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Gunman kills 5, wounds 25 in northwest England

Photo by Donnie Ikpa

Photo by Donnie Ikpa

LONDON -- A taxi driver described as quiet but friendly went on a shooting spree across a picturesque rural area of northwestern England on Wednesday, killing at least five people and wounding 25 before apparently turning the gun on himself.

Officers found a body believed to be that of 52-year-old suspect Derrick Bird in woodland near the Lake District village of Boot, Cumbria police said. A gun was found alongside the body.

"I regret to report that a number of people have been shot and that at least five people have died," Prime Minister David Cameron told lawmakers in the House of Commons. "I can confirm that a body of a gunman has been found by police."

Police said that as well as the deaths, 25 people were wounded in shootings in the small town of Whitehaven and nearby Seascale and Egremont, about 350 miles (560 kilometers) northwest of London.

The BBC reported there had been shootings in 11 locations, not all of them fatal. Witnesses described seeing the gunman driving around shooting out the window of his car.

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.

Witness Alan Hannah told the Whitehaven News that he saw a man with a shotgun in a car near a taxi stand in Whitehaven. Photos showed a body, covered in a sheet, lying in a street in the town.

Local lawmaker Jamie Reed said people in the area -- popular with hikers and vacationers -- 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."

Multiple shootings are rare in Britain, where gun ownership is tightly restricted and handguns are banned.

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 kindergarten in Dunblane, Scotland.

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."