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Police: 12 dead, 25 injured in U.K. shootings

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Body of suspected gunman found
  • NEW: Police say 12 dead, 25 injured in shootings
  • Body found in wooded area thought to be suspect's
  • Friend says suspect told him, "You won't see me again."
  • Cumbria
  • United Kingdom

London, England (CNN) -- Twelve people died and 25 were injured Wednesday when a middle-aged taxi driver went on a shooting spree at various locations in the English region of Cumbria, near the border with Scotland, authorities said.

After an hours-long search, police found the body of suspect Derrick Bird, 52. Cumbria police suspect that Bird fired shots in three towns near the coast of the Irish Sea. Authorities seized a gun from the scene where the body was found. Cumbria Police Deputy Constable Stuart Hyde said investigators believe Bird committed suicide.

"I've never known anything like this, where somebody would want to walk out and kill so many people in such a beautiful place in such a short space of time," Hyde said.

Police were working 30 separate crime scenes and are still attempting to determine the motive, Hyde said. Investigators are looking at Bird's history and his access to firearms, he said.

Authorities said they are working to identify the dead and inform their relatives. Those with relatives in West Cumbria are asked to contact them, authorities said in a statement.

Bird's body was found about 1:40 p.m. (8:40 a.m. ET) in a wooded area near Boot, England, police said.

Peter Leder, who says he was a friend of Bird's, told CNN he spoke to Bird on Tuesday night and Bird told him, "You won't see me again."

"Our focus is now on the movements of Mr. Bird this morning," authorities said. "... Our thoughts are with the families in these tragic times. We are asking for any witnesses to come forward and help us with our investigation into the events of this morning."

Members of the public had been asked to stay indoors until further notice. Police lifted that directive after the discovery of the body, thanking citizens for their patience. "Please be aware there are a number of crime scenes across the county, and we would ask for people's patience whilst we conduct our investigations."

Footage from one of the shooting scenes showed a covered body lying on a street.

A police hotline was set up for concerned relatives of those involved. British Prime Minister David Cameron, who initially announced that five people were dead in remarks to Parliament, said a full statement would be given to lawmakers Thursday.

Bird was initially driving a dark gray or silver Citroen Picasso, but police later said he had abandoned his car near Boot, in the Lake District, and was on foot. The Lake District is popular with walkers, hikers and tourists.

The first shots were fired at 10:35 a.m. (5:35 a.m. ET) in Whitehaven, outside of the Lake District, and further shots were fired in the areas of Seascale and Egremont, police said.

John Bevir, a reporter for CNN affiliate ITV, described Whitehaven as a sleepy seaside town. "Things like this just don't happen here," he said. "Well, they didn't, until this morning."

Leder said Bird has been an independent taxi driver in Whitehaven for more than 20 years and described him as "an outgoing, well-known guy, who everyone liked." Bird was divorced several years ago and has two children, both boys, who have moved away from home, he said. Bird is close to his mother, who is ill in a local nursing home, Leder said.

He said his friend enjoyed scuba diving, went on several diving trips abroad and practiced regularly at the Whitehaven swimming baths. Leder said he knew Bird had guns but said he was not violent.

The Citroen that police said Bird was driving at the time of the shootings was his regular cab, Leder said.

"I can't shed any light on it," Leder said. "... He was a decent guy, and I'm sorry for what's happened."

CNN's David Wilkinson contributed to this report.