Inquest hears of Derrick Bird's Cumbria killings

A conference and training centre on the outskirts of Workington forms the unlikely backdrop to the tales of personal tragedy which will unfold over the next few weeks.

The glass and steel building has been designated as a court for the duration of the inquests.

Inside a closed auditorium, normally used as a lecture hall, a jury of five men and six women will hear from up to 100 witnesses, including family and friends of victims, survivors of Derrick Bird's rampage, as well as police and medical experts.

About a third of the room was given over to journalists, whose movements have been strictly controlled in a level of security which one described as not unlike the Iraq Inquiry.

Most of the building was cordoned off to the press to allow apprentices and students to go about their normal business.

Families' tears

Dozens of family members were in court for the opening of the inquest and they were warned by coroner David Roberts that they would hear "distressing and emotional evidence".

The first witness was Det Ch Supt Iain Goulding. He gave a detailed presentation of the way events unfolded on 2 June.

Some of the family members wiped away tears as a video screen showed a map of Bird's route.

The hearing was also shown CCTV footage of his car arriving at and leaving various locations. There were also details of where the wounds were inflicted on the victims.

The coroner had earlier explained that the inquests were being held at the same time because evidence in each case was relevant to the other ones.

Nowhere was the overlap more evident than when Brian Bird, the elder brother of both the killer and his first victim, appeared as a witness.

Visibly ill at ease, he gave brief answers to questions about his twin brothers' earlier and later lives, and the relationship between them.

He was followed by Graeme Bird, the gunman's son, who also appeared nervous and seemed relieved when the questioning ended.

For the families, the inquest may well provide some answers - but it is also likely to test their emotional strength.

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