UK

Cumbria shootings: Community in shock

A police car in a sealed off street in Whitehaven
Image caption Whitehaven residents are unused to major crimes

Twelve people have been killed and 25 injured after a gunman opened fire in several areas of west Cumbria.

The county was already reeling from the deaths of three people when a coach carrying Keswick School pupils crashed with a car on 24 May.

Indeed, mourners were lining the streets of Frizington in preparation for the funeral of one of the victims, 16-year-old Chloe Walker, when the peace was shattered by the wail of sirens as police rushed to the scene of the first shootings in Whitehaven.

The Reverend John Bannister, rector of Whitehaven, said: "This is an extremely shocking experience for the whole community, which is already in the throes of coming to terms with another local disaster.

"It's really come at a time when the community is perhaps more vulnerable then it normally is."

He described all the towns and villages involved as "tight-knit", where extended families were the norm and people knew most other townsfolk "if not by name, by sight".

Copeland MP Jamie Reed said that, on the back of the crash and the flooding to the north of the area last November, the shootings had left people reeling.

"We are all living in a daze right now," he said.

"This kind of thing doesn't happen in our part of the world. We have got one of the lowest, if not the lowest, crime rates in the country."

Mike Saunders, who works at a golf club in Seascale said the shootings were "more than most people can bear in this area".

"People are just sitting silently, looking at the TV at the news. It's just devastating for the families. There's victims everywhere now, aren't there?"

Kirsty McGrath, from Cleator, near Egremont, echoed his thoughts.

"We have seen police cars flying up and down the main street and heard sirens for most of the morning.

"It can't be real, you see these things happening on TV but think they won't affect your village."

However, Esther Phillips, who was on holiday in Egremont with a view to moving to Whitehaven, said she had been impressed by the way the community reacted as people sought shelter in a gallery.

"The manager was there, along with several locals and tourists. We drank tea and were very well looked after," she said.

"People here are shocked as this is very unusual. But people are also very quiet, it feels like there's community spirit."