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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

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Witnesses tell of carnage as Cumbrian gunman Bird ran amok

An eye witness has described his horror at finding a man on his doorstep bleeding from two shot wounds and crying for help.

Related: Cumbria shooting: Police confirm 'number of fatalities'

As Bird drove his taxi – windscreen smashed and guns aimed from the driver’s seat – police launched a frantic three-hour manhunt.

It ended with the discovery of his body 20 miles away in woods near the hamlet of Boot. He had taken his own life.

Deputy Chief Constable Stuart Hyde, of Cumbria police, said there were 30 separate crime scenes and described it as the “most exceptional, challenging incident” the county had faced in a long time.

The force has launched a “full and thorough” investigation looking at Bird’s history, access to guns and motives for the shootings, he added.

Those who knew Bird – a divorced father of two – painted a picture of a normal, hard-working man.

But his friend Peter Leder said Bird had been aggravated the night before the killings, telling him: “You won’t see me again.”

Eyewitnesses to the carnage said police were desperately telling people to stay indoors as Bird remained at large.

Gary Toomey, 38, heard what he thought were car tyres exploding as he worked at his Cringlethwaite home.

Then he realised the bangs were gunshots just outside and as he looked out of the window, he saw a car speeding away.

He ran downstairs and found the bleeding man on his doorstep.

He said: “I saw a car screeching off and a man saying help me.

“He was bleeding heavily from the side of his face.

“He said he dived out of the way of the shot and the man in the car pointed the gun down and shot him again in the back from about six feet away as he lay on the floor.”

Mr Toomey said the man had been walking back to his car after dropping some materials off at a house. Most of the pellets from the shotgun missed the man’s face because he dived out of the way.

The window of a neighbouring house was smashed by the shot.

Mr Toomey added: “I saw he was bleeding and I went to get some towels.

“We tried to keep him comfortable and he was conscious.”

He and another man wrapped towels around the deeply shocked victim who was bleeding heavily.

He remained lucid enough to give a description of the man who shot him as he kneeled on in the street with towels wrapped tightly around him.

“He was in a lot of pain. It took about 15 minutes for the ambulance to arrive because they were so stretched, a man was shot dead further down the street and they said there was nothing they could do for him,” Mr Toomey added.

The first that Paddington Berger, the landlady of the Woolpack Inn at the top of Eskdale who also runs the Greendoor B and B at Beckfoot, knew that her husband Harry had been shot was when police rang her to ask for confirmation of Harry’s vehicle registration.

They told her Harry had been shot in Seascale. As he had been on on his way to the bank Paddington thought it must be a bank job, having not heard the news.

She parked her children with the neighbours and headed down the valley, more than likely passing the killer on his way up.

She got to Seascale to find Harry had been shot in the arm in his car as the killer drove past at a point in Seascale under the bridge where the road narrows.

Paddington said: “He was in considerable pain and we had to wait a long time for the ambulance because of the lock down. Eventually Harry was airlifted to hospital in Carlisle and the police drove me there.  At least he is alive.”

  • Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has set up advice sessions at the psychology department, West Cumberland Hospital, Whitehaven, to offer support to people affected by the tragic events. The sessions are available from 8am to 8pm today (June 3) and tomorrow (June 4).

The health trust also has a 24-hour help and advice line - 0800 171 2333.

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