Written by Liam Bird
An Important Note
Today’s Casual Criminalist is of a slightly different variety to most of our previous episodes. Today’s criminal, Derrick Bird, was not your typical serial killer. He may not even be considered a serial killer at all depending upon your definition. Derrick Bird was a spree killer. I thought it’d be best to mention this now just in case any viewers are less comfortable viewing an episode of this variety.
The Calm Before the Storm
Cumbria, the northernmost of all of England’s counties, is the home of this episode’s harrowing tale. This ancient land is one not overrun by civilization, being one of the most sparsely populated areas of the entire United Kingdom. So sparse, its density is only 73.4 people per square kilometre. For comparison, the average number of people per square kilometre in Nottinghamshire, another of England’s counties, is around 400. The economy here is built off of two main industries, farmers and nuclear power plants.
What I’m trying to get across is that crime in this place is far from common. Yet somehow, over just two hours on Wednesday the 2nd of June 2010, this image of tranquillity would be shattered.
Derrick Bird was born on Wednesday the 27 of November 1957 alongside his twin brother David to parents Mary and Joseph. To any who have seen or listened to Casual Criminalist before, you will recognize this as the segment where we discuss Derrick’s childhood trauma in great detail. Well, sorry to disappoint you (not that it should), but Derrick’s childhood by all accounts, was not traumatic. Derrick attended local schools before proceeding to continue onto employment shortly after. Beyond calling his teacher mum there does not appear to be any serious trauma he encountered until well after his 18th birthday.
After leaving school, Derrick began working as a joiner. Joiners are people who professionally join together metal sheets or wooden sheets. After researching what exactly a joiner is, I have also discovered that you should not confuse a joiner with a carpenter, they seem to have some sort of unspoken rivalry, like Simon and people who tell Simon he doesn’t need every channel on YouTube.
As a joiner, Derrick worked at the local Sellafield nuclear power plant, having moved in with his childhood sweetheart. It appears they lived happily for about a decade before it all started going wrong…
Before moving further, one last matter should be addressed, Derrick never left Cumbria his entire life. As such, there is one rule anybody who has seen Hot Fuzz knows, “everybody and their mum’s packin’ ‘round here.” On 19 th of November 1974 Derrick was issued with a shotgun certificate, which authorised him to purchase a .22 (22 calibre) rifle and sound moderator.
The Sellafield Sacking
In 1990, Derrick’s life was going well. He had a good job, a loving wife and two sons. However, as anyone can tell you; good times never last forever. As mentioned before, Derrick was employed by Sellafield nuclear power plant. Opened in 1956, Sellafield was the United Kingdom’s first major nuclear power plant opened for commercial purposes. As with all semi or quasi nuclear locations, Sellafield has around the clock security. The United Kingdom goes so far with security of nuclear sites that there is a specialist task force of the police focused on this. Fun Fact: if you’ve ever been on the road and were passed by a convoy of maybe 10-20 vehicles, flashing orange lights but without playing any sirens, you were probably just passed by radioactive materials.
Now, fact boy, you may find yourself asking why any of this is relevant?
Well, in July of 1990, Derrick was accused of the theft of a single plank of wood, not a truck load, not classified radioactive materials, but a single plank. On top of this, he was charged with handling stolen goods by the Crown Prosecution Service and was prosecuted at Carlisle Crown Court. Now, to anybody who does not understand the legal system of England and Wales, the Crown Court is meant to only be there to try the most serious of all crimes: the murders, the kidnappings, the maple syrup heists. This case would not have got to the court if not for the fact that Bird was employed at a nuclear power plant.
Well, at least we can be sure Derrick wasn’t overly punished, right? Not exactly, Derrick received a 12-month suspended sentence for the crime. This meant that if he was found guilty of any more crimes in the proceeding 6 months then he would find himself serving a year in jail. This sounds reasonable, until you realise that something as simple as speeding can trigger a suspended sentence.
