Tag Archives: Michael Ryan

17th March – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

17th March


Monday 17 March 1975   

Thomas Smith (26), then an Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoner, was shot dead by the Irish Army during an attempted escape from Portlaoise Prison, County Laois, Republic of Ireland.

Wednesday 17 March 1976

Four Catholic civilians were killed by a bomb planted by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) outside the Hillcrest Bar, Donaghmore Road, Dungannon, County Tyrone.

See Hillcrest Bar Bombing

Friday 17 March 1978

David Jones (23), a British soldier, was shot dead by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during a gun battle in a field near Maghera, County Derry.

Jones had been undercover at the time. Francis Hughes, then a member of the IRA, was arrested following the incident.

Wednesday 17 March 1982

Charles Haughey, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), paid a visit to the United States of America (USA) as part of St Patrick day celebrations. During the visit he called on the US government to put more pressure on Britain to consider the possibility of Irish unity.

Thursday 17 March 1983

Ronald Reagan, then President of the United States of America (USA), said that those who supported terrorism were no friends of Ireland. Edward Kennedy, then a United States (US) Senator, proposed a senate motion calling for a united Ireland.

Saturday 17 March 1984

Dominic McGlinchey, then considered leader of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), was recaptured after an exchange of gunfire with the Garda Síochána (the Irish police) and immediately extradited from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland.

He became the first Republican to be extradited to face charges related to the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Monday 17 March 1986

Garret FitzGerald, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), was in Washington for the St Partick’s Day celebrations and to meet with Ronald Reagan, then President of the United States of America (USA).

Tuesday 17 March 1987

St Patrick’s Day. Ronald Reagan, then President of the United States, announced the first payment of $50 million to the International Fund for Ireland (IFI). The IFI was one of the initiatives in the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA).

Thursday 17 March 1994

Bill Clinton, then President of the USA, attended a St Patrick’s Day conference in Washington and called upon the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to “lay down their arms”.

The Ulster Unionist Council (UUC) held its annual general meeting. James Molyneaux, then leader of the UUP, addressed the meeting and rejected any proposals for north-south political institutions as part of a political settlement.

Friday 17 March 1995

Adams Attends White House Reception

Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF), attended the St Patrick’s Day reception hosted by Bill Clinton, then President of the United States of America (USA), at the White House. A delegation from the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) also attended the reception. The group met with Edward Kennedy, then a US Senator.

Monday 17 March 1997

Billy Hutchinson, then a spokesperson for the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), received a warning from the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) that the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) was planning to assassinate him.

John Kinsella, who had been sentenced in 1994 for 20 years for possession of explosives, had his case referred to the Court of Appeal in London.

John Major, then British Prime Minister, announced the date of the general election as 1 May 1997.

Tuesday 17 March 1998

First St Partick’s Day Parade in Belfast Loyalist paramilitaries carried out a bomb attack on St. Comgall’s parish centre in Larne, County Antrim.

[It was believed that the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) was responsible for the attack. There were no injuries and only minor damage to the hall.]

An ‘official’ St. Patrick’s day parade took place in Belfast.

[This was the first time since the establishment of the state that a parade had received backing from Belfast City Council. The organising committee had stated their wish to have a cross-community celebration. Following the parade a number of Unionist councillors, particularly members of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) claimed that Irish Republican Army (IRA) slogans were shouted by people in the crowd. Unionists also objected to the fact that the ‘tricolour’ (the Irish national flag) was displayed by some spectators. The objections following the parade in 1998 was to result in Belfast City Council withdrawing funds for future parades.]

In the cafeteria of the House of Commons Ken Maginnis, then Security Spokesperson of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), took down two ‘tricolour’ flags that were part of a display for St. Patrick’s day and threw them into the Thames river saying he “did not think they would pollute the river too much”.

This incident happened while his colleague and party leader David Trimble was in the United States of America (USA) for the St Patrick’s day celebrations. While in Washington Trimble had a meeting with Bill Clinton, then President of the United States of America (USA). Clinton was believed to have urged Trimble to hold a face-to-face meeting with Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF).

[The UUP later said that it was not interested in a “stunt meeting” with Adams.]

A number of other Northern Ireland politicians also made the trip to the USA for St. Patrick’s day.

Wednesday 17 March 1999

Frankie Curry, a prominent former member of the Red Hand Commando (RHC), was shot dead in a street off the Shankill Road. The Red Hand Defenders (RHD) blamed the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) for the killing.

[The shooting raised fears of a potential feud amongst Loyalist paramilitaries. In an interview published in the Sunday Life (a Belfast based newspaper) after his death Curry admitted killing 16 people but he denied that he was a member of the RHD. In 2001 it became apparent that the RHD was a cover name used by both the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and the UVF.]

There were violent confrontations in Portadown, County Armagh, with 40 Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers being injured. Vigils were held across Northern Ireland in protest at the killing of Rosemary Nelson on 15 March 1999.

Bill Clinton, then President of the USA, urged political leaders in Northern Ireland to lift their sights above short-term difficulties when he was presented with shamrock by Bertie Ahern, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), at the White House.

David Trimble, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), held a 30 minute meeting in the White House with Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF).

While St Patrick’s Day events took place in over 500 cities all over the world there was no official parade in Belfast.

The Unionist controlled Belfast City Council had withdrawn funds for the parade.


Remembering all innocent victims of the Troubles

Today is the anniversary of the death of the following people killed as a results of the conflict in Northern Ireland

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die

– Thomas Campbell

To the innocent on the list – Your memory will live  forever

– To  the Paramilitaries  –

There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, but nothing worth killing for.

14  People   lost their lives on the 17th March between 1973 – 1999


17 March 1973
Michael Gay,  (21)

Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed in land mine attack on British Army (BA) mobile patrol, Parkanaur, near Dungannon, County Tyrone.


17 March 1973
Lindsay Mooney,  (19)

Status: Ulster Defence Association (UDA),

Killed by: Ulster Defence Association (UDA)
Died in premature bomb explosion while parking car outside Kirk’s Lounge Bar, Cloughfinn, near Lifford, County Donegal.


17 March 1974

Cyril Wilson,   (37)

Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot by sniper while on Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) mobile patrol, Rathmore, Craigavon, County Armagh.


17 March 1974
Michael Ryan,  (23)

Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot by sniper while on British Army (BA) mobile patrol, Foyle Road, Brandywell, Derry.


17 March 1975
Thomas Smith,   (28)

Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: Irish Army (IA)
From County Dublin. Shot during attempted escape from Portlaoise Prison, County Laois


17 March 1976

Joseph Kelly,  (57)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Killed in car bomb explosion, outside Hillcrest Bar, Donaghmore Road, Dungannon, County Tyrone.


17 March 1976

Andrew Small,   (62)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Killed in car bomb explosion, outside Hillcrest Bar, Donaghmore Road, Dungannon, County Tyrone.


17 March 1976

James McCaughey,  (13)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Killed in car bomb explosion, outside Hillcrest Bar, Donaghmore Road, Dungannon, County Tyrone


17 March 1976

Patrick Barnard,  (13)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Killed in car bomb explosion, outside Hillcrest Bar, Donaghmore Road, Dungannon, County Tyrone.


