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Wednesday was a surreal day; this has been said on many occasions. The impact of the actions of Derrick Bird on 2nd June 2010 affected many, many people across West Cumbria and beyond. During the day, as events unfolded, I found the media, in particular the BBC News channel on the Internet, an invaluable source of information about the safety, or otherwise, of people I know. Subsequently the media, both papers and television, have enabled local people to piece together the full story much more accurately than the local rumor mill alone. Pictures in the papers have helped to place the names of people who I only vaguely knew.

I found the whole day traumatic and we are all still trying to rationalize the events. It is unlikely we will ever be able to understand why Mr Bird found the need to cause so many people such terrible injuries, but part of the process of coming to terms with the events is a desire to find out the facts; Where Mr Bird travelled, where he discharged his weapons, who was killed, who was injured and what their injuries were and how well they are doing in their recovery. How the dissemination of this information can be done without the media being accused of pandering to macabre curiosity is a problem.

I am going to attempt my own account of the day, from my own perspective and I hope I can do this without crossing the wrong side of the decency line. I feel I need to do this especially as many of the events affected people I know well and the pub we have only recently sold. Indeed, Derreck Bird ended his dreadful actions, and his own life, only a few hundred yards away from the pub having already seriously injured, in Seascale by bizarre coincidence, the man I sold the pub to.

The fact that I know people who got caught by the ballistic discharges makes my need to know what happened all the more important. I know 3 of the dead and one of the injured, and in particular Harry Burger, who was seriously injured, is an important customer, past business rival and recent next-door neighbour of mine. Iíd even venture that despite occasional disagreements in the past over various business issues Harry also shows a genuine caring side that makes him a pleasure to know.

On this particular day I was in the brewery to get on with some maintenance whilst Ann was out making deliveries. She first stopped in Ireleth in Furness to pick up some help in the form of Ben before heading north toward Keswick. Ann left the brewery at about 11:08, according to a DM she sent as she left. She phoned me about 15 minutes later to say that she had just passed 7 police cars all with the full blue lights and sirens going and travelling in something of a hurry. I assumed that there had been a serious traffic accident and so checked the Internet so I could mail Ann back if there was anything that might cause a problem for her journey that day.

The BBC Cumbria travel information showed no problems. That's odd, I thought, that normally gets updated quickly in the event of an accident. Further searching of my favourite news source indicated a shooting in Whitehaven and apparently there was a gunman on the loose. This appeared to be at around 11:50am, according to my timeline on Twitter. It took a little while to fully comprehend the seriousness but very quickly I became concerned for quite a few people.

It became apparent that this was a significant event. I was already getting worried about Ann and Ben who were out on the road in the name of beer and it seemed that the situation was getting worse. It sounded a little bit like the police had apprehended somebody but there was somebody else on the loose. My concern showed by this tweet, suggesting to Ann that they should not travel back north towards the problem. It seemed that they had in fact missed that tweet and were already heading towards the Central Lakes.

I was also discovering that the gunman had been firing in Egremont and Seascale. This all seemed to be getting a little too much. I was brought up in Seascale and I know many people there. This was truly getting scary.

A little while later Ann phoned, she had been listening to BBC Radio Cumbria1, and told me of the situation. Unknown to her I was getting live information off BBC News channel via the Internet and other web based resources. I had already thought that heading from Central Lakes meant either Wasdale, which is a dead end, or more likely Eskdale where the Hardknott pass would take the gunman to Ambleside. She suggested I warned The Woolpack Inn of the situation and make sure they were inside.

I spoke to Alan, who of course worked for me for about 3 years before we sold the pub. I asked if they had heard about the problem. He told me, calmly and like it was complete routine, that yes they were safely inside, the police were all around and the helicopters were overhead. He added that shortly before the police arrived Harry's wife, Paddington, had been called away because he had been badly injured. Also, there had been a shooting at the Brook House further down the road. I ran these two facts together and knowing Harry could easily be travelling past the Brook House assumed Harry had been shot. It turns out that he had, but it seems that it had not happened in Boot but in Seascale.

It is almost impossible here for me to explain the incredible mix of emotions running through my head. Clearly I did not know how badly injured Harry was, but the news was reporting by now that there probably were people dead. A report of a farmer being killed in Gosforth. I later found out this was Garry Purdham, who lives up the road from my ex-wife and my children and was shot dead within about 100m of their house. Harry could also be dead and I was desperate to know more about what exactly was going on.

Because of my tweeting I was contacted by the BBC for further information on the occurrences. I did a short interview via telephone for 5Live. I knew Harry was injured, but it was not my place to name names. I was asked to find people in Boot who might be able to give on-the-ground interviews. I was unsure about this but did tentatively ask, unsurprisingly the answer was very definitely no.

I felt in a terrible conundrum; I was absolutely desperate to find out more about what was going on. I also had more information than I was prepared to give out to the media. I was relieved that the BBC finally found that Harry had been injured and so that piece of information was in the public domain.

However, on a second call to The Woolpack Inn I was told, before it was announced on the BBC, that the gunman had been got. That was a relief. I was also told that Harry had been made stable and was on the way to hospital.

That was not to be the end of my concerns. Itís a tough job running your own business. If the business is a brewery then at least, in times of disaster, you can generally drop everything. Beer can always be delivered tomorrow and worst case a fermenting vessel full of beer might have to be thrown away, which might be distressing, but when oneís own health, or that of a loved one is at risk, itís a small price to pay. Raining back on production, reducing sales volume and deferring deliveries can easily free time to deal with any personal tragedy. In my case, overheads are very low and losses in such a situation would be very manageable.

The overheads for a pub are high. Really, they are very high indeed. A pub is not the type of business that can easily be shut down for any length of time. Additionally, customers seem to lack much appreciation that the licensee might actually get the sort of problems that normal people do. My thoughts about how Harry and Paddington are going to cope concern me greatly. I don't know the extent of Harry's injuries, but I believe they are not insignificant. I really hope he makes a speedy recovery, his wife, children and pub needs him.

I was sent a link by a friend. It talks about Harry telling people that he appreciated their help, but could they just mind "getting a f***ing ambulance". It also shows footage of Harry receiving treatment and the air ambulance arriving to take him to hospital. It's quite disturbing and it has been remarked that this is too much of an intrusion by the press. I am unaware of what Harry might think of this sort of publicity, but for me, the ability to share just a little of the pain of the day helps me.

I believe some press photographers were taking pictures of dead victims. As far as I know, none of these photographs have been published. Local people have been getting rightly upset at some press who have overstepped the mark.

We all still have a desperate need to understand why. Clearly the actions of Derrek Bird are completely incomprehensible to most people. The press still have a job to do to inform us of the reasons why. I need to know. I need to know why so many people I know have been affected by this. I need to know why this disturbed person finished up killing so many people and finished up ending it so close to the pub I have only just sold.

I needed to write this account from my own perspective. I am a writer, I was touched by the days events. I hope this is not just seen as a feed for macabre curiosity.


1I love the BBC and nearly always turn to them for information. I first turned on BBC Radio Cumbria to find out what was happening. It now shocks me that they only gave updates on this dangerous situation at news bulletins and played music most of the time. Given the gravity and considering many Cumbrians listen to it whilst in the car, I believe they should have carried 100% updates.