Unfortunately for our intrepid antagonist; things only went down from here. Later that same year Derrick’s wife left him. Not much else has been written about this period in Derrick’s life but we do know that it was at this point that he first crossed paths with Kevin Commons, a family law solicitor who would soon become the Bird family solicitor.
The next time Derrick appears on our radar is 1998, where the police were summoned to his address following a domestic violence incident. No formal complaint was made, and no information was forthcoming, so unfortunately, we have little detail as to who this was between. Due to the lack of details included within the police reports however, and through my limited experience in the area, I personally am of the belief that this incident was between Derrick and his twin. More often than not sibling violence does not lead to formal complaints. This incident would prove to be a dark indication of what was to come though…
One year later and we find Derrick again on our radar, having graduated from theft and potential domestic violence, he had now moved to the big leagues. In 1999, Derrick was arrested for demanding money with menaces. For anybody who does not know what this means, demanding money with menaces is a form of blackmail in England and Wales. Specifically, it is a form requiring the threat of some serious violence. Derrick was arrested but never charged; had he been charged he would have faced a prison term with a maximum of 14 years. Due to the severity of the crime, he would also have lost his shotgun licence had he been convicted.
Closing out the last millennium gave Derrick much to look back on; he had once had a well-paying job at a nuclear power plant, fulfilling every 10-year-old Simpson enthusiast’s dream. He had had a nice family, children and a good home, but he had also had three run-ins with the police and suffered a back strain injury as a result of his job. It was time for change. In 1999, on the eve of the millennium, Derrick purchased a taxi and got a licence. However, unfortunately for Derrick, the 2000s were not about to be any better for him.
On the 4th of October 2002, the first of two crucial events would take place. Derrick was enjoying an evening out in Workington on the west coast of Cumbria, on this night out he went clubbing at the Fusion nightclub. The exact events of the evening are unclear, we do know that one of the other club goers took a dislike to Derrick and knocked him to the floor before kicking him repeatedly in the face. He went to hospital with a broken nose and a swollen upper lip, however Derrick’s dealings in the 90s had shaped his outlook on life.
Primarily, as a result of the theft conviction back in 1990, Derrick had grown to distrust the entirety of the justice system with police naturally being the focus of this distrust. This caused him to refuse to attend court and led to him being forced to withdraw his complaint. This meant that despite the facts not being in dispute; this other man was able to knock him to the floor, kick him and just walk away. Anybody can imagine what this would do to your outlook on life, especially after everything that had already happened to him.
On the 7th of October 2007, the most crucial event occurred. Derrick was working a normal evening as a taxi driver. In the back of his cab were four passengers and once he took them to their stop he turned and asked for payment. The passengers became enraged and refused to pay which led to Derrick getting out of the taxi in an attempt to remove them.
It is not clear what happened due to Derrick not having any memory of the following events but what we do know is that Derrick was beaten repeatedly, suffering a serious laceration to his head. He had to be admitted to hospital overnight where he received treatment for this laceration and had to receive repairs to his dentures and other teeth which had also been damaged. Derrick suffered from subsequent pain in the neck and shoulder area after this attack, aggravated by a traffic collision he was involved in in 2009.
Derrick’s friends have stated since, that this 2007 attack changed him profoundly. He put on more weight and was reported as constantly being “nervous and anxious.” Derrick also had always been a wildlife enthusiast, taking yearly trips abroad to go scuba diving and taking frequent walks in the Cumbrian hills. However, these trips became more infrequent since he was attacked.
I think it’s relevant to draw attention to this attack. We frequently discuss the difference between nature and nurture. This however, opens up a scary possibility. What if you hit your head really hard, like when getting out of a taxi. What if that is all it took to make you into a murderer?
At this point you, the viewer or listener might end up feeling sorry for Derrick, I implore that you hold those feelings for now until you see what is to come. Saying that though, things would still get worse for Derrick before the decade was over.
All these years of hardship were building up on Derrick. The camel’s back was straining but it was yet to break… and then came the last straw.
After his childhood sweetheart left him in 1990, Derrick moved back to live with his elderly mother. Many of his friends described his relationship with her as one of his last truly important relationships. There was much anxiety and stress spawned from this when in the early 2000s his mother had to be moved to a nursing home, however once there she was cared for by many of Derrick’s relatives.
In 2009, Mary Bird, Derrick’s mother, was diagnosed with late-stage cancer. As a result she decided it was time to take a action (which as a former worker in a family law solicitors I encourage everybody to do) to arrange her will. It was at this point that we meet our first non-antagonistic recurring character, Kevin Commons, who was called upon to help Mary draft the will. This would become central to the storm to come.
Nature or a Whack Over the Head?
As mentioned already; in 2007 Derrick was assaulted. His entire personality changed as a result which built upon the heavy distrust he felt for the police and government in general. When we add all the different components so far what do we get? A anxious and paranoid man… an anxious and paranoid man with four guns.
Derrick was not only anxious as to the arrangements of his mother’s will but in recent months leading up to June 2010 he had been receiving letters from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). HMRC, for any listeners or readers who are luckily unaware, is the UK’s tax office. If you report to be self employed but do not post the proper taxes, it is HMRC who will be chasing you up. They are almost universally hated for the fact that more often than not, if they suspect you owe them money, they will contact your bank and compel the transfer of money before contacting you. Leading to thousands of cases each year where people wrongly have their money taken by HMRC. Derrick had been receiving letters from them questioning his low reporting of income in the months leading up to June 2010. The result of these letters Derrick had received led to him contacting his twin brother David who then contacted Kevin Commons, a solicitor who worked in the Workington area. Commons recommended Derrick contact an accountant to help him with these issues which meant that Derrick was passed along to Peter Ellwood, who would work as Derrick’s accountant from then on. From this point forward, Ellwood is where we get much of our insight into how Derrick was feeling leading up to June 2010.
On review of Derrick’s finances, Ellwood advised Derrick that the HMRC investigation was simply just a routine audit. It was discovered by Ellwood in these exchanges that Derrick was in fact worried that he would be arrested for misreporting tax. These fears were soon addressed by Ellwood, who pointed out that in England and Wales misreporting tax cannot lead you to be taken to jail unless it was in far greater amounts. This did little to stem Derrick’s paranoia; significantly he became paranoid that his brother, David, and the family solicitor, Commons, were conspiring against him.
As a result of being informed of this paranoia, Ellwood took the decision to arrange a meeting between Derrick and Commons. I must say at this point, when an individual you are dealing with is highly paranoid that another individual is out to get them; telling that other individual and then planning a meeting hardly seems like the right course of action.
Either way; the meeting was booked… for the 2nd of June 2010.
The Carnage Begins
In the early hours of the 2nd of June 2010, Derrick gathered his belongings. He had finally been referred to somebody who could help him; but the person who he trusted had told Commons, the man he believed to be conspiring with his own twin brother against him. Derrick decided he had nothing to live for. He never left a note, nor manifesto. He just left his house around midnight carrying: a 20 Gauge Breda shotgun, a 12 Gauge Winchester over/under shotgun, a 12 Gauge Fisher side by side shotgun and a bolt action rifle fitted with a telescopic sight. He carried 900 rounds of .22 (pronounced 22 calibre) ammunition and an unknown amount of shotgun shells.
In his mind, Derrick was choosing who the first victim would be. He eventually chose the one individual at the centre of his current predicament, the one he felt most abandoned by; his twin brother David. It is not known when he arrived at his brother’s house, but it is known that before 00:45 AM he had begun the massacre by shooting his brother. The purpose of this show is not to overindulge in the detail of the brutal acts which we cover, but instead to inform, so I have attempted to find a balance in the telling of these events.