17 March 1977

Daniel Carville,   (35)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Defence Association (UDA)
Shot while driving his car slowly over ramps, Cambrai Street, Shankill, Belfast


17 March 1978
David  Jones,   (23)

Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Undercover British Army (BA) member. Shot during gun battle with Irish Republican Army (IRA) unit in field, Lisnamuck, near Maghera, County Derry.


17 March 1989
Niall Davies,   (42)

Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Shot at his home, Church Road, Glengormley, near Belfast, County Antrim


17 March 1993

Lawrence Dickson,   (26)

Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot by sniper while on British Army (BA) foot patrol, Bog Road, Forkhill, County Armagh


17 March 1999

Frankie Curry,   (46)

Status: Red Hand Commando (RHC),

Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Shot while walking across waste ground, off Malvern Way, Shankill, Belfast. Red Hand Commando (RHC) / Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) dispute.


Mass Shootings UK – Profile of three UK Mass/Spree Killers

A mass murderer or spree killer is a killer who kills several victims in a short period of time

Umpqua Community College shooting

On October 1, 2015, a mass shooting took place at Umpqua Community College, near Roseburg, Oregon, United States.[5] Christopher Harper-Mercer, a 26-year-old student, fatally shot nine people and injured nine others on the campus.[6][7] He killed himself following a gun battle with responding police officers

Christopher Harper-Mercer

Whilst America  reels from its latest mass /spree killings and the USA once again  debates the rights and wrongs of gun control , here in the UK  ( and Europe ) we have a long history of lone gunmen , whom for reasons beyond our comprehension decide to kill multiple people. Below is a profile of three of the most recent and deadly mass/spree killings in the UK.

This list does not include IRA mass murders , please see deaths in the troubles for details on IRA killings.


Hungerford massacre

Michael Ryan 1986

16 people Killed

Michael Ryan

The Hungerford massacre was a series of random shootings in Hungerford, Berkshire, on 19 August 1987, when Michael Robert Ryan, an unemployed part-time antique dealer and handyman, fatally shot 16 people, including his own mother, before committing suicide. The shootings, committed using a handgun and two semi-automatic rifles, occurred at several locations, including a school he had once attended. A police officer died in the incident, and many people were injured. 15 other people were also shot but survived. No firm motive for the killings has ever been established. It remains one of the worst firearms atrocities in UK history.

A report was commissioned by the Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd. The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 was passed in the wake of the massacre, which bans the ownership of semi-automatic centre-fire rifles and restricts the use of shotguns with a capacity of more than three cartridges


The Hungerford Massacre: Michael Ryan’s Killing Spree



Ryan left 16 people dead in Hungerford before taking his own life – and left a further 15 with wounds. The full list of those who died is as follows:

Susan Godfrey

Roland Mason

Sheila Mason

Kenneth Clements

Police Constable Roger Brereton

Abdul Rahman Khan

George White

Dorothy Ryan

Francis Butler

Marcus Bernard

Douglas Wainwright

Eric Vardy

Sandra Hill

Victor Gibbs

Myrtle Gibbs

Ian Playle


The perpetrator of the Hungerford massacre was 27-year-old Michael Robert Ryan, an unemployed labourer and antiques dealer. He was born at Savernake Hospital in Marlborough, near Hungerford, on 18 May 1960.[2] His father, Alfred Henry Ryan, was 55 years old when Michael was born. Alfred Ryan died in Swindon in May 1985 at the age of 80. At the time of the shooting, Ryan lived with his mother, Dorothy, a dinner lady at the local primary school. He had no siblings. There was extensive press comment on this, suggesting the relationship was ‘unhealthy’ and that Ryan was “spoiled” by his mother. A Guardian headline described Ryan as a “mummy’s boy”.

House of the mother of gunman Michael Ryan

Ryan was a bachelor and had no children.

In the days following the massacre, the British tabloid press was filled with stories about Ryan’s life. Press biographies all stated that he had a near-obsessive fascination with firearms. The majority claimed that Ryan had possessed magazines about survival skills and firearms, Soldier of Fortune[3] being frequently named. Press reports claimed that he was obsessed with the Rambo film First Blood, which was erroneously described as featuring events similar to the Hungerford massacre, when in fact there was no evidence that Ryan even owned a video recorder, let alone that he had seen the film.[4] Sylvester Stallone stated “I carry the can for every lunatic in the world who goes crazy with a gun…but it wasn’t Rambo who sent Michael Ryan mad. In fact Rambo is the opposite of people like Ryan. He is always up against stronger opposition and never shoots first. Murderers are always saying, “God told me to kill” or “Jesus ordered me to kill” – so should the rest of us stop praying? There are always sick people out there who will hang their illness on to your hook.”[5]

Ryan’s true motives are unknown and it is unlikely that they will ever be known as Ryan killed himself and his mother, the only other person who knew him well. Dr John Hamilton of Broadmoor Hospital and Dr Jim Higgins, a consultant forensic psychiatrist for Mersey Regional Health Authority, both thought he was schizophrenic and psychotic. Hamilton stated “Ryan was most likely to be suffering from acute schizophrenia. He might have had a reason for doing what he did, but it was likely to be bizarre and peculiar to him.”[5] The local vicar the Reverend David Salt said on the first anniversary of the massacre “No one has ever explained why Michael Ryan did what he did. And that’s because, in my opinion, it is not something that can be explained.”[5] Ryan’s body was cremated at the Reading Crematorium on 3 September 1987, 15 days after he took his own life.

Licensed firearms ownership

Ryan had been issued a shotgun certificate in 1978, and on 11 December 1986 he was granted a firearms certificate covering the ownership of two pistols. He later applied to have the certificate amended to cover a third pistol, as he intended to sell one of the two he had acquired since the granting of the certificate (which was a Smith & Wesson .38-caliber revolver), and to buy two more. This was approved on 30 April 1987. On 14 July, he applied for another variation, to cover two semi-automatic rifles, which was approved on 30 July. At the time of the massacre, he was in licensed possession of the following weapons:

Ryan used the Beretta pistol, and the Type 56 and M1 rifles, in the massacre. The CZ pistol was being repaired by a dealer at the time.[7] The Type 56 was purchased from firearms dealer Mick Ranger.[6]


Savernake Forest

The first shooting occurred seven miles (11 km) to the west of Hungerford in Savernake Forest in Wiltshire, at 12:30 in the afternoon of 19 August. Susan Godfrey, 35, had come to the area with her two children; Hannah (aged four years) and James (aged two years) from Reading, Berkshire for a family picnic. Ryan approached them with his gun raised and forced Susan to place the children in her Nissan Micra. He then marched her into bushes at gunpoint and shot her 13 times in the back, using the whole magazine of the Beretta pistol. Police were alerted to the scene after Godfrey’s two children approached a lone pensioner, Myra Rose. Hannah told Rose that a “man in black has shot our mummy.”[8] Authorities were still responding when Ryan continued his massacre.[9]

A4 petrol station

Ryan drove his silver Vauxhall Astra GTE from the forest along the A4 towards Hungerford, and stopped at a petrol station three miles (5 km) from the town. After waiting for a motorcyclist, Ian George, to depart from the garage, he began to pump petrol into his car before shooting at the female cashier, Kakaub Dean, missing her. Ryan entered the store and again tried to shoot her at close range with his M1 carbine,[7] but the rifle’s magazine had fallen out, probably because he inadvertently hit the release mechanism. He then left and continued towards Hungerford. Meanwhile, George, having witnessed the attempted shooting of Dean, stopped in the village of Froxfield and placed the first emergency call to the police, reporting that he had seen an attempted armed robbery.


