On a sunny summer’s morning, in June 2010, Derrick Bird went on the rampage in Cumbria, shooting and killing 12 people and injuring 11 others, before turning the gun on himself. All because he felt he'd been wronged...
Everyone agreed taxi driver Derrick Bird was a lovely bloke. ‘Birdy’ was always smiling and friendly with his fellow cabbies in Whitehaven, Cumbria. He doted on his two adult sons, and was so proud that at 52, he’d just become a grandad. And he was a devoted carer to his mother Mary, 90. So the events of 2 June 2010 shocked everyone…
Driving his cab and wielding a rifle and shotgun, Bird carried out a murderous rampage through the Cumbrian countryside. First, he shot dead his twin brother David and his family solicitor, then he shot four of his fellow cabbies, killing one. Next he drove for miles, shooting strangers at random. In total, he killed 12 people, and injured 11.
Finally, Bird shot himself in the head. He left no suicide note, and had no history of violence or mental illness.
So what made this mild-mannered grandad turn killer?
Bird was born in 1957, to a loving married couple. According to his mum, he never argued or lost his temper. If he had problems, he kept them hidden behind a smile. Later, Bird became a joiner at Sellafield nuclear plant and had two sons with his teen sweetheart, Linda Mills. But in 1990, then 33, he was caught stealing wood from work. He was sacked and given a suspended sentence. Then, four years on, he and Linda split up.
Now living alone, Bird became a taxi driver. He appeared happy, laughing with the other cabbies, even holidaying with some. But despite earning good money, he never paid any tax.
Then, in 1998, their father died and Bird became his mum’s main carer.
After, the other cabbies started playing pranks on Bird, stealing his fares and joking to potential passengers he was ‘stinky’. Though Bird laughed along, maybe, deep down, he saw them as personal attacks. Perhaps anger and resentment was bubbling beneath the surface.
Then, in 2007, Bird was attacked by a passenger, leaving him mentally and physically scarred. And, one day, as a joke, cabbie Terry Kennedy tricked Bird into eating toilet-cleaning soap. Another, Darren Rewcastle, threw coffee over Bird. Although Bird laughed along, tension was building.
In September 2009, he holidayed with workmates in Croatia. Drunk and moody, one night he revealed, ‘One of these days I’m going to get a gun and shoot them all.’ His mates just told Bird not to be so stupid.
Finally, in May 2010, after 15 years as a cabbie, Bird was investigated for tax evasion. His family solicitor, Kevin Commons, arranged a meeting with an accountant, who warned Bird he owed up to £25,000. However, as he’d over £50,000 in savings, Bird could easily pay it, and avoid jail. Yet it didn’t calm his fears that his twin brother, David, and the family solicitor, Kevin Commons were conspiring to send him to prison. It was the beginning of the paranoia that would eventually lead to his killing spree.
Now, Bird decided to take a brutal revenge on all those who’d wronged him. A licensed gun owner, he’d inherited his dad’s shotgun and rifle. Then Bird cryptically told a friend, ‘Whitehaven will be as famous as Dunblane – you will see soon enough’.
Later he chatted with cabbie John McDonald. ‘He said there were a few of the lads on the rank winding him up and he said, ‘They are going to get it big style. You just watch,” McDonald recalled.
And, on 1 June 2010, he told a mate, ‘You won’t see me again.’
That evening, Bird visited his best friend, Neil Jaques, ranting about David and Kevin, and how he was going to jail for tax evasion. Then in the early hours, he drove his cab to David’s house, where he shot his twin 11 times. Next he drove to Kevin’s home and murdered his solicitor. Then, the cabbies who’d humiliated him. He killed coffee-throwing Darren Rewcastle and shot three others including soap prankster Terry Kennedy.
The next hours were a lethal game of cat and mouse with the police as Bird travelled across Cumbria, shooting people. It seems he wanted his killing spree was as notorious as Dunblane, which may explain the random targets that followed.
He appeared to be heading to Sellafield. But with officers closing in, Bird ran into a wood and shot himself, leaving a deadly legacy.