Derrick killed his brother at point blank range, using his 22-calibre rifle. The rifle held 11 cartridges at a time and he emptied an entire magazine into his brother. The post-mortem would later uncover that most of these were fired after his brother had already fallen. The amount of times Derrick shot into David shows how shattered and full of hate his mind must have been. David’s body was not discovered for another 10 hours, being found when he failed to turn up for work.
It’s at this point which one can only think as to what was going through Derrick’s head. He had killed who he saw as the key plotter against him; his own twin. So, what should he do next? Hand himself in? Or maybe continue? Again we can’t be sure how he thought of these questions, but we do know that 5 hours later he decided how he would answer them.
At 05:14 AM Derrick arrived at Mowbray Farm, the house of Kevin Commons. We know he was there at this exact time as he was picked up on local CCTV as he entered the area. Derrick was driving his taxi, a move that would come to have the most unfortunate of results in just a short time. Several eyewitnesses passed by the car while Derrick was in it, reporting that he had positioned himself on the road leading up to the farm. None of these witnesses report seeing a firearm or thinking of the activity as suspicious, after all…. It was just a “cabby” waiting for his fare.
At approximately 10:00 AM Commons drove down his drive, making his way to work. Unfortunately, he would never make it out of the drive… When approaching the end of the drive Derrick fired his shotgun twice, damaging the windscreen and roof of Commons’ car, shards from the windscreen injuring Commons’ shoulder. From there, Commons fled his car, running for the house. Derrick pursued Commons and is reported to have performed an execution style killing on Commons with two shots from his .22 rifle. Derrick was spotted leaving the drive at 10:10 AM, making his way home.
It is at this point of time that the police were alerted to the unfolding situation, a NEIGHBOUR of Commons, Susan Rooney, had witnessed the initial interaction between Derrick and Commons where he stopped the car with two shotgun shots, calling the police at 10:13 AM. Now at this point, clock enthusiasts may have noticed that there are 13 minutes between the initial shots and the phone call to the police. The reasoning for this is just one of the unfortunate details of this police call…
This delay was caused because after Rooney had spotted the initial interaction she sought advice from her neighbours before deciding what to do. This may draw criticism from many viewers and listeners; criticism I can wholeheartedly understand, but before anybody criticises her too harshly a few things should be considered: Firstly, witnessing a shooting can be a very traumatic event. It should be easy to understand that a person may not act entirely rationally after witnessing a shooting. Secondly, in the area where the shooting of Commons had taken place incidents of BB guns being misused was common. This was a fact that would shape much of the police response and could also explain Rooney’s rather lax response. Finally, it is known that Cumbria has a large elderly population, a lot of older people go to Cumbria to retire with the average age being 44.8 years of age, compared to 40 for the UK in general. Rooney’s age has not been published anywhere I could find it, it is possible that if she is older this could also have impaired her reaction to witnessing this first shooting. This last consideration is one I charitable assigned to Rooney based on the remainder of her 999 call.
In fact, many commentators have consistently listed Susan Rooney’s call as one of the biggest cock ups of the entire operation in dealing with Derrick Bird; even the official police report concluded that Rooney’s call was a major failing in the operation. However, It should be noted that the report also concluded that Rooney should not be blamed for this failing.
The phone call began with Rooney making unclear statements. She began by telling the operator that the address is “the tip road.” (For clarification the operator control room was responsible for the entirety of west Cumbria, about 200 square kilometres.) After the operator managed to work out the address through questioning, Rooney then made the statement that would mar the entire police response; she reported that she had “heard an air rifle shot” from a “fella in a yellow taxi.” Derrick’s vehicle was a silver Citron with “taxi” written in yellow on the side.
As mentioned earlier, BB guns and air rifles were common in this area, as a result the police control room decided not to dispatch armed police and instead an unarmed unit was assigned to investigate what was going on and a dispatch unit was put on an alert for a yellow taxi. Before anybody criticises this police response regarding the lack of armed police, it should be noted that there were only 2 armed police units available for the entirety of West Cumbria. A factor that would have many horrific effects over the next two hours.
