Rare Mass Shooting in Britain Leaves 6 Dead, Including a Child


Six people were fatally shot in Plymouth, England, on Thursday, a rare occurrence in a country that has some of the world’s strictest gun control laws and has not endured a mass shooting since 2010.

The gunman, identified as Jake Davison, 22, was one of the six people who died, having turned a gun he owned legally on himself, the police said, adding that the episode was not believed to be terrorism-related. The victims included the assailant’s mother and a 3-year-old girl shot and killed alongside her father.

The Devon and Cornwall Police said they were called to Keyham, a district of Plymouth, at 6:10 p.m. on Thursday, with officers arriving within six minutes.

At a news conference on Friday, Shaun Sawyer, the chief constable of the Devon and Cornwall Police, said that Mr. Davison — who held a license to own a firearm — had begun the attack at a house where he shot and killed a woman. She was later identified as his mother, Maxine Davison, 51, who was also known as Maxine Chapman.

Mr. Davison then moved into the street where he shot and killed Sophie Martyn, aged three, and her father Lee Martyn, 43, before firing two shots at a man and woman who received significant but not life-threatening injuries and who are being treated in a hospital.

The gunman then killed a 59-year-old man in a nearby parkland area and shot a 66-year-old woman in another nearby location. Despite efforts to save the woman at the scene, she later died in the hospital. All the victims lived locally.

Eyewitnesses reported that the shooter turned the gun upon himself, said Mr. Sawyer, who added that he was dead before police officers could engage him.

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“We believe we have an incident that is domestically related that has spilled into the streets and seen several people within Plymouth losing their lives in an extraordinarily tragic circumstance,” he said.

A video posted before the deadly shooting spree, which was widely cited by British media, showed a man believed to be Mr. Davison describing feeling beaten down and defeated by life, and his frustration at his weight and appearance and at not having a girlfriend. The police said they were aware of material circulating on social media and were investigating.

Although witnesses described the weapon used as a pump-action shotgun, the police have not confirmed that detail. But on Friday evening they said that the firearm believed to have been used during the incident was legally held by Mr. Davison.

A police watchdog has been asked to investigate the circumstances of his gun ownership, the Devon and Cornwall force said in a statement.

Plymouth is a port city in the county of Devon in southwestern England, almost 200 miles from London.

Gun deaths are extremely rare in Britain, which has strict laws against firearms. Few people own guns, and carrying them is unusual even among police officers. In England and Wales, homicides committed with firearms average about 30 per year, less than those by strangulation and slightly more than those by burning, according to figures compiled by the authorities.

The kind of mass shooting seen hundreds of times each year in the United States rarely happens in Britain, making the killings on Thursday a grim outlier. The last such attack was in 2010, when a taxi driver killed 12 people and wounded 25 others in the Lake District, a tourist destination in northwestern England.

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The last one before that was in 1996, when a 43-year-old man stormed a schoolhouse gym in Dunblane, a small town in central Scotland, and killed 16 children and their teacher before killing himself. Within a year, the public outcry from the massacre led the British government to drastically toughen its gun laws, though some are still lