Anchor Marco Werman speaks with the BBC’s Emily Unia about a shooting spree in England’s rural Lake District today that left 13 people dead, including the shooter.
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MARCO WERMAN: I’m Marco Werman, this is The World. People in northwest England still can’t believe it. A taxi driver armed with a shotgun went on a shooting spree in the rural English region of Cumbria. He killed 12 people, some at random before apparently shooting himself. It’s not the kind of news we tend to hear from Britain. The U.K. has very strict gun control laws. Emily Unia is a reporter with BBC Radio Cumbria in Carlisle, England.
EMILY UNIA: What we know is about 10:30 this morning British time, the police were called to Whitehaven which is a town on the West Cumbrian coast because of reports that there had been a shooting. By mid-day we were told at least one person had been shot dead and police were telling everybody in the area to stay inside, lock the doors. We started speaking to people who were locked inside banks and offices in the town. The police then told us they were looking for a 52-year-old man called Derek Bird and they thought he’d abandoned his car and was on foot heading south into the lake district.
WERMAN: What is known about the suspected shooter, this taxi driver Derek Bird?
UNIA: Well we don’t know an awful lot about him. We know that he was 52. Local people have been starting to say things about him, that he was very friendly, he was quiet, that he had two grown up children, one of whom had recently become a father. We did get some reports that there had perhaps been an argument between Derek Bird and a couple of people last night, but these are actually unconfirmed reports at the moment. So what we’re hearing is a very unexpected outburst from a character that people just would not have expected this from.
WERMAN: This has been described as a shooting rampage. Twelve people died. As you have spoken to eye witnesses, have you been able to get a clear sense of the narrative of how this all happened?
UNIA: Well what we know is that the gunman started out in New Whitehaven this morning. He then traveled down toward Sea Scale which is another small town and then he went down into sort of wooded areas which is a real area for walkers and tourists and on the way he was shooting, what seems like randomly. We’ve also heard of a woman who was shot as he drove past in a car. Witnesses say they thought it was a toy gun that he had, but then as the car passed they saw this woman was lying on the ground dead and they tried to help her, but they couldn’t.
WERMAN: Britain is not a place where gun crimes are common. This must be a huge shock for the people of Cumbria.
UNIA: Absolutely. We don’t expect gun crime in this part of the country. In other parts of Britain perhaps gun crime has become more common, sadly, but in Cumbria, the only people who have guns really are farmers and they are used for rural purposes like shooting foxes, etc. There are not gun rampages in this part of the world. So that is a huge shock and the police will now I think be investigating whether this man actually was licensed to own a gun or if he got it by other means and, if he did, then I think we have to be seriously worried.
WERMAN: Tell me a bit more about the area in Cumbria where these crimes were carried out. It’s the Lake District. Were all these murders in a rural area?
UNIA: Well not exactly. Whitehaven is a town actually quite close to Seller Field, which is a nuclear plant, so this isn’t actually picture postcard Cumbria, but the gunman did end up towards the lake district which is a different environment and that’s where we found some tourists and walkers who were alarmed by the police helicopters and then taking cover in local pubs and things like that. We actually spoke to a pub landlord earlier who said that the police helicopters were traveling so low looking for the gunman that he roof of his building was shaking and later on he described hearing the shots that he believed were the shots that killed Derek Bird. Obviously we can’t be sure that’s the case, but it was very dramatic there.
WERMAN: Emily Unia, reporter with Radio Cumbria in Carlisle, England, thank you very much.
UNIA: Thank you.
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