Tourists praise 'strength' of shooting community

By Caroline Henderson
BBC News in Whitehaven


A summer holiday on the English coast should be about ice-cream cones and leisurely walks along the sea front, but tourists visiting west Cumbria this weekend say there is a feeling of trepidation.

John and Marion Galbraith were visiting the area from their home in Maidstone, Kent. They arrived on Thursday, a day after taxi driver Derrick Bird went on the rampage shooting dead 12 people.

"I did wonder if we were intruding," Ms Galbraith said. "We didn't want to visit Whitehaven if people were feeling down."

Mr Galbraith added: "Everyone here is surprisingly very jolly. They are so friendly and they all seem to know each other. It's incredible."

Tourists have been doing their best to relax given the exceptional circumstances of the past few days.

The marina in Whitehaven is typically busy for a weekend in June.

Image caption, Whitehaven Marina is a popular destination for tourists

As Rachel Orchard from Southampton walked her dog along the promenade she admitted feeling awkward about her visit to the town.

"We almost didn't come in case people thought we were being intrusive," she said.

"You worry that people think we're being ghoulish."

It is hard for tourists to ignore the events that unfolded here. Flowers line the roadside at each of the locations where the 12 victims were killed.

One tribute read: "In memory of those killed to a community in pain".

On seeing the flowers in Gosforth, where farmer and semi-professional rugby player Garry Purdham was killed, Mrs Orchard said it made the situation seem real.

"It makes you feel emotional. It's a very subdued atmosphere but the people are really very friendly. They are so strong."

While the tourists may have their reservations about visiting the area, the locals have embraced their presence.

Mother-of-two Angela Southward lives in Whitehaven. She said: "They are welcome. It keeps the town going and they are not intruding at all.

"If they've always come here and still want to after the shootings then that is a great thing."

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