LONDON // Police in a tranquil part of rural England are searching for the reasons behind a murderous rampage by a taxi driver, who killed 12 people and wounded another 25 before killing himself. More than 100 officers are investigating the attacks by Derrick Bird. It was Britain's deadliest mass shooting since the Dunblane massacre in 1996. Police in Cumbria say they seized a shotgun and a .22 calibre rifle with a telescopic scope. They said today that 52-year-old Bird was a licensed gun owner. Harlequins captain Rob Purdham has been given compassionate leave after his older brother was killed in the shooting spree in Cumbria, the club said on Thursday. Former Workington and Whitehaven star Garry Purdham, who recently returned to his old amateur club Egremont Rangers, was those killed by Bird. Rob Purdham, a former Whitehaven player who represented England in the 2008 World Cup, has travelled to Cumbria to be with his family and is not expected to play for Harlequins in Sunday's Super League match against Crusaders in London. The 30-year-old played with Garry, 31, at Whitehaven before joining the London club in 2002. Some reports say Bird had argued with fellow cab drivers the night before the killings; others suggest a family dispute. Eight of the wounded were in the hospital, with three of them in critical condition. Queen Elizabeth II, who rarely issues statements responding to the news, said she shared in "the grief and horror of the whole country" and passed on her sympathy to the families of the victims. The shootings had "shocked the people of Cumbria and around the country to the core," Police Deputy Chief Constable Stuart Hyde said. Peter Leder, a taxi driver who knew Bird, said he had seen the gunman Tuesday and didn't notice anything that was 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. Police warned residents to stay indoors as they tracked the gunman's progress across the county. Witnesses described seeing the gunman driving around shooting from the window of his car. Victims died in Seascale and Egremont, near Whitehaven, and in Gosforth, where a farmer's son was shot dead in a field. Workers at the nearby Sellafield nuclear processing plant were ordered to stay inside while the gunman was on the loose. Mr Hyde said there were 30 separate crime scenes. Many bodies remained on the ground late Wednesday, covered with sheets, awaiting the region's small and overstretched force of forensic officers. Barrie Walker, a doctor in Seascale who certified one of the deaths, told the BBC that victims had been shot in the face, apparently with a shotgun. Lyn Edwards, 59, a youth worker in Seascale, said she saw a man who had been shot in his car. "I could see a man screaming and I could see blood and there were two ladies helping him at the time," she said. Deadly shootings are rare in Britain, where gun ownership is tightly restricted. In recent years, there have been fewer than 100 gun murders annually across the country. Rules on gun ownership were tightened after two massacres in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1987, gun enthusiast Michael Ryan killed 16 people in the English town of Hungerford. In 1996, Thomas Hamilton killed 16 children and a teacher at a primary school in Dunblane, Scotland. Local lawmaker Jamie Reed said people in the quiet area were in shock. "This kind of thing doesn't happen in our part of the world," he told the BBC. "We have got one of the lowest, if not the lowest, crime rates in the country." Glenda Pears, who runs L&G Taxis in Whitehaven, said one of the victims was another taxi driver who was a friend of Bird's. "They used to stand together having a (laugh) on the rank," she said. "He was friends with everybody and used to stand and joke on Duke Street." Sue Matthews, who works at A2B Taxis in Whitehaven, said Bird was self-employed, quiet and lived alone. "I would say he was fairly popular. I would see him once a week out and about. He was known as 'Birdy,"' she said. "I can't believe he would do that - he was a quiet little fellow." Emergency services were still working late Wednesday to identify all the dead and inform their families. Rod Davies, landlord of Gosforth Hall Inn near one of the crime scenes, said residents were "used to 'neighbor's cat missing' stories making the news - not this sort of thing. "There's a lot of fear. A lot of people are expecting to hear names of people they know." * AP
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