Cumbria shooting victims remembered

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The Independent Online

Families of some of the 12 victims of mass gunman Derrick Bird today joined an understated commemoration of the first anniversary of the shootings in Cumbria.

Relatives of Bird's twin brother, David, and taxi driver Darren Rewcastle were among hundreds of people who observed a two-minute silence of remembrance at noon in Whitehaven.

A similar gesture was held at the same time in Egremont, where five of Bird's victims lived.

There were no other obvious shows of public remembrance other than flags in the area lowered to half-mast.

The local newspaper, the Whitehaven News, captured the public mood in the region of a desire to quietly remember those lives lost.

But it also revealed a determination on people living there not to be defined by the taxi driver Bird's actions.

A fleeting three-paragraph reference was reserved in the corner of its front page, with other stories of the week given more prominence.

People gathered for a public show of support for the victims' families but otherwise life went on as usual in the town centre during the busy half-term break - just as it did on the morning of June 2, 2010, until Bird drove by the taxi rank in Duke Street and started shooting.

As midday approached, hundreds of mourners made their way to the gardens of St Nicholas Church, summoned by town crier Rob Romano.

As a church bell tolled, the vicar of Whitehaven, the Rev John Bannister, read out the victims' names.

He paid tribute to the families of Mr Bird and Mr Rewcastle, who wept as friends and neighbours stood by their sides.

The relatives - David Bird's wife Sue and daughters Tracey Stephenson, Rachel and Katie Bird; and Mr Rewcastle's mother Betty Scoones; stepfather Ted Scoones and sister Sharon Moore - stood on the memorial to the 1,200 men, women and children killed in the town's coal mines between 1597 and 1987.

Mr Bannister said: "Today it's right and proper that we come together as a community to acknowledge the dreadful loss that people are living with since the terrible events of June 2 last year.

"We also come together to offer our love and our support and our prayers to those who are hurting most today, and those are the families of those who were killed last year.

"Today we have with us two families of those who were victims and we hold them very much in our thoughts and our prayers."

At the same time, around 150 people gathered at the war memorial in the market square at Egremont.

Several shops closed their doors and flags flew at half-mast at the town's Royal British Legion club and Egremont Conservative Club.

The bells rang out 12 times at nearby St Mary & Michael Church before the silence was observed.

Most of the victims' families chose to continue to grieve in private and away from the media.

Local churches were staying open throughout the day for those wishing to say prayers or talk to someone, as people were urged to light a candle and put it in a window of their homes this evening as an act of remembrance.

Bird, 52, first shot his brother, David, went on to gun down solicitor Mr Commons, 60, and then drove to Duke Street taxi rank where he blasted taxi driver Mr Rewcastle, 43, at point-blank range.

The troubled father-of-two then randomly targeted strangers as he travelled out of town.

He killed mother-of-two Susan Hughes, 57; retired security worker Kenneth Fishburn, 71; retired Sellafield employee and part-time mole-catcher Isaac Dixon, 65; retired couple James and Jennifer Jackson, 67 and 68; farmer and rugby league player Garry Purdham, 31; estate agent Jamie Clark, 23; retired Sellafield worker Mike Pike, 64; and pensioner Jane Robinson, 66.

Bird, who also injured 11 other people, repeatedly stopped his grey Citroen Picasso, called victims over as if to ask the time, and then simply shot them in the face.

His killing spree took in Lamplugh, Frizington, Whitehaven, Egremont, Gosforth and Seascale before he was found dead in woodland near Boot - a little over three hours after police discovered his first known victim.

In March, an inquest jury returned verdicts of unlawful killing against each of Bird's victims and that the taxi driver took his own life.