I texted gunman Derrick Bird, says policeman

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The Independent Online

A trained police negotiator repeatedly phoned and sent text messages to crazed gunman Derrick Bird when the details of his rampage started to emerge, an inquest heard today.

Inspector Craig Lory was giving evidence on day six of the inquests into the shootings in Cumbria on June 2 last year.

Mr Lory told the jury that he left a meeting with local councillors when he heard about the shootings over his police radio.

He made his way to Lowther Street, Whitehaven, where he heard a "loud bang" and saw a "flash" coming from a Citroen Picasso driven by Bird who had just opened fire on fellow taxi driver Paul Wilson.

Mr Lory followed the car on foot until a pursuing police van went past him.

He then went back to Whitehaven police station, where he made contact with the force incident commander, informing him that he was a trained negotiator. They decided he should try to make contact.

Mr Lory said: "I phoned Derrick Bird on his mobile phone. I received no reply. I left a message asking him to stop and to contact me.

"I continued calling the mobile and texted him, asking Bird to stop what he was doing and reassuring him he would not be hurt. I received no reply."

Paul Wilson told the jury that he thought Bird - a fellow taxi driver - was "playing a prank" when he opened fire on him.

Mr Wilson was walking along Scotch Street, close to its junction with Lowther Street, when Bird called him over to his taxi and shot him in the face as he bent down to his passenger window.

Bird drove away and two women PCs ran to Mr Wilson's aid.

He said: "I explained to them it was just a friend of mine playing a prank."

He said it was only when the police officers told him he had been shot that he put his hand up to his face and realised he was bleeding.

He was giving evidence at the inquests into the deaths of Bird's twin brother David, 52, solicitor Kevin Commons, 60, Darren Rewcastle, 43, Susan Hughes, 57, Kenneth Fishburn, 71, Isaac Dixon, 65, Jennifer Jackson, 68, and her husband James, 67, Garry Purdham, 31, Jamie Clark, 23, Michael Pike, 64, Jane Robinson, 66, and Bird himself.

Mr Lory said he had never "seen the like" of an incident like this in 20 years in the police.

He said: "This was a spontaneous incident, the like of which I have never come across in my police service.

"How brazen the offence was, and how much information was flowing into us at such a rapid rate of knots.

"My main drive, my main goal is to ensure the safety of the public. Ensure nobody else was hurt."

Speaking about how the incident began to develop, he said: "I would say I was finding it difficult to assimilate information that was coming to us from so many points at that stage."

Describing the moment Bird opened fire, Mr Wilson said: "I heard a blast. Seen the flash before I realised what it was.

"I felt a gust of wind going past my ear."

Mr Wilson told the jury it was only after he heard the blast that he noticed the gun.

"My initial thought was he has fired a blank," Mr Wilson said.

"After a couple of seconds, Derrick just drove off and I still thought it was a prank."

Mr Wilson was taken into the nearby Whitehaven police station where he was given medical treatment.

Paul Goodwin, 48, lottery manager for Whitehaven Rugby League Club, followed Bird after he shot Mr Rewcastle dead and gunned down survivor Donald Reid in Duke Street.

He drove around the one-way system behind Bird, who then returned to the taxi rank

Mr Goodwin told the inquest: "He was about 15 to 20 yards in front of me. I wound my window down and papped my horn saying 'It's him in the taxi'.

"I heard two more shots at the taxi rank and then he set off up Duke Street again."

A police officer, Pc Mick Taylor, ran from the direction of the nearby police station and jumped into Mr Goodwin's Ford Escort, he told the inquest.

"I shouted 'Mick, get in. It's him in the taxi, he's got a gun'," he said.

Bird drove past the police station and stopped at the traffic lights at the junction of Scotch Street and Lowther Street.

Mr Goodwin came on to Scotch Street and witnessed Mr Wilson, 34, being shot.

"I said to to Mick 'What the bloody hell is going on here, that is three taxi drivers he has shot'," he said.

He slowed down to let a police van pass and followed Bird on to Coach Road where he went on to shoot taxi driver Terry Kennedy and his passenger.

Pc Taylor went to attend the latest gunshot victims while Mr Goodwin continued his pursuit of Bird.

He reached a junction and a police van turned left on to Low Road while he spontaneously went right on to Kells Road - the direction that Bird ultimately took.

Mr Goodwin lost sight of Bird and turned off on to the Woodhouse housing estate to continue to look for him but Bird had travelled straight on and out towards St Bees and then eventually to Egremont, where he continued his killing spree.

Mr Goodwin was asked if he considered his own safety as he followed the gunman.

He replied: "I don't know why I did it. If I thought about it, I wouldn't have done it."

Pc Taylor, who has since retired from the police, told the inquest he jumped into a car driven by Mr Goodwin, who had spotted Bird after the shootings on Duke Street and was following him.

Pc Taylor, who described himself as a weapons expert due to his time in the military before joining the police, said: "I told Paul to keep 20 or 30 yards distance so as to give us a chance to withstand a shotgun blast."

While they were in the car, they heard another gunshot.

Pc Taylor said he was counting the gunman's rounds - "an old habit from the military".

Bird then stopped next to the taxi of his friend Terence Kennedy, 53, and opened fire once again.

As Bird attempted to drive away, Pc Taylor got out of the car and "screamed" at Mr Kennedy and his passenger Emma Percival to get out. Both were injured.

He managed to get them off the street and led them up an alley in an attempt to escape from Bird.

"I screamed at them to get behind me," he said.

"Terry had a terrible injury to his hand and was bleeding heavily. He had also taken the shot in the mouth and his teeth were knocked out."

Pc Taylor fastened his belt around Mr Kennedy's wrist to try to stem the bleeding.

He said he believed Bird would be looking for them, adding: "I was 110% certain he had not finished what he had come to do."