At 10:27 AM, the police call centre decided to call back Rooney to gather more details. In this call no new information was gained. Despite this unlucky start, other witnesses had by now called in reporting that a shotgun had been what was used. Finally, the police were able to deploy armed police units to try and locate this “yellow taxi.” Unfortunately Derrick had left the scene 20 minutes before; these 20 minutes would allow him to embark on the carnage that would soon unfold. It was three minutes later at 10:30 that unarmed officers located the body of Kevin Commons and armed police were deployed.
The Horror in Whitehaven
At around 10:15 AM, Derrick arrived at one of his friends’ houses having given his friend one of his more modern shotguns the evening before. After knocking on the door, his friend’s wife answered and was asked to fetch his shotgun. This shotgun, although unnamed in the police reports, is noted to have been more accurate and had a higher rate of fire than the guns he had on him. Luckily for everyone in Cumbria, the wife had no access to the gun safe, which meant Derrick, was denied his mode of murdering even more people. Following this denial, he simply drove away.
At 10:25 AM, Derrick arrived at a taxi rank in Duke Street, Whitehaven, where he normally found himself on his normal business days. Derrick arrived with a target in mind; he had driven to the taxi rank believed to have had the intention of hunting FELLOW CABBIE Darren Rewcastle. Rewcastle was a notable taxi driver who had been accused of poaching fares by the other drivers and had also been accused of playing “tricks” on other drivers. It should be noted that one of these tricks included slashing Derrick’s tires which could be the reasoning behind why Derrick was so angered with Rewcastle in particular. Despite all of this, there is no way Rewcastle deserved, or knew, what was about to happen.
At 10:27 AM, Bird called Rewcastle over to his taxi by calling out his name repeatedly, as Rewcastle bent down to speak to Derrick, he fired a single shot from his shotgun. As Rewcastle fell, he fired a second shot at him and it was determined that Rewcastle died as a result of both gunshot wounds. From there, Derrick drove to the front of the taxi queue where he then fired his rifle at Donald Reid, another taxi driver. Reid was hit once in the back and fell to the floor and began to crawl toward Rewcastle’s body.
Derrick then got out of his car and began to prowl towards Reid, raising his gun. However, one onlooker with far bigger balls than I’ll ever have, called for Derrick to stop…. and he did and quickly returned to his car. It was this pause that allowed many of the witnesses to flee the scene, but unfortunately for Donald Reid, Derrick had circled around the queue with his taxi and fired twice more with his rifle aiming for Reid. Fortunately, Derrick missed both of his shots before leaving the area. Donald Reid would later recover fully from his injuries.
At 10:31 AM, Derrick encountered another taxi driver, Paul Wilson, who was known as a friend of Derrick out for his morning walk. Derrick called him over to his car and shot him once in the face with his shotgun before leaving the scene. Wilson would somehow also make a full recovery from his injuries. This shooting, in particular, resulted in the local Whitehaven police station being informed of what was going on. The duty sergeant made the call to all police officers that a suspect vehicle had been identified. All the officers were informed what it looked like and told not to approach it. Promptly, on the instruction not to approach, it is noted that the police station practically emptied as police rushed towards the taxi rank to render emergency first aid to all who needed it.
One of those police officers, unnamed in reports, ran into Paul Goodwin, who had witnessed the Whitehaven shootings. The police officer was promptly invited into Goodwin’s car, who then began chasing Derrick’s vehicle. While Goodwin focused on staying behind Derrick, the police officer radioed in support and quickly a police van gave chase.
Despite being in a car chase Derrick had his mind set. As he passed a taxi, he fired a single shotgun shot, seriously injuring taxi driver Terry Kennedy and his passenger Emma Percival. It was at this time that Paul Wilson (the man who had been shot in the face) was brought to the local police station. When he got in to the police station he quickly identified the gunman as Derrick Bird.
