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Monday, 01 September 2014

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Grieving mother speaks of nightmare in wake of Derrick Bird killings

Betty Scoones is still grieving over the brutal death of her son. Darren Rewcastle was one of the 12 people killed by Derrick Bird before he turned his gun on himself.

More than two years on, her pain is still raw, but the grief is made bitter by the treatment she and her family have had to withstand at the hands of the national press.

The news that Darren had been shot dead was broken to her on the afternoon of June 2, 2010 – not by police, ambulance staff or doctors, but by a newspaper reporter.

She and husband Ted had heard the news about Bird’s rampage on the streets of Whitehaven and feared 43-year-old Darren was one of his victims.

“I was sat here, waiting for the police to tell us it was our son.

“There was a knock on the door and this woman said ‘Is this where the late Darren Rewcastle lived?’

“I screamed and nearly collapsed. Ted very nearly hit her.

“She apologised and said she was 110 per cent sure he had been killed, but how did she know before me?

“I was told by the police at 7pm that night that Darren had been killed, yet it had been on TV all afternoon.”

Sadly, this was just the start of her torment by national news reporters over the coming days.

“The phone rang and a man said that if I gave him my bank details, he could make me a wealthy woman,” she says.

“I said all the money in the world is not going to bring my son back to me.”

A stream of reporters came to her door and bombarded her with phone calls.

“I said I wanted to be left alone, but they would hide.

“I went outside one day and they were hiding at the bottom of the field.

“I only saw the camera because it flashed in the sunlight.

“They were round the back of the garden and they were at the end of the lonning with big telescope lenses.

“When I went out in the car, they would follow me.”

The family even put a sign up at the end of the lonning asking reporters to stay away and respect their privacy.

“When we went to the crematorium, I was looking round and up in the trees in case there were photographers.”

Graham Wilson is a family friend and was a close friend of Darren’s, a fellow taxi-driver.

He says there were many stories of reporters offering money to young people to dive under the police cordon and take a close-up photograph of Darren’s body as it lay in the street.

Since Bird’s appalling rampage, Betty, 71, and Ted, 74, who live in Bigrigg, near Whitehaven, have had to change their phone number three times because of pestering and menacing calls.

The couple, who adopted Darren when he was just 10 days old, have always turned down requests from national newspapers for interviews, despite being offered huge amounts of money.

They did speak to the Daily Mirror and were paid £2,500 – but that was to cover the costs of Darren’s funeral.

All they have ever wanted was to grieve in peace. But Betty says she has never been allowed to: “I don’t want anyone to forget our Darren. He was a good lad, but at the same time, I need to be left alone because I can’t grieve properly.”

“The Daily Mail came to my door a couple of weeks after the funeral and started asking about compensation we had received.

“I didn’t want the money. We’ve got nothing, we’ve never had anything, but there’s no way I’m going to make money out of my son’s death.

“We were even getting phone calls on the first anniversary of his death and we’re ex-directory!”

The family is now paying for an ex-directory phone service that doesn’t allow calls through from unrecognised or withheld numbers. Some of the phone calls to the family home in the wake of the shootings have been plain despicable.

“One time, someone phoned up after we’d gone ex-directory and asked to speak to ‘the fabulous Derrick Bird’ – even though our number was ex-directory.

“Then they started effing and blinding at Ted.”

Mr Wilson says: “I took the phone off Ted and couldn’t believe what I heard.

“The following day there was a phone call from a reporter. It could have been a coincidence, but it was as if they were trying to provoke a response and make Ted and Betty angry,” he says.

Betty adds: “We went ex-directory and still the press got our number. How did they get that number?

“I was tormented. It was terrible.

“I would not like anyone to have to go through what we have been through – I was having to keep the blinds down and not go out the door.

“When Ted went out, I was terrified in case the phone rang.”

Ted is certain that there needs to be new regulations to govern the behaviour of the press, but is equally adamant that the Government should not be involved.

“They should make sure they get their facts right, before they print anything,” he says.

“It should be an independent regulator. If the Government was in charge, we might never hear all these stories about MPs with their expenses and rents.”

Betty agrees, saying: “I think they should have more respect for people and people who have been bereaved.

“The way they behaved with us was unbelievable, you should not have to sit in your house with the blinds closed, too scared to look out. And pushing cameras in your face is all wrong.

“The local press and broadcasters have been marvellous. They have been very respectful and we have no problems with them.

“We would rather talk to the local press than those scavengers.

“The thing that got me, that really got me, was the day after when we went to lay flowers on the rank.

“It was horrible, it was the most horrible thing with the press.

“The police liaison officers were having to push them back to keep them away from me, but one pushed forward and lunged at me and I got such a fright, I thought I was going to pass out.

“They just could not leave me alone to grieve in peace.”

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