June 4, 2010 in Nation/World

British officials at loss understanding killings

Ben Mcconville And Jennifer Quinn Associated Press
Associated Press photos photo

A forensic officer holds a box marked as shotgun cartridges at the home of Derrick Bird in Rowrah, northwest England, on Thursday. Detectives searched for clues Thursday to the motive behind Bird’s shooting spree Wednesday. Associated Press photos
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WHITEHAVEN, England – Derrick Bird killed his twin brother and the family lawyer, then traveled the roads he had worked as a taxi driver, shooting people – apparently aiming for their faces – killing 12 in all and wounding nearly a dozen before committing suicide.

Detectives on Thursday were trying to answer the elusive question: What drove the 52-year-old cabbie to commit the worst mass shooting in Britain since 1996?

“There are 23 families out there who want to know why these events happened,” Detective Chief Superintendent Iain Goulding said. “Our communities want to know why this has happened. My officers and I are absolutely determined to get to the bottom of why this happened. However, it may not be possible to establish all the answers, because we cannot speak to Derrick Bird.”

In the traumatized town of Whitehaven, people described Bird as quiet and friendly. Known to some as “Birdy,” he was a divorced dad who’d reportedly just become a grandfather for the first time. He held licenses for both of the weapons – a shotgun and a .22-caliber rifle with a telescopic sight – that were recovered beside his body.

Goulding said Bird had minor convictions for theft stretching back to 1990, but he had never been to prison – people who have been imprisoned are prevented from holding firearms licenses. Bird had no known mental health problems and was not on any medication.

A neighbor, Alan Fleming, said the family had lived in the area for two generations, and that Bird “never had so much as an argument” in his home village of Rowrah.

While mass killings are extremely rare in Britain, the phenomenon is more common in the U.S. Jack Levin, a professor of sociology and criminology at Northeastern University in Boston, who has published books about multiple killings, said Bird’s case was unusual even within that category because Bird seems to have chosen some of his victims randomly.

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