Shortly after shooting at Kennedy’s taxi, Derrick took a sharp turn attempting to re-enter Whitehaven town centre. This manoeuvre was denied by a bravely positioned police van that was placed right between the town centre and Derrick. When he noticed he was trapped in by the van, Derrick coldly and slowly raised his shotgun at the two unarmed officers before firing; both officers managed to avoid being hit by ducking down just in time. Unfortunately, this shot had served its purpose as by the time the officers looked up Derrick was long gone. Shortly down the road was a five-way junction and as such the police had lost the gunman.
By now the police knew who the killer was, knew what vehicle he was in, and knew what he was armed with.. It was only now they realised how much danger they were in. Not only were they dealing with an individual who had actively used guns for 30 years, but they were dealing with a taxi driver which was significant as it meant Derrick knew each road, each turn, like the back of his hand.
It was at 10:45 AM that the armed response vehicles (ARVs) arrived in the area, rather than rendezvousing with each other they were instead ordered to “hunt and confront” Derrick. There was no misunderstanding on the part of the police… this shooting was far from over. At the same time, we encounter our second “cock up” of the day. The local operations commander ordered all police officers to switch to a single radio channel which was common practice to allow all officers to be actively aware of the unfolding situation. However, it was noted in reports since the incident that this decision resulted in all the requests for backup and ambulances going out on the same channel. Hampering the response to what would become over 30 separate crime scenes.
It was now that the third “cock up” was also encountered. The ambulance service was reported to have many available ambulances, yet the duty commander for the ambulance dispatch held back many ambulances, believing that the shooter would soon be contained. Despite this duty commander’s belief, this was not the case as many police officers were left with seriously injured people and were unable to leave them alone. This was heavily criticised in following inquiries for the fact that many scenes were made safe and yet not assigned ambulances.
Most commentators agree that what we just previously covered were the ‘targeted’ attacks of Derrick Bird as he knew most of the victims. What comes next however, are the ‘random’ attacks. At 10:48, Derrick encountered Jacqueline Williamson who was walking her dog. He asked Williamson for directions but she managed to spot his gun. Knowing she had to leave she used a luckily timed pull on the leash from her dog and managed to get away. From there, Derrick continued down the road towards Egremont.
Susan Hughes was leaving Egremont town centre when Bird shot her twice with a shotgun from his car. In reports by witnesses Derrick is said to have then got out of his car and executed her after a struggle. After re-entering his car, he encountered Kenneth Fishburn, also executing him with a single shot from his shotgun after knocking Fishburn to the ground. After Fishburn was murdered, Derrick encountered Leslie Hunter. He invited Leslie to his car window and shot him once in the chest and face and yet again quickly made his own getaway. Despite this proximity, Leslie survived both of his injuries. At 10:57 AM, Bird passed 14-year-old Ashleigh Glaister. She was also called over to his car but managed to spot a gun and ducked just in time. As she was running down a hill to get away, Derrick fired another shot at her but yet again missed his shot allowing Glaister to get away.
It was now that Derrick left the main roads and entered the village of Carleton at around 11:00 AM, the same time as when David Bird’s body was discovered. Now on the small roads, Derrick’s victims had little chance of escape. Unfortunately at 11:05 AM, he ran into Isaac Dixon on one of these extremely small roads and murdered him with two close range shotgun shots. Derrick then made his way to the nearby village of Wilton where he would murder Jennifer and James Jackson, injuring Jennifer’s friend Christine Hunter-Hall. Each one of these victims had been shot in drive-by style shootings.
From here Derrick’s movements become unclear as he disappeared into the countryside roads. On one of these roads, he passed prominent rugby player Gary Purdham. In witness reports, it is said that Gary did not see Derrick approach from behind as he was murdered with a single shot to the head. Here, Derrick would turn onto the A595 road to Seascale; which would become host to the bloodiest part of the massacre.
