What the papers say


Journalist Mike Philpott takes a look at what is making the headlines in Thursday's newspapers.

"A Cumbrian horror story" is how the Independent describes the gun rampage in the Lake District.

The paper says the village of Whitehaven began the day in bright sunshine with the promise of summer, but within a few hours "it had joined the ranks of Dunblane, Hungerford and Omagh as geographic shorthand for mass murder."

Slaughter in the countryside, says the main headline in the Guardian.

In London, Belfast and Dublin, the front pages are awash with pictures of Derrick Bird's victims, lying in the street covered with sheets, coats and blankets.

The Irish Times has a photograph of the main street in Whitehaven, deserted as the gunman continued his attacks.

The big question, of course, is why?

"He was a nice guy; he must have snapped," says the main headline in the Irish Independent.

The Daily Mail puts it down to a squabble with fellow taxi drivers over fares.

'Will row?'

The Sun claims he snapped after being teased that he was a "mummy's boy".

For the Daily Telegraph, it was a dispute over a family will - that is a theory supported by a family friend quoted in the Times.

It is claimed that Mr Bird was angry over the provisions of his mother's will.

In its comment column, the Irish News wonders about the effectiveness of the police response, given the length of time he was able to remain free. It also asks if he had displayed any disturbing behaviour.

The Belfast Telegraph says we may never fully understand "what turned a popular, easy-going taxi driver into a one-man killing machine."

But it also wants to know if Derrick Bird could have been stopped earlier and if the Cumbrian police reacted quickly enough to reports of the first shootings.

On the question of gun control, it says it may be difficult to clamp down further on the ownership of shotguns, because the weapons are widely used in the countryside.

The Daily Mirror comments that we can never devise a set of laws that will prevent a recurrence, but we should "do everything in our power" to make it as difficult as possible.

The News Letter is the only paper not to lead with the terrible events in Cumbria.

Its biggest headline goes to a report that members of the Progressive Unionist Party spent yesterday trying to persuade Dawn Purvis to stay. The story says she is considering her future.

But both the Irish News and the Belfast Telegraph claim she has already resigned.

The Telegraph says she is quitting as both leader and as a party member over what it calls "the UVF murder of Shankill loyalist Bobby Moffett".

'Last wine'

The paper adds that there will be some interest in how many others follow her out of the party.

Finally, the papers are sorry to see the final drop of the Last of the Summer Wine.

After nearly 40 years, the BBC has pulled the plug on one of its best-loved comedies.

The Daily Express falls into a reverie that would not be out of place in Nora Batty's home town in the Yorkshire Dales.

We live in impulsive times with a tendency to make rush decisions, it says. It wonders: "Why end it so soon?"

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