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Saturday, 30 August 2014

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Brave Cumbrian grandad chased killer cabbie

A courageous Cumbrian grandfather risked his life by chasing gunman Derrick Bird in his own car as the horrific killing spree unfolded.

Paul Goodwin photo
Paul Goodwin

Paul Goodwin, 48, set off in pursuit after the mass murderer opened fire, picking up a policeman on the way .

Startling details of Mr Goodwin’s bravery emerged last night as police defended their actions as last Wednesday’s horrors unfolded.

It was revealed three unarmed officers “had sight” of Bird in Whitehaven – but police said “at no point did they have an opportunity to end the killings sooner”.

One stopped his pursuit to help a shot taxi driver and his injured passenger.

Two others in a police van were forced to take cover during their chase when Bird stopped and pointed a gun at them.

Bird killed 12 and seriously injured 11 others in a murderous shooting spree across west Cumbria – the biggest mass murder in Britain since the Dunblane school massacre.

Mr Goodwin, lottery manager for Whitehaven Rugby League Club, said Bird first shot fellow taxi driver Darren Rewcastle in Whitehaven before driving off and returning to target other drivers at the Duke Street rank.

He set off in pursuit, waving his hands and shouting at passers-by: “That’s him in the taxi and he’s got a gun.”

Mr Goodwin said of his own role: “Am I brave? No, stupid, yes. My mum said I could have been killed.

“I just didn’t think, it was instinctive.”

Describing how it unfolded, he said: “I was on Duke Street and it was a perfectly normal day.

“I pulled up at the junction opposite the taxi rank and I saw a friend of mine outside the pub, so I waved.

“The next thing I heard a really loud bang. I thought, ‘That’s a gun’.

“So I turned round and I see this taxi has pulled up. I see this fella walk round to the back of the car with a gun.

“I call 999. I pull up a bit further up the road. I’m shouting at people on the street to get out of the way because there’s a man on the loose with a gun.

“I then hear another bang and I think to myself that he’s shot somebody else.

“He gets into his taxi and drives away.

“He goes straight past my car, so I follow.”

Mr Goodwin said after Bird opened fire again in Duke Street, he saw local PC Mick Taylor and shouted at him to get in his car.

The pair then followed and watched as Bird then pulled up in Scotch Street and called over to taxi driver Paul Wilson, shooting him in the face when he approached his car.

“I said to Mick that this guy has got something against taxi drivers,” Mr Goodwin said.

“We followed him on to Coach Road and we are about 10 to 15 yards behind. Mick is saying, ‘Keep back, keep back’.”

Mr Goodwin then told how he saw Bird, 52, of Rowrah, shoot another taxi driver, who he later found out to be Terry Kennedy.

“A police van catches us up and overtakes us, so I continue to follow them,” he said.

“I see a taxi and I hear two bangs and the taxi driver gets shot.

“There is a young lady in the passenger seat and she’s hysterical.”

Mr Goodwin said that by the time the police van had got to the end of Coach Road, the police had lost sight of Bird and were asking passers-by if they had seen his grey Citroen Picasso.

Police released their version of events in a statement yesterday. They said an officer heard shots being fired and ran out of Whitehaven Police Station to help.

They say he saw a grey taxi with a shotgun pointing out of the front passenger window.

The force added: “He responded immediately by alerting the communications centre and getting into the nearest vehicle, driven by a Whitehaven man, to follow it and provide updates on Bird’s location.”

After the officer saw Bird shoot another taxi driver he went to the injured man’s aid and moved his female passenger, who had also been shot, out of Bird’s line of sight.

A police van with unarmed officers in had also begun to chase Bird but the killer turned into a driveway and pointed a gun at the pursuing police.

Thinking cabbie Bird was going to open fire, the officers ducked for cover behind the dashboard.

The statement said: “They were forced to protect themselves after it became clear they could not reverse due to the traffic that had built up behind them.”

It is then believed that Bird sped off and police lost sight of him.

“Despite having just witnessed a shooting and having a gun pointed at them, the officers attempted to follow him.

“And despite asking passers-by where he had driven were unable to locate him again,” the statement added.

“These officers were unarmed and in a vehicle not suitable for a high-speed pursuit.

“While they had no opportunity to bring to an end Bird’s rampage they provided valuable information regarding his whereabouts and likely route.

“They also provided immediate assistance to those shot and injured.”

Deputy Chief Constable Stuart Hyde praised the officers who chased the killer. He added: “This incident was an unusual and unprecedented event.

“Those officers were putting themselves in danger.

“He was armed and had just shot someone in front of them. It was a situation they were not used to and I hope they never have to see again.”

Mr Hyde said all three officers had returned to work this week but were clearly shaken by the events.

When asked if the force is coping he added: “The size of the force is proportionate to the population. We are coping.

“Had any officer or member of staff had the clear opportunity to stop Bird, I am confident they would have taken it.”

The gunman’s killing spree began in the early hours of Wednesday when he murdered his twin brother David.

It is believed this – and the killings of family solicitor Kevin Commons, 60, and cabbie Mr Rewcastle – were sparked by bitter grudges.

There has been speculation Bird’s anger may have simmered since 1998 when he was snubbed in his father Joe’s will. David got a £25,000 payout.

Friends think Bird was finally pushed over the edge after the taxman began an investigation.

After what are suspected to be targeted killings, Bird began executing random passers-by.

The killing only ended when Bird ditched his damaged car and made off on foot to remote woodland where he took his own life.

His other victims were Kenneth Fishburn, 71, Susan Hughes, 57, James Jackson, 67, Jennifer Jackson, 68, Isaac Dixon, 65, Michael Pike, 64, Jane Robinson, 66, Jamie Clark, 23, and Garry Purdham, 31.

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