On the approach to Seascale, Derrick crossed paths with James Clark, a local estate agent who was returning from an appointment. There is evidence that Bird rammed Clark off the road before performing another execution style shooting. Whilst fleeing the scene yet again, Derrick approached a one-way tunnel with a Land Rover driven by Harry Berger on the other side. Derrick let him pass through the tunnel before shooting him twice with his shotgun. Berger would survive with serious injuries, having to undergo major plastic surgeries. Only a few minutes later, three ARVs (armed response vehicles) arrived at the scene of Berger’s shot-up car. The car itself was in the way of the ARVs and would have to be moved aside through help from pedestrians before the ARVs continued. Berger did not receive any help from the ARVs as their focus was to follow out the previous order to “hunt” Derrick Bird.
While in Seascale, Derrick began the bloodshed on Drigg road which was just off the seafront. It was on this road he murdered cyclist Michael Pike after ramming him, before calling yet another victim Jane Robinson over to his window, killing her instantly with a single shot. It was at this point that witnesses reported seeing Bird driving erratically. It is also here that the full impact of the first “cock up” becomes painfully clear. While leaving Drigg road Bird drove past one of the three ARVs mentioned earlier, due to the description given of his car and its erratic nature they believed him to be a civilian caught up in the chaos and let him go. However, the ARV officers soon worked out their mistake and turned to give chase but yet again the taxi man proved his skill with the Cumbrian roads and they lost Bird at a set of temporary road works.
Derrick had now been located by police officers but unfortunately for the officers, Derrick knew; and we all know what an animal does when it’s cornered. On the way through Seascale to the Eskdale valley, Derrick shot Jackie Lewis once with his rifle which is notable as she had no memory of the incident and lacked any wound, only discovering she had been shot when passers by told her. Luckily for Lewis, it appeared that the bullet had ricocheted off her skull.
At 11:50 AM, Derrick passed Fiona Moretta who was leaving a nearby pub. He called her over to the window of his car and as he had done so many times before and shot her once. She managed to survive her injuries and immediately ran behind his car to get away. Derrick initially began to reverse after her before giving up and driving off in rage.
Come 12:00 PM, there were over 40 separate ARVs hunting Derrick Bird, having been called in from surrounding counties, slowly closing in on him. While on the outskirts of Seascale, Derrick arrived in the neighbourhood of Boot where he fired at people on the nearby beach knowing it would be harder for them to run in the sand. Fortunately, he missed all these shots on the innocent families enjoying their day out at the beach.
A short distance from the beach, Derrick fired upon Nathan Jones and Samantha Chrystie causing injuries to both, both of them survived the incident. Derrick then encountered Craig Ross, a man who was considered by most to be an, albeit distant, friend of Bird. Ross was driving the opposite direction of Derrick when he flagged the man down. Derrick then told Ross to “drive away,” Ross promptly did. Derrick then fired a single shot at Ross as he left but thankfully missed.
Time to Give Him the Boot
From here, Derrick continued down the road in the narrower roads of Boot. The noose around his neck was tightening, at this point he would have heard hundreds of police sirens in the distance. Whilst travelling across Doctor Bridge and the approaching road he rammed his car into several vehicles and as a result, Derrick’s front left wheel came off his car. He, in a short time, got out of the car and reportedly inspected it. We know this information thanks to two very lucky holidaymakers who had not watched the news that fateful morning and stayed ignorant to that day’s carnage. They both made their way towards Derrick as he inspected the wheel and offered their help but were quickly rejected. After this, the couple watched as Derrick fetched his rifle from the boot of his car and made his way back across the bridge.
