Murders don’t happen in Cumbria to Cumbrians. They happen to wannabe gangsters in Hackney or relatives of soap stars in Brixton kebab shops. I should know, I am one (a Cumbrian, not a killer... or a kebab shop for that matter).
The only heinous crime I recall taking place in Cumbria was the case of the farmer who ran over his wife with his tractor so he could cash in her life insurance and run off to Majorca with his mistress. He pretended he hadn’t seen her as she bent down to pick up a Polo mint. And if it hadn’t been for his pesky stepkids, he would have gotten away with it. They smelt a rat after discovering sleazy love notes addressed to him. As far as murders go, it’s on a Miss Marple level. Nothing too ugly.
I heard about the West Cumbrian killing spree from a friend by text as I was shopping for wedding presents along Oxford Street (a place that can bring on murderous thoughts). I called my mum in Cumbria straight away to warn her and tell her to stay inside the house, as the police were advising.
‘But I’m in B&Q car park and your dad is in Morrisons buying wood chippings,’ she said.
‘Well, watch out for a strange man with a gun,’ I told her.
An hour later, Derrick Bird had shot himself, and 30 people were in hospital... 12 dead.
At work, as more details filtered through to my phone from friends, I found myself in the peculiar situation of working on a fiddly feature spread on summer swimwear while passing on harrowing information to the news desk. I don’t think I will be able to look at a bikini again without thinking of mass homicide.
It transpired that Bird was the second cousin of an old school friend of mine. And that he had shot a lot of people in the face. And a woman who was delivering catalogues, a bloke who was painting and another who was trimming a bush. Horrible.
Why he did it is still a mystery. He may or may not have had money worries. One thing is for certain, for the next week I will have to listen to Sky News reporters mispronounce the names of small Cumbrian towns.