

“It looked as if all his weight was on the lady, as if she was struggling to hold him up.”

Mr Bell’s wife, who was driving the car, pulled alongside the taxi as she passed it.

The inquest heard his son, sitting in the back seat, then said: “Dad are they acting? Because that man has a gun and the lady is on the floor.”
The boy later told his dad he saw “a big gun with telescopic sights”.

Mr Bell said he looked back but his view was obstructed by the car. Unaware there was something seriously wrong, he travelled on to Seascale health centre where he realised the magnitude of what he had seen.

Mrs Hughes was found lying on the pavement by passers-by, who described seeing Bird get back into his taxi and drive away. She died from gunshot wounds.

Her daughter Melinda said her mother was a caring and private woman who dedicated her life to her and her other daughter, Sarah, who is disabled.

Mrs Hughes, who lived in Egremont, had recently decided to reduce her hours as a care assistant from full-time to part-time to spend more time with Sarah.

Melinda said: “That’s why she was home that day.”

She added: “My mum never complained. She just took everything life gave her and she was happy with everything she had.

“She had a very dry sense of humour and was very sharp and intelligent. You could tell her anything. She was your best friend.”

Coroner Mr David Roberts asked if she knew of any reason why her mother was targeted on that day. She replied: “Absolutely no reason whatsoever.”

Melinda added: “Sarah doesn’t understand what happened to my mum. She asks for her every day but she doesn’t understand. We just say she is asleep.”

Mr Roberts added: “She was quite a remarkable lady.”

Her daughter replied: “Yes, she was.”

A student had earlier told the inquest about her close encounter with the gunman as she walked her brother’s dog in Egremont.

Jacqueline Williamson spoke to Bird on the Ginns to Kells road on as he made his way through the town on the morning of his killing spree.

In a statement, she said she saw Bird’s taxi travelling slowly.

She said: “He shouted to me. I didn’t hear so I started to walk over to the taxi. The driver was leaning over to the passenger side. He had a podgy face, receding hairline and he was wearing a blue t-shirt.”

Bird shouted: “Give me the time.”

The witness added: “I saw he had a gun leaning on the door. He held the gun with two hands – one on the trigger.

“He looked at me, his eyes just stared at me. I will never forget that.

“At first I thought he was going to shoot the dog and that, I thought, ‘No, he is going to shoot me.’”

As she began to walk away from the car, she said she thought Bird might shoot her in the back - but the gunman drove away.

At this point Bird had already killed his brother David Bird, solicitor Kevin Commons and taxi driver Darren Rewcastle. Bird then went on to shoot and kill Mrs Hughes and eight others.

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