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Published: Thursday, 6/3/2010

Taxi driver shoots 12 dead, wounds 25 in Britain


SEASCALE, England - A taxi driver went on a shooting spree across a tranquil stretch of northwest England yesterday, killing 12 people and wounding 25 from his vehicle before turning the gun on himself, officials said.

The rampage was Britain's deadliest mass shooting since 1996 and it jolted a country where handguns are banned and multiple shootings rare.

The body of the suspected gunman, 52-year-old Derrick Bird, was found in woods near Boot, a hamlet popular with hikers and vacationers in England's hilly, scenic Lake District.

Police said two weapons were recovered from the scene.

Eight of the wounded were hospitalized.

Queen Elizabeth II issued a message saying she was "deeply shocked" and shared in "the grief and horror of the whole country."

She passed on her sympathy to the families of the victims.

Bird Bird
AP Enlarge

Police said it was too early to say what the killer's motive was or whether the shootings had been random. Some reports said Bird had quarreled with fellow cab drivers the night before the killings.

Peter Leder, a taxi driver who knew Bird, said he had seen the gunman Tuesday and didn't notice anything obviously amiss. But he was struck by Bird's departing words.

"When he left he said, 'See you, Peter, but I won't see you again,'" Mr. Leder told Channel 4 News.

The first shootings were reported in the coastal town of Whitehaven, about 350 miles northwest of London. Witnesses said the dead there included two of Bird's fellow cabbies.

Police warned residents to stay indoors as they tracked the gunman's progress across the county.

Witnesses described seeing the gunman driving around shooting a rifle or shotgun from his car.

Police said there were 30 separate crime scenes. They would not discuss the identities of those killed.

A spokesman for the local health authority denied reports that Bird had tried to seek medical assistance Tuesday and said he was not known to their mental health services.

Gun ownership is tightly restricted in Britain. In recent years, fewer than 100 gun murders have occurred annually.

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