South View and Fairview Road

At around 12:45, Ryan was seen at his home in South View, Hungerford. He loaded his car with his weapons, and attempted to drive away, but the car would not start. He then fired four shots into the right side of the car. Neighbours reported seeing him agitatedly moving between the house and the car before he returned indoors and shot his dog. Ryan then doused his home with the petrol he had bought earlier in the day and set his house alight. The fire subsequently destroyed three surrounding properties.[10] Ryan then removed the three shotguns from the boot of his car and shot and killed husband and wife Roland and Sheila Mason, who were in the back garden of their house: Sheila was shot once in the head and Roland six times in the back.[10]

Ryan walked towards the town’s common, critically injuring two more people; Marjorie Jackson was shot once in the lower back as she watched Ryan from the window of her living room and 14-year-old Lisa Mildenhall four times in both legs as she stood outside her home. Mildenhall later recalled that Ryan smiled at her before crouching and shooting. Mildenhall was treated in a nearby home and survived. [11] Meanwhile, Jackson pulled 77-year-old Dorothy Smith into her home as she rebuked Ryan for making noise. Jackson first called 999 before telephoning George White, a colleague of her husband Ivor Jackson. She informed White that she had been injured. Her husband insisted on returning home and George White offered to drive him. Jackson survived; Smith was uninjured.[12]

On the footpath towards the Common, Ryan encountered a family walking their dog.[13] Upon seeing Ryan with his weapons, 51-year-old Kenneth Clements raised his arms in a gesture of surrender as his family climbed over a wall and ran to safety. Ryan ignored the gesture before shooting Clements once at close range in the chest, killing him instantly. He fell to the ground still clutching the lead of his dog.[1]

Looping back to South View, Ryan fired 23 rounds at PC Roger Brereton, a police officer who had just arrived at the scene in response to reports of gunfire. Brereton was hit four times in his chest:[14] his car veered and crashed into a telephone pole. He died sitting in his patrol car, radioing to his colleagues that he had been shot.[15] Ryan next turned his weapons on Linda Chapman and her teenage daughter, Alison, who had turned onto South View moments after Brereton was shot. Ryan fired 11 bullets from his semi-automatic into their Volvo 360; the bullets travelled through the bonnet of the car, hitting and critically wounding Alison in her right thigh. Ryan also shot through the windscreen, hitting Linda with glass and a bullet in the left shoulder . As Ryan reloaded his weapons, Linda reversed put the car in reverse, exited South View and drove to the local doctor’s, parking outside the surgery. A bullet was subsequently found lodged at the base of Alison’s spine; during a subsequent operation to remove it, surgeons decided that the risk of paralysis was too great, and the bullet was left in place.[16]

After the Chapmans had driven away from South View, George White’s Toyota Crown drove towards Ryan; Ivor Jackson was in the passenger seat. Ryan opened fire with his Type 56, killing White with a single shot to the head and leaving Ivor Jackson severely injured in his head and chest. White’s Toyota crashed into the rear of PC Brereton’s police car. Jackson feigned death and hoped that Ryan would not move in for a closer look.[17]

Ryan moved along Fairview Road, killing Abdul Rahman Khan who was mowing his lawn. Further along the road he wounded his next door neighbour, Alan Lepetit, who had helped build Ryan’s gun display unit. He then shot at an ambulance which had just arrived, shattering the window and injuring paramedic Hazel Haslett, who sped away before Ryan was able to fire at her again.

Ryan shot at windows and at people who appeared on the street. Ryan’s mother, Dorothy, then drove into South View and was confronted by her burning house, her armed son, and dead and injured strewn along the street.[18] Ivor Jackson, who was still slumped in White’s Toyota.[14] He heard Dorothy Ryan open the door of White’s Toyota and say, “Oh, Ivor…” before attempting in vain to reason with her son. Ryan shot her dead as she raised her arms and pleaded with him not to shoot.[18] Ryan then wounded Betty Tolladay, who had stepped out of her house to admonish Ryan for making noise, as she had assumed he was shooting at paper targets in the woods.[19] He then ran towards Hungerford Common.

The police were now informed of the situation but the evacuation plan was not fully effective. Ryan’s movements were tracked via police helicopter almost an hour after he set his home alight, but this was hampered by media helicopters and journalists responding to reports of the attacks. A single police officer, who observed Ryan, recommended that armed police be used, as the weapons he saw were beyond the capabilities of Hungerford police station’s meagre firearms locker.

Hungerford Common and town centre

On Hungerford Common, Ryan went on to shoot and kill young father-of-two, Francis Butler, as he walked his dog, and shot at, but missed, teenager Andrew Cadle, who sped away on his bicycle.[1] Local taxi driver Marcus Barnard slowed down his Peugeot 309 as Ryan crossed in front of him. Ryan shot him with the Type 56, causing a massive injury to his head and killing him. Barnard had been redirected towards the Common by a police diversion as communication between ground forces and the police helicopter remained sporadic. Ann Honeybone was slightly injured by a bullet as she drove down Priory Avenue. Ryan then shot at John Storms, an ambulance repairman had parked on Priory Avenue.[20] Hit in the face, Storms crouched below the dashboard of his vehicle. He heard Ryan fire twice more at his van and felt the vehicle shake, but he was not hit again. A local builder named Bob Barclay ran from his nearby house and dragged Storms out of his van and into the safety of his home.[21] Ryan then walked towards the town centre of Hungerford, where police were attempting to evacuate the public. During this, Ryan killed 67-year-old Douglas Wainwright and injured his wife Kathleen in their car. Kathleen Wainwright would later say that her husband hit the brakes as soon as the windscreen shattered. Ryan fired eight rounds into the Wainwrights’ Datsun Bluebird,[22] hitting Douglas in the head and Kathleen in the chest and hand. Kathleen, seeing that her husband was dead and that Ryan was approaching the car whilst reloading, unbuckled her seatbelt and ran.[1] The pair were visiting their son, a policeman on the Hungerford force. Coincidentally, Constable Wainwright had signed Ryan’s request to extend his firearm certificate only weeks earlier. Next was Kevin Lance, who was shot in the upper arm[23] as he drove his Ford Transit along Tarrant’s Hill.[21]

Further up Priory Avenue, a 51-year-old handyman named Eric Vardy[24] and his passenger, Steven Ball, drove into Ryan’s path while travelling to a job in Vardy’s Leyland Sherpa. Ball later recalled that he saw a young man (Kevin Lance) clutching his arm and running into a narrow side street. As Ball focused on Lance, Ryan shattered the windscreen with a burst of bullets. Vardy was hit twice in the neck and upper torso[10] and crashed his van into a wall. Eric Vardy would later die of shock and haemorrhage from his neck wound. Ball suffered no serious injuries.[1]

Throughout his movements, Ryan had also opened fire on a number of other people, some of whom were grazed or walking wounded. Many of these minor casualties were not counted in the eventual total.