It would be nice to say that Bird went to jail for the remainder of his pitiful existence or perhaps that a copper got a little bit overzealous with a taser and duct tape. Alas; there is no true justice in the real world. Derrick Bird’s body was discovered in a wooded area at 12:45 PM with one shotgun shot to the head. The time it took from the police being alerted to Derrick by Susan Rooney until its conclusion was only 2 hours and 32 minutes. That is the same time it’d take to watch Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. In this short time the peaceful Cumbrian reality had been shattered.
Shortly after Derrick’s death his home was searched. They found 750 rounds of 22 calibre ammunition but no shotgun ammo, leading the police to believe he had fired all his ammo on the rampage. As mentioned prior, there was not a note, nor letter, nor manifesto, nor even a Twitter post that explained the carnage that took place on this day.
Many commentators have made the statement that Derrick Bird embarked upon his rampage for the fact that he was in dispute with his brother over a will; the BBC even reported at the time that it was his late mother’s. This report was the first news Derrick’s mother received to alert her to her son being the killer.
The story of Derrick Bird was not that of a psychopath or a sadist, nor was it not of a man who simply snapped because of one singular act of infuriating blind rage. It was of a man who it seems has a serious chance of not being in the right mind. In the police report on the matter, they concluded that Derrick was ‘of sane mind’ at the time of the massacre but, from what we have seen here (specifically the comments around the 2007 attack) can we really be sure of that?
Despite this, just because Derrick Bird may have had a medical abnormality which contributed towards his killing spree does not mean that anyone should give him any pity. He killed eleven innocent people and injured another 12; most of which were targeted only through pure randomness, and at several points attempted to kill children. Derrick Bird was angry at the world and so embarked on the most random acts of violence he could aim for.
On every Casual Criminalist we focus on the criminals, for obvious reason, but I would like to end today by listing everybody who was killed or injured by Derrick Bird:
David Bird, 52
Kevin Commons, 60
Darren Rewcastle, 43
Susan Hughes, 57
Kenneth Fishburn, 71
Jennifer Jackson, 68
James Jackson, 67
Isaac Dixon, 65
Garry Purdham, 31
James “Jamie” Clark, 23
Michael Pike, 64
Jane Robinson, 66
Donald Reid, 57
Paul Wilson, 34
Terry Kennedy, 53
Emma Percival, 20
Leslie Hunter, 59
Christine Hunter-Hall, 43
Harry Berger, 40
Jacqueline Lewis, 70
Fiona Moretta, 51
Nathan Jones, 25
Samantha Chrystie, 30
This is the first time I have written for Casual Criminalist, and it is the first spree-killing on this channel. (At least at the time of writing) If any viewers or listeners have any feedback then please comment, I will be sure to read them.
The entire details of the Derrick Bird shooting can be found on a police report accessible through the Way back Machine, you can also find a link to this on Wikipedia. If anybody would like to learn more about what happened or about specifically the police response, then I strongly recommend looking into this document. Although be warned, you can find far gorier details in that report than I included here.
The Cumbrian massacre was, at the time, the single largest loss of life in a firearms incident since the 1996 Dunblane school massacre. It led to the government investigating the current restrictions around shotguns, and introducing a legal limit to the amount of shotgun ammunition you’re allowed to buy. Further changes would be introduced when exactly one month later Raoul Moat, a convicted criminal, shot David Rathband in Northumbria. Police at the time feared a Derrick Bird style spree spurred on by threats from Moat himself, luckily no spree ever materialised.
The shooting had about the reaction you’d expect in the UK, it resulted in the cancelletation of an episode of the popular soap Coronation Street and criticism of pop star Lady Gaga. The episode being cancelled for containing a story arc involving a shootout and Gaga being criticized for her performance carried out the same day as the attack, in Manchester. Gaga’s performance involved the mock up of a murder by firearm on stage.
Finally, we all know that whenever there is a tragedy in the news there will be a dumb journalist. Giles Coren, a journalist for The Times, tweeted out that Derrick should have read a copy of his anger management book. Giles later apologised for the tweet.