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Reporter's poignant lament for killing spree town

A former Whitehaven News reporter penned a heartfelt lament for his one-time patch in the wake of the mass killings in the town.

Nigel Jarrett, now of the Hastings Observer, was based in West Cumbria for most of the 1990s as the paper’s district chief reporter.

He personally knew one of the 12 people who died last Wednesday when taxi driver Derrick Bird went on the rampage – solicitor Kevin Commons – and was familiar with many of the locations where the shootings took place.

Nigel, left, who has also worked for the Derby Telegraph and other daily and weekly titles in the course of a lengthy career, penned a first-person piece for the Observer giving some of his personal thoughts about the story.

“When I switched on the radio as I prepared to drive home on Wednesday, I could hardly believe what I was hearing. A dozen people shot dead in West Cumbria, and at least twice that number wounded, three of them critically,” he wrote.

“Then the voice of Dr Barrie Walker, a GP in Seascale, clearly struggling to keep his emotions in check as he described the carnage he and colleagues had been brought face-to-face with earlier that day.

“Dammit! I knew the man. Seascale used to be on my patch. I covered its parish council meetings, its annual flower show, and indeed the retirement of one of Barrie’s former colleagues from the local surgery.

“As various news presenters described what had happened and where, I found myself there with them, visualising in detail many of the locations mentioned.

“Duke Street, Whitehaven, where Derrick Bird had gunned down a fellow cabbie – I had my leaving-do in a pub just yards from the taxi rank; Egremont – home of an annual crab fair and also of my late great-uncle and aunt; Gosforth – a regular port-of-call on my news-gathering rounds.

“And among those killed a name I recognised – Kevin Commons, a solicitor whom I occasionally encountered when reporting cases at Whitehaven magistrates’ court and who lived at Mawbray Farm, Frizington, the village where I first lived after joining the Whitehaven News.

“Professionally, I could applaud the efforts of my own ex-colleagues in producing a special edition of the Whitehaven News within hours of the killings to reflect the horrors wreaked on their community.

“But I also knew that many of them would be personally affected by what had happened, and I am both sad and angry that, like Hungerford and Dunblane, before it, lovely Georgian Whitehaven will now inevitably be remembered as that place where a man took 12 innocent lives and tore the hearts out of so many more.”

The News brought out its special edition on Friday after having previously pushed back its normal Wednesday print deadline to include a full account of the killings.

The CN Group-owned weekly led the way in its reporting of the murders, publishing many of the details on its website prior to them being picked up by national newspapers and broadcasters.