At around 13:30,[25] Ryan crossed Orchard Park Close into Priory Road, firing a single round at a passing red Renault 5. This shot fatally wounded the driver, 22-year-old Sandra Hill.[26] A passing soldier, Carl Harries, rushed to Hill’s car and attempted in vain to apply first aid, but Hill died in his arms.[27]

After shooting Hill, Ryan shot his way into a house further down Priory Road and killed the occupants: Jack and Myrtle Gibbs. Jack Gibbs was killed instantly as he attempted to shield his wheelchair-bound wife, Myrtle, from Ryan with his own body. Myrtle succumbed to her injuries two days later. Ryan also fired shots into neighbouring houses from the Gibbs’ house, injuring Michael Jennings at 62 Priory Road and Myra Geater at 71 Priory Road.[1] Ryan continued down Priory Road where he spotted 34-year-old Ian Playle, who was returning from a shopping trip with his wife and two young children in their Ford Sierra. Playle crashed into a stationary car after being shot in the neck by Ryan. His wife and children were unhurt. Carl Harries again rushed over to administer first aid, but Playle’s wound proved to be fatal[1] as he died in an Oxford hospital two days later.[28]

After shooting and injuring 66-year-old George Noon in his garden, Ryan broke into the John O’Gaunt Community Technology College.


Ryan barricaded himself in a classroom in the John O’Gaunt Community Technology College, where he had previously been a pupil. It was closed and empty for the summer holidays. Police surrounded the building and found a number of ground-staff and two children who had seen Ryan enter. They offered guidance to the police on how to enter, and of hiding places. Ryan shot at circling helicopters and waved what appeared to be an unpinned grenade through the window, though reports differ whether Ryan had one. Police attempted negotiations to coax Ryan out of the school, but these attempts failed. He refused to leave before knowing what happened to his mother, saying that her death was “a mistake”. At 18:52, Ryan committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with the Beretta pistol.[29] One of the statements Ryan made towards the end of the negotiations was widely reported: “Hungerford must be a bit of a mess. I wish I had stayed in bed.”[30]

Police response

Hungerford was policed by two sergeants and twelve constables, and on the morning of 19 August 1987 the duty cover for the section consisted of one sergeant, two patrol constables and one station duty officer.[31]

A number of factors hampered the police response:[15]

  • The telephone exchange could not handle the number of 999 calls made by witnesses.
  • The Thames Valley firearms squad were training 40 miles away.
  • The police helicopter was in for repair, though it was eventually deployed.
  • Only two phone lines were in operation at the local police station which was undergoing renovation.

Official Report

A report on this incident (the “Hungerford Report”) was commissioned by the Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd, from the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, Colin Smith. The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988[32] was passed in the wake of the massacre, which bans the ownership of semi-automatic centre-fire rifles and restricts the use of shotguns with a capacity of more than three cartridges (in magazine plus the breech). Ryan’s collection of weapons had been legally licensed, according to the Hungerford Report.


The Hungerford massacre remains, along with the 1989 Monkseaton shootings, the 1996 Dunblane school massacre, and the 2010 Cumbria shootings, one of the worst criminal atrocities involving firearms to occur in the United Kingdom. The Dunblane and Cumbria shootings had a similar number of fatalities, and in both cases the perpetrator killed themselves. Only one person died in the Monkseaton shootings, but 14 others were wounded, and the perpetrator did not commit suicide.


Dunblane School


Thomas Hamilton 13 March 1996,

17 people Killed

Thomas Hamilton

The Dunblane school massacre was one of the deadliest firearms incidents in UK history, when gunman Thomas Hamilton killed sixteen children and one teacher at Dunblane Primary School near Stirling, Scotland on 13 March 1996, before committing suicide.

Public debate about the killings centred on gun control laws, including public petitions calling for a ban on private ownership of handguns and an official enquiry, the Cullen Report. In response to this debate, two new firearms Acts were passed, which effectively made private ownership of handguns illegal in Britain.


The Dunblane Massacre



1. Victoria Elizabeth Clydesdale (age 5)
2. Emma Elizabeth Crozier (age 5)
3. Melissa Helen Currie (age 5)
4. Charlotte Louise Dunn (age 5)
5. Kevin Allan Hasell (age 5)
6. Ross William Irvine (age 5)
7. David Charles Kerr (age 5)
8. Mhairi Isabel MacBeath (age 5)
9. Brett McKinnon (age 6)
10. Abigail Joanne McLennan (age 5)
11. Gwen Mayor (age 45)
—Primary School Teacher
12. Emily Morton (age 5)
13. Sophie Jane Lockwood North (age 5)
14. John Petrie (age 5)
15. Joanna Caroline Ross (age 5)
16. Hannah Louise Scott (age 5)
17. Megan Turner (age 5)

On the morning of Wednesday 13 March 1996, ex-scout leader Thomas Hamilton, aged 43, was witnessed scraping ice off his van at approximately 8:15 am outside his home at Kent Road in Stirling.[2] He left a short time afterwards and drove approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) north[3] to Dunblane in his white van. He arrived on the grounds of Dunblane Primary School at around 9:30 am and parked his van near to a telegraph pole in the car park of the school. Hamilton severed the cables at the bottom of the telegraph pole, which served nearby houses, with a set of pliers before making his way across the car park towards the school buildings.[2]

Hamilton headed towards the northwest side of the school to a door near toilets and the school gymnasium. After gaining entry, he made his way to the gymnasium armed with four legally held handguns;[4] two 9mm Browning HP pistols and two Smith & Wesson M19 .357 Magnum revolvers.[2] He was also carrying 743 cartridges of ammunition.[1] In the gym was a class of twenty-eight Primary 1 pupils preparing for a P.E. lesson in the presence of three adult members of staff.[5] Before entering the gymnasium, it is believed he fired two shots into the stage of the assembly hall and the girls’ toilet.[2] Upon entering the gymnasium, Hamilton was about to be confronted by Eileen Harrild, the P.E. teacher in charge of the lesson, before he started shooting rapidly and randomly. He shot Harrild, who sustained injuries to her arms and chest as she attempted to protect herself, and continued shooting into the gymnasium.[2][5] Harrild managed to stumble into the open plan store cupboard at the side of the gym along with several injured children. Gwen Mayor, the teacher of the Primary 1 class, was shot and killed instantly.[2] The other present adult, Mary Blake, a supervisory assistant, was shot in the head and both legs but also managed to make her way to the store cupboard with several of the children in front of her.[2]

From entering the gymnasium and walking a few steps, Hamilton had fired 29 shots with one of the pistols and killed one child and injured several others. Four injured children had managed to shelter in the store cupboard along with the injured Harrild and Blake.[2] Hamilton then advanced up the east side of the gym, firing six shots as he walked and then fired eight shots towards the opposite end of the gym. He then proceeded towards the centre of the gym, firing 16 shots at point-blank range at a group of children who had been incapacitated by his earlier shots.[2]

A Primary 7 pupil who was walking along the west side of the gym building at the time heard loud bangs and screams and looked inside the gym. Hamilton shot in his direction and the pupil was injured by flying glass before running away.[2] From this position, Hamilton fired 24 cartridges in various directions. He fired shots towards a window next to the fire exit at the south-east end of the gym, possibly at an adult who was walking across the playground, and then fired four more shots in the same direction after opening the fire exit door.[2] Hamilton then exited the gym briefly through the fire exit, firing another four shots towards the cloakroom of the library, striking and injuring Grace Tweddle, another member of staff at the school.[2]

