THE widow of Robert Sartin’s 1989 Monkseaton shooting spree last night sent an open letter to the victims of Derrick Bird’s Cumbria massacre.
It is just over a week since Bird launched a three-hour rampage and killed 12 innocent bystanders as he weaved his was through the countryside of West Cumbria.
Yesterday the first of his victims’ funerals was held as mourners said a final farewell to father-of-two Garry Purdham, 31, who was shot dead while working in the fields at his father’s farm outside Gosforth.
The tragedy mirrors Robert Sartin’s deadly exercise 20 years ago, in which he toured the streets of Monkseaton, North Tyneside, with a double-barrelled shot gun, killing one and injuring 16 people.
Church-going father Kenneth Mackintosh lost his life as he returned home to his family when 22-year-old Sartin targeted him.
Last night Mr Mackintosh’s wife, Pam, sent a message to the victims of Bird’s Cumbria bloodbath and called for tighter controls over the sale and possession of firearms.
In a moving letter released through her son, Roger, the 64-year-old, from Monkseaton, said: “First of all, we would like to offer our deepest sympathy to all those effected by the horrific and shocking events that occurred last week in Cumbria.
“Our thoughts and love go out to those who have lost loved ones and all those who will have to live with the horrifying events of a day that will regretfully live with them forever.
“We have a deep appreciation of how they are feeling and it is with great regret that such an event has happened once again.
“We can only hope that something can be done to stop this ever happening again. In our minds, there is a straightforward solution to stop this type of tragic event occurring by ensuring people who wish to own guns keep them locked away securely in a gun club.
“There is simply no reason for people to keep guns in their home. As I am sure you can appreciate, such an event has brought back our own horrific memories.”
Sartin, who described himself as a devil worshipper, dressed himself in black combat gear and dark glasses before launching his 15-minute attack.
Among those he targeted April 30, 1989 was 43-year-old Judith Rhodes.
He drove to Pykerly Road, where he fired at Ms Rhodes as she sat in her car, , shattering her windscreen. A second shot hit her left hand and she ran to a nearby house.
Last night Ms Rhodes, of St Lucia Close, Monkseaton, said: “I’ve been watching the whole thing unfold on television and it has all come flooding back. My heart goes out to them and I hope that they can get the strength from friends and family to get through this difficult time.
“But I’m annoyed that no one is listening to what we are saying: that the powers that be are not doing enough and they need to make changes.
“It’s happened again and it will keep happening over and over again unless the gun laws are radically changed.
“We believe against people being allowed to store weapons in their home. I sympathise what has happened in Cumbria. The whole thing is terrible and those involved must be heartbroken.”
When Sartin appeared at Durham Crown Court, his plea of not guilty due to insanity was accepted and he was sent to a secure mental unit to be detained without limit of time.
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Knee jerk reaction concerns expert
A FIREARMS expert last night warned against a “knee-jerk” reaction to laws surrounding the possession of guns following Derrick Bird’s shooting spree.
It emerged during the Cumbria Police investigation that the 53-year-old taxi driver had held a gun licence for the past 20 years.
The revelation has thrown-up new questions over the systems of firearms certificates and critics have called for an overhaul of current licensing laws.
But last night Mike Eveleigh, a senior firearms officer with the British Association of Shooting and Conservation, said Britain’s gun laws were among the strictest in the world.
Mr Eveleigh, who spent 32 years with the police force firearms licensing group, said: “Holding guns in a storage site advertises to criminals where there are a lot of guns. If it is at a gun club then you would have to break down two or three steel doors to reach 40 or 50 guns.
“If these are stored in the home then a criminal would have to break in to 40 or 50 houses to get the same number. It’s about dividing the risk.”
Prime Minister David Cameron has already confirmed the Government will look again at gun laws following last week’s tragedy.
At Commons question time, Mr Cameron said the chief constable of Cumbria, Craig Mackey, had written to the Association of Chief Police Officers seeking support for a review by national police experts on firearms licensing, the “police firearms response and firearms tactics”.
He said these reviews would all be made public, but cautioned against “leaping to conclusions” or “knee jerk legislation”.
Last night Mr Eveleigh said: “I really do sympathise with the families of those who lost their lives, but you have to ask the question of whether different laws would’ve prevented Derrick Bird from doing what he did.
“I don’t like to say that nothing can be done but I think it’s difficult to stop a person who is hell-bent on massacre.
“I was in the police force during Hungerford and Dunblane, and following these incidents the law has become incredibly complicated.
“There’s too much focus on the design of bullets and the gun than actually on the person who possesses it.
“If a man is not going to kill someone then it doesn’t matter if he owns a flame-thrower or a gun. If he’s going to kill someone then it doesn’t matter if he’s got a screwdriver, a mallet or a car.”