Cumbria killer shot taxi driver who slashed tyres

A taxi driver shot dead by Derrick Bird had "bragged" about slashing the tyres of the killer's car, an inquest heard yesterday.

Darren Rewcastle, 43, was overheard saying he had "done" the tyres on Bird's Citroen Picasso. Stephen Brew, a fellow taxi driver and friend of Bird, said the gunman complained that replacing them was costing him more than he was making on the job.

Bird named Mr Rewcastle as responsible, pleading to his friend: "What am I to do?" Mr Brew told the hearing: "I have heard Darren saying it to other people on the rank, that he had darted Birdy's tyres." The killer had the tyres of his car punctured with a sharp dart on five occasions, along with other damage.

After the murder of his twin, David, and solicitor Kevin Commons, 60, Bird drove to the taxi rank in Whitehaven where he and Mr Rewcastle worked. He called the victim over to his cab and blasted him twice with a shotgun in the face and stomach.

Bird, 52, injured three other taxi drivers in the town, killing 12 people before turning the gun on himself on 2 June last year. Mr Brew told the inquest into the deaths that he often chatted with Bird when they worked as cabbies. He described Bird as a "nice guy, very quiet" but added: "He would bottle stuff up."

The inquest, now in its fourth day, has heard a number of reasons why Bird may have gone on the shooting spree. He was convinced he was going to jail for not paying enough tax and thought his brother and solicitor, Mr Commons, had "stitched him up" over the matter.

The hearing at the Energus centre in Workington, Cumbria, has been told that Bird was also worried about his elderly mother's health. Bird was also bullied and taunted by a "clique" of other taxi drivers in Whitehaven, the inquest has heard, prompting him to warn: "They are going to get it big style."

On Wednesday, the inquest jury will retrace the route that Bird took on the day of the killings. The hearing resumes on Monday.