In the mobile classroom closest to the fire exit where Hamilton was standing, Catherine Gordon saw him firing shots and instructed her Primary 7 class to get down onto the floor before Hamilton fired nine bullets into the classroom, striking books and equipment. One bullet passed through a chair where a child had been sitting seconds beforehand.[2] Hamilton then reentered the gym, dropped the pistol he was using, and equipped himself with one of the two revolvers. He put the barrel of the gun in his mouth, pointed it upwards, and pulled the trigger, killing himself.[2] A total of 32 people sustained gunshot wounds inflicted by Hamilton over a 3–4 minute period, 16 of whom were fatally wounded in the gymnasium, which included Gwen Mayor and 15 of her pupils. One other child died later en route to hospital.[2]

Emergency response

The first call to the police was made at 9:41 a.m.[5] by the headmaster of the school, Ronald Taylor, who had been alerted by assistant headmistress Agnes Awlson to the possibility of a gunman on the school premises. Awlson had informed Taylor that she heard screaming inside the gymnasium and had seen what she thought to be cartridges on the ground, whilst Taylor had been aware of loud noises which he assumed to have been from builders on site that he had not been informed of. Whilst on his way to the gym, the shooting ended and when he saw what had happened ran back to his office and told deputy headmistress Fiona Eadington to call for ambulances, which was made at 9:43 a.m.

The first ambulance arrived on the scene at 9:57 a.m. in response to the call made at 9:43 a.m. Another medical team from Dunblane Health Centre arrived at 10:04 a.m. which included doctors and a nurse, who were involved in the initial resuscitation of the injured. Medical teams from the health centres in the nearby towns of Doune and Callander arrived shortly afterwards. The accident and emergency department at Stirling Royal Infirmary had also been informed of a major incident involving multiple casualties at 9:48 a.m. and the first of a number of medical teams from the hospital arrived at 10:15 am. Another medical team from the Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary arrived at 10:35 a.m.

By approximately 11:10 a.m., all of the injured victims had been taken to Stirling Royal Infirmary for medical treatment; one victim died en route to the hospital.[5] Upon examination, several of the patients were transferred to Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary in Falkirk and some to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow.[6]

Along with the 1987 Hungerford massacre, and the 2010 Cumbria shootings, it remains one of the deadliest criminal acts involving firearms in the history of the United Kingdom.


Thomas Watt Hamilton
Born (1952-05-10)10 May 1952
Glasgow, Scotland
Died 13 March 1996(1996-03-13) (aged 43)
Occupation Former shopkeeper
Criminal status Deceased
Parent(s) Thomas Watt Hamilton, Sr. (father)
Agnes Graham Hamilton (mother)

There had been a number of complaints to police regarding Hamilton’s behaviour towards the young boys who attended the youth clubs he directed. Claims had been made of his having taken photographs of semi-naked boys without parental consent.[7]

Hamilton had briefly been a Scout leader – initially, in July 1973, he was appointed assistant leader with the 4th/6th Stirling of the Scout Association. In the autumn of that year, he was seconded as leader to the 24th Stirlingshire troop, which was being revived. However, several complaints were made about his leadership, including two occasions when Scouts were forced to sleep with Hamilton in his van during hill-walking expeditions. Within months, on 13 May 1974, Hamilton’s Scout Warrant was withdrawn, with the County Commissioner stating that he was “suspicious of his moral intentions towards boys”. He was blacklisted by the Association and thus thwarted in a later attempt he made to become a Scout leader in Clackmannanshire.[8]

He claimed in letters that rumours about him led to the failure of his shop business in 1993, and in the last months of his life he complained again that his attempts to organise a boys’ club were subject to persecution by local police and the scout movement. Among those to whom he complained were the Queen and the local Member of Parliament, Michael Forsyth. In the 1980s, another MP, George Robertson, who lived in Dunblane, had complained to Forsyth about Hamilton’s local boys’ club, which his son had attended. On the day following the massacre, Robertson spoke of having argued with Hamilton “in my own home”.[9]

On 19 March 1996, six days after the massacre, the body of Thomas Hamilton was cremated in a private ceremony.[10]

Political impact

Gun control

The Cullen Inquiry into the massacre recommended that the government introduce tighter controls on handgun ownership[11] and consider whether an outright ban on private ownership would be in the public interest in the alternative (though club ownership would be maintained).[12] The report also recommended changes in school security[13] and vetting of people working with children under 18.[14] The Home Affairs Select Committee agreed with the need for restrictions on gun ownership but stated that a handgun ban was not appropriate.

A small group, known as the Gun Control Network was founded in the aftermath of the shootings and was supported by some parents of victims at Dunblane and of the Hungerford Massacre.[15] Bereaved families and their friends also initiated a campaign to ban private gun ownership, named the Snowdrop Petition (because March is snowdrop time in Scotland), which gained 705,000 signatures in support and was supported by some newspapers, including the Sunday Mail, a Scottish newspaper whose own petition to ban handguns had raised 428,279 signatures within five weeks of the massacre.

In response to this public debate, the then-current Conservative government of John Major introduced the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, which banned all cartridge ammunition handguns with the exception of .22 calibre single-shot weapons in England, Scotland and Wales. Following the 1997 General Election, the Labour government of Tony Blair introduced the Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1997, banning the remaining .22 cartridge handguns in England, Scotland and Wales, and leaving only muzzle-loading and historic handguns legal, as well as certain sporting handguns (e.g. “Long-Arms”) that fall outside the Home Office Definition of a “handgun” because of their dimensions. The ban does not affect Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, or the Channel Islands.

Security in schools, particularly primary schools, was improved in response to the Dunblane massacre and two other violent incidents south of the Border which occurred at around the same time: the murder of Philip Lawrence, a head teacher in London, and the wounding of six children and Lisa Potts, a nursery teacher, at a Wolverhampton nursery school. Many schools put up high perimeter fences and door entry systems which exist to this day.

Criticism of the judiciary

Evidence of previous police interaction with Hamilton was presented to the Cullen Inquiry but later sealed under a closure order to prevent publication for 100 years.[16] The official reason for sealing the documents was to protect the identities of children, but this led to accusations of a coverup intended to protect the reputations of officials.[17] Following a review of the closure order by the Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd, edited versions of some of the documents were released to the public in October 2005. Four files containing post mortems, medical records and profiles on the victims remained sealed under the 100 year order to avoid distressing the relatives and survivors.[18]

The released documents revealed that in 1991, following Hamilton’s Loch Lomond summer camp, complaints were made to Central Scotland Police and were investigated by the Child Protection Unit. Hamilton was reported to the Procurator Fiscal for consideration of ten charges, including assault, obstructing police and contravention of the Children and Young Persons Act 1937. No action was taken.[19]

Media coverage


Two books – Dunblane: Our Year of Tears by Peter Samson and Alan Crow (Mainstream, 1996) and Dunblane: Never Forget by Mick North (Mainstream, 2000) – both give accounts of the massacre from the perspective of those most directly affected. Another book, Dunblane Unburied by Sandra Uttley (Book Publishing World 2006), whose publication was funded by a shooters’ organisation, the Sportsman’s Association,[20] examines Hamilton’s relationship with members of Central Scotland Police and presents a disturbing and largely conspiratorial account to the events leading up to the massacre. Uttley alleges a major high-level cover-up and calls for a new Public Inquiry to establish the truth. Uttley questions how Thomas Hamilton managed to tyrannize and intimidate so many boys at his clubs and summer camps for years without being stopped even though many parents complained to the police and councils and why Central Scotland Police were allowed to carry out the investigation when they were implicated. On 1 March 2006 Creation Books released Predicate: The Dunblane Massacre — Ten Years After by Peter Sotos.[21]


On the Sunday following the shootings the morning service from Dunblane Cathedral, conducted by Rev. Colin MacIntosh, was broadcast live by the BBC. The BBC also had live transmission of the Memorial Service on 9 October 1996, also held at Dunblane Cathedral.

A documentary “Crimes That Shook Britain” featured the massacre.

A documentary Dunblane: Remembering our Children (produced by Chameleon Television), which featured many of the parents of the children who had been killed, was broadcast by STV and ITV at the time of the first anniversary.

At the time of the tenth anniversary in March 2006 two documentaries were broadcast. Channel 5 screened Dunblane — a decade on (made by Hanrahan Media) and BBC Scotland showed Remembering Dunblane.


In 2009, the Sunday Express came under some criticism for its coverage of the survivors of the massacre (see Sunday Express Dunblane controversy).


Two days after the shooting, a vigil and prayer session was held at Dunblane Cathedral which was attended by people of all faiths.[1] On Mothering Sunday, on 17 March, Queen Elizabeth II and her daughter Anne, Princess Royal attended a memorial service at Dunblane Cathedral.[1]

Side view of the nave of a cathedral from outside. Tall arched glass windows run along half the length of the nave from the right. Adjacent to the nave, and to the left of the scene is a cuboid-shaped tower with a conical spire. The foreground is scattered with headstones of a graveyard on green grass.

Numerous memorial services have been held at Dunblane Cathedral.

Seven months after the massacre in October 1996, the families of the victims organised their own memorial service at Dunblane Cathedral in which more than 600 people attended, including Prince Charles who was representing the Royal Family.[1] The service was broadcast live on BBC1 and conducted by James Whyte, a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.[22] Television presenter Lorraine Kelly, who had befriended some of the victims’ families whilst reporting on the massacre for GMTV, was a guest speaker at the service.[1]

In August 1997, two varieties of rose were unveiled and planted as the centrepiece for a roundabout in Dunblane.[23] The two roses were developed by Cockers Roses of Aberdeen;[24] the ‘Gwen Mayor’[25] rose and ‘Innocence’[26] rose, in memory of the children killed. A snowdrop originally found in a Dunblane garden in the 1970s was renamed ‘Sophie North’ in memory of one of the victims of the massacre.[27][28]

The gymnasium at the school was demolished on 11 April 1996 and replaced by a memorial garden.[29] Two years after the massacre on 14 March 1998, a memorial garden was opened at Dunblane Cemetery, where Gwen Mayor and twelve of the children who were killed are buried.[30] The garden features a fountain with a plaque of the names of those killed.[30] Stained glass windows in memory of the victims were placed in three local churches, St Blane’s and the Church of the Holy Family in Dunblane and the nearby Lecropt Kirk as well as at the Dunblane Youth and Community Centre.

The National Association of Primary Education commissioned a sculpture, “Flame for Dunblane”, created by Walter Bailey from a single yew tree, which was placed in the National Forest, near the village of Moira, Leicestershire.

Commemoration stone

The Dunblane Commemoration standing stone.

In the nave of Dunblane Cathedral is a standing stone by the monumental sculptor Richard Kindersley. It was commissioned by the Kirk Session as the Cathedral’s commemoration and dedicated at a service on 12 March 2000. It is a Clashach stone two metres high on a Caithness flagstone base. The quotations on the stone are by E. V. Rieu (“He called a little child to him…”), Richard Henry Stoddard (“…the spirit of a little child”), Bayard Taylor (“But still I dream that somewhere there must be The spirit of a child that waits for me”) and W. H. Auden (“We are linked as children in a circle dancing”).

Musical tributes

With the consent of Bob Dylan, the musician Ted Christopher wrote a new verse for “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” in memory of the Dunblane school children and their teacher. The recording of the revised version of the song, which included brothers and sisters of the victims singing the chorus and Mark Knopfler on guitar, was released on 9 December 1996 in the UK, and reached number 1. The proceeds went to charities for children.[31] Pipe Sergeant Charlie Glendinning of the City of Washington Pipe Band (USA) composed “Dunblane,” a tune for bagpipes, which Bonnie Rideout arranged for two violins and viola. It was recorded on “Rant,” an album produced by Maggie’s Music.[32] Pipe Major Robert Mathieson of the Shotts and Dykehead Pipe Band composed a pipe tune in tribute, “The Bells of Dunblane.”[33] Australian band The Living End references the Dunblane massacre in their song “Monday” off their self-titled CD released in 1998.


Cumbria Shootings

Derrick Bird, 2 June 2010

12 people Killed

Derrick Bird,

The Cumbria shootings was a killing spree that occurred on 2 June 2010 when a lone gunman, Derrick Bird, killed 12 people and injured 11 others before killing himself in Cumbria, England. Along with the 1987 Hungerford massacre, the 1989 Monkseaton shootings, and the 1996 Dunblane school massacre, it is one of the worst criminal acts involving firearms in British history.

The series of attacks began in mid-morning in Lamplugh and moved to Frizington, Whitehaven, Egremont, Gosforth, and Seascale, sparking a major manhunt by the Cumbria Constabulary, with assistance from Civil Nuclear Constabulary officers.

Bird, a 52-year-old local taxi driver, was later found dead in a wooded area, having abandoned his vehicle in the village of Boot. Two weapons that appeared to have been used in the shootings were recovered. A total of 30 different crime scenes were investigated. The event was the worst shooting incident in Britain since the Dunblane school massacre, in which 18 people died.

Queen Elizabeth II paid tribute to the victims and the Prince of Wales later visited Whitehaven in the wake of the tragedy. Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May also visited West Cumbria. A memorial fund has been set up to aid victims and affected communities.


CCTV footage leaked of Derrick Bird driving and shooting through Whitehaven, Cumbria



Targeted shootings

In the early hours of 2 June, Bird left his home in Rowrah and drove his Citroën Xsara Picasso to his twin brother David’s home in Lamplugh,[5] where he shot him eleven times in the head and body with a .22 rifle, killing him.

He then went to Frizington, arriving at the home of the family solicitor, Kevin Commons, whom he prevented from leaving in his vehicle before firing twice with a double-barreled shotgun, hitting Commons once in the shoulder. Commons staggered out of his car and onto the entrance to his farmyard, where Bird killed him with two gunshots to the head from his rifle.[1][6][7][8] At 10:20 BST, the police were telephoned. Bird then moved on towards Whitehaven.[9] A witness called the Cumbria Constabulary to report Commons’ shooting, although her call was delayed by several minutes after she asked neighbours what she should do. She also erroneously described Bird as being armed with an air rifle despite being able to hear the gunshots.[1]

After killing Commons, Bird went to a friend’s residence to retrieve a shotgun he loaned, although he was answered by the friend’s wife, who didn’t have access to it.[1] Afterwards, at 10:33, Bird drove to a taxi rank on Duke Street, Whitehaven.[4][2][6] There, he called over Darren Rewcastle, another taxi driver who was previously known to Bird and had conflicts with him over his behaviour, poaching fares, and an incident where Rewcastle damaged the tyres on Bird’s taxi and openly boasted about it. When Rewcastle approached his taxi, Bird shot him twice at point-blank range with the .22 rifle, hitting him in the lower face, neck, and abdomen. Rewcastle died of his injuries, being the only person to die in Whitehaven.[1][6][7]

Soon after killing Rewcastle, Bird then drove alongside another taxi driver, Donald Reid, shooting and wounding him in the back. He then made a loop back to the taxi rank and fired twice at Reid as he waited for emergency personnel, missing him. Next, Bird drove away from the taxi rank, stopped alongside another taxi driver named Paul Wilson as he walked down Scotch Street, and called him over to his vehicle as he did with Rewcastle; when Wilson answered his call, Bird shot him in the right side of his face with the shotgun, severely wounding him. As a result of the shootings, unarmed officers at the local police station were informed and began following Bird’s taxi as it drove onto Coach Road. There, he fired his shotgun at a passing taxi, injuring the male driver, Terry Kennedy, and the female passenger, Emma Percival. Bird was then able to flee the officers after he aimed his shotgun at two of them, forcing them to take cover. However, he did not fire, and instead took advantage of the unarmed officers’ distraction to escape.[1]

Random shootings

In the wake of the Whitehaven shootings, residents in the town and also the neighbouring towns of Egremont and Seascale were immediately urged to stay indoors.[10] A massive manhunt for Bird was launched by the Cumbria Constabulary, which was assisted by Civil Nuclear Constabulary officers.[11] Bird proceeded to drive through several local towns, firing apparently at random, calling over a majority of the victims to his taxi before shooting them.

Near Egremont, Bird tried to shoot Jacqueline Williamson as she walked her dog, but she managed to escape without injury. Upon arriving in Egremont, Bird stopped alongside Susan Hughes as she walked home from shopping, and shot her in the chest and abdomen with the shotgun. He then got out of his taxi and got into a struggle with her before fatally shooting her in the back of the head with his rifle. Then, after driving a short distance onto Bridge End, Bird fired the shotgun at Kenneth Fishburn as he walked in the opposite direction; Fishburn suffered fatal wounds to the head and neck.[1][6][7] This was followed by the shooting of Leslie Hunter, who was called over to Bird’s taxi before being shot in the face at close range with the shotgun, then a second time in the back after he turned away to protect himself. Hunter survived his injuries.

Bird then went south towards Thornhill, where he fired his shotgun at a teenage girl named Ashley Glaister, but missed her. He then passed Carleton and travelled onto the village of Wilton, where he tried to visit Jason Carey, a member of a diving club that Bird was also in, but left when Carey’s wife came to the door. Soon after, he shot Jennifer Jackson once in the chest with his shotgun and twice in the head with his rifle, killing her. Bird then drove past Town Head Farm, but turned back towards it and fired his shotgun, fatally hitting Jennifer Jackson’s husband James in the head and wounding a woman named Christine Hunter-Hall in the back. He then drove back to Carleton and killed Isaac Dixon, a mole-catcher who was talking to a farmer in a field when he was fatally shot twice at close range by Bird’s shotgun.[1][6][7] A former semi-professional rugby league player, Garry Purdham, was soon shot and killed while working in a field outside the Red Admiral Hotel at Boonwood, near Gosforth.[1][6][7][12]

Bird then drove towards Seascale. Along the way, he began driving slowly and waved other motorists to pass him. He then shot a motorist named James “Jamie” Clark, who died of a shotgun wound to the head, although it was not clear at first whether he died from the gunshot wound or the subsequent car crash.[1][6][7] Bird then encountered another motorist named Harry Berger at a narrow, one-way passage underneath a railway bridge. When Berger allowed Bird to enter first, Bird fired at him as he passed by, shooting him twice and causing severe injury to his right arm. Three armed response vehicles attempting to pursue Bird were later blocked out of the tunnel by Berger’s vehicle, and nearby citizens had to push it away in order to let them pass.

Meanwhile, Bird had driven along the seafront and onto Drigg Road, where he fired twice at Michael Pike, a retired man who was bicycling in front of him; the first shot missed, but the second hit Pike in the neck and proved to be fatal. Seconds later, while on the same street, Bird fatally shot Jane Robinson in the neck and head with his shotgun at point-blank range after apparently calling her over.[1][6]

After killing Jane Robinson, who was the last fatality in the shootings, witnesses described Bird as driving increasingly erratically down the street. At 11:33, Police Constables Phillip Lewis and Andrew Laverack spotted Bird as his car passed by their vehicle. They attempted to pursue him, but were delayed in roadworks and lost sight of him a minute later. Soon afterwards, Bird drove into Eskdale Valley, where he wounded Jackie Lewis in the head with his rifle as she was out walking. At this point, his route had become clearer to police during their search for him. Next, Bird stopped alongside Fiona Moretta, who leaned into his passenger window, believing he was going to ask her for directions. Instead, he injured her in the face with the rifle, then continued onward towards the village of Boot.

Arriving there, Bird briefly stopped at a business premises called Sims Travel and fired his rifle at nearby people, but missed. Continuing further into the village, he continued firing at random people and missing. Bird eventually fired his rifle at two men, hitting and severely wounding Nathan Jones in the face. This was shortly followed by a couple who had stopped their car to take a photo; Samantha Chrystie suffered severe wounds to the face from a rifle bullet. Chrystie’s partner, Craig Ross, fled upon Bird’s instruction and was then fired at, but escaped uninjured.[1]

Suspect’s suicide

Shortly after firing at two cyclists, Bird crashed his taxi into a number of vehicles and a stone wall, damaging a tyre.[1] Briefly continuing onward, he abandoned his car when it ran out of petrol at a beauty spot, called Doctor Bridge, near Boot. A nearby family of four, who were unaware of the shootings, offered assistance to Bird, but were quickly turned down and advised to leave.[6][13] He removed the rifle from his taxi and walked over a bridge leading into Oak How Woods.[1] Bird was last seen alive at 12:30; shortly after 12:30, police confirmed that there had been a number of fatalities and that they were searching for a suspect. Police later announced they were searching for the driver of a dark-grey Citroën Xsara Picasso,[4] driven by the suspect, who was identified as Bird.[8] At around 12:36, armed police officers and dog handlers arrived at the scene of Bird’s abandoned taxi and began a search in and around the wooded area.[1]

At 14:00, Deputy Chief Constable Stuart Hyde[14] announced that a body, believed to be that of Bird, had been found in a wooded area, along with a rifle. Police confirmed shortly afterwards that members of the public who had taken shelter during the incident could now resume their normal activities.[15][16]

During the manhunt, the gates of the nearby Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant were closed as a precaution, and the afternoon shift was told not to come to work. This was the first lock-down in the history of the plant.[4]


At 15:00, Prime Minister David Cameron, taking his first session of Prime Minister’s Questions, announced that “at least five” people had died, including the gunman.[17] Later that evening, a police press conference in Whitehaven announced that 12 people had been killed, that a further 11 people were injured, three of them critically,[17] and that the suspect had killed himself. They also confirmed that two weapons (a double-barrelled shotgun and a .22-calibre rifle with a scope and silencer) had been used by the suspect in the attacks and that thirty different crime scenes were being investigated.[4] The shootings were considered the worst mass-casualty shooting incident since the 1996 Dunblane school massacre, which left 18 people dead.[18] A report later determined that Bird fired a total of at least 47 rounds during most of the shootings (29 from his shotgun, 18 from his .22 rifle). Six live .22 rounds were also found on Bird’s body, while an additional eight were found held inside the rifle. A search in Bird’s home later recovered over 750 rounds of live .22 ammunition, 240 live shotgun shells, and a large amount of financial paperwork.[1]

Over the next few hours, Bird’s shooting of his brother and solicitor was revealed. The police stated that the shootings took place along a 15-mile (24 km) stretch of the Cumbrian coastline.[13] Helicopters from neighbouring police forces were used in the manhunt,[4] while those from the RAF Search and Rescue Force and the Yorkshire Air Ambulance responded to casualties. A major incident was declared by North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust at West Cumberland Hospital, Whitehaven, with the accident and emergency department at the Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle, on full incident stand-by.[4]

Bird had been a licensed firearms holder and the incident sparked debate about further gun control in the United Kingdom; the previous Dunblane and Hungerford shootings had led to increased firearms controls.[19]



Targeted shootings

David Bird, 52, killed at Lamplugh, twin brother of the gunman.

Kevin Commons, 60, killed at Frizington, gunman’s family solicitor.

Darren Rewcastle, 43, killed at Whitehaven, fellow taxi driver known to the gunman.

Random shootings

Susan Hughes, 57, killed at Egremont.

Kenneth Fishburn, 71, killed at Egremont.

Jennifer Jackson, 68, killed at Wilton, wife of James Jackson.

James Jackson, 67, killed at Wilton, husband of Jennifer Jackson.

Isaac Dixon, 65, killed at Carleton.

Garry Purdham, 31, killed at Gosforth.

James “Jamie” Clark,[1] 23, killed at Seascale.

Michael Pike, 64, killed at Seascale.

Jane Robinson, 66, killed at Seascale.


  • Donald Reid
  • Paul Wilson
  • Terry Kennedy
  • Emma Percival
  • Leslie Hunter
  • Christine Hunter-Hall
  • Harry Berger
  • Jacqueline Lewis
  • Fiona Moretta
  • Nathan Jones
  • Samantha Chrystie


Derrick Bird
Born (1957-11-27)27 November 1957[20]
Whitehaven, Cumbria[21]
Died 2 June 2010(2010-06-02) (aged 52)
Boot, Cumbria
Occupation Taxi driver
Criminal status Deceased
Children Two sons

Derrick Bird (27 November 1957 – 2 June 2010) was born to Joseph and Mary Bird. He had a twin brother, David, and an older brother.[22] He lived alone in Rowrah,[23][24] and had two sons with a woman from whom he separated in the mid-1990s. He became a grandfather in May 2010,[25] and was variously described as a popular and quiet man who worked as a self-employed taxi driver in Whitehaven.[24][23]

It was reported that he had previously sought help from a local hospital due to his fragile mental state, although these reports were unconfirmed.[26] Bird had held a shotgun certificate since 1974 and had renewed it several times, most recently in 2005, and had held a firearms certificate for a rifle from 2007 onward.[27][28] He was being investigated by HM Revenue and Customs.[29] The body of Bird was formally identified at Furness General Hospital in Barrow-in-Furness,[30] and he was cremated at a private service on 18 June 2010.[31]

Possible motives

There has been speculation that Bird may have had a grudge against people associated with the Sellafield nuclear power plant that he worked for as a joiner, resigning in 1990 due to an allegation of theft of wood from the plant. He was subsequently convicted, and given a 12-month suspended sentence.[32] Three of the dead were former employees although there is no evidence that any were involved with his resignation.[33]

Terry Kennedy, a fellow taxi driver who described himself as one of Bird’s best friends, and was wounded by Bird, has claimed that Bird had a relationship with a Thai girl he met on holiday in Pattaya, Thailand. It has been further claimed by another friend of Bird that he had sent £1,000 to the girl, who subsequently ended their relationship via a text message; he added that Bird had been “made a fool out of”.[34]

It has also been speculated that Bird had been involved with a family dispute over his father’s will. The speculation was heightened when it was revealed that Bird had targeted both his twin, David, and the family’s solicitor, Kevin Commons, in his attacks, killing both.[35]

Police investigating the killings have also found that Bird was the subject of an ongoing tax investigation by HM Revenue and Customs for tax evasion and the threat of possible future prosecution and punishment might have contributed to his action.[36] According to Mark Cooper, a fellow taxi driver who had known him for 15 years, Bird had accumulated £60,000 in a secret bank account and was worried he would be sent to prison for hiding the cash from HM Revenue & Customs.[37]


Official responses and visits

Prime Minister David Cameron was joined by several other MPs in expressing the House of Commons members’ shock and horror at the events during Prime Minister’s Questions.[38]

On the evening of 2 June, the Queen said she was “deeply shocked” by the shootings and shared the nation’s “grief and horror”.[39]

The Home Secretary, Theresa May MP, expressed her regret at the deaths and paid tribute to the response of the emergency services. The Cabinet met to discuss the shootings and May later made a statement on the Cumbria incident to the House of Commons on 3 June 2010.[40] Cameron and May visited the affected region on 4 June 2010 to meet victims, officials and local people.[41]

Jamie Reed, the local Member of Parliament for Copeland, called the incident the “blackest day in our community’s history”.[42]

Prince Charles visited Whitehaven on 11 June 2010 to meet members of the community affected by the tragedy.[43]


BBC One altered their programming to broadcast two BBC News Specials about the shootings, at 14:15 and 19:30 on the same day.[44] The ITV continuing drama, Coronation Street was cancelled on 2, 3, and 4 June as it contained a violent storyline featuring a gun siege in a factory. The episodes were rescheduled to run the following week.[45][46] An episode of the Channel 4 panel game You Have Been Watching, which was due to be broadcast on 3 June 2010, was postponed because it was a crime special.[47]

In addition, pop singer Lady Gaga came under criticism after performing a murder scene at her concert in Manchester – as part of her Monster Ball Tour – just hours after the shooting spree.[48] Comedian Frankie Boyle also attracted criticism for referring to the shootings on the day.[49] The Times journalist Giles Coren suggested Bird should read a copy of his book on anger management. He later apologised for the remark. Both Coren’s initial remark and subsequent apology were made on his Twitter feed.[50]


On 9 June 2010, a week after the incident, memorial services were held in the West Cumbria towns affected by the shootings followed by a minute’s silence at midday. Soon after the minute’s silence taxi drivers on Duke St. sounded their horns for one minute to show their respect. The minute’s silence for the Cumbria victims was also marked prior to David Cameron’s second Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament.[51] The funerals of the majority of Bird’s victims were held at various churches in West Cumbria.[52][53]

Memorial fund

A memorial fund has been established by the Cumbria Community Foundation to aid victims and communities affected by the West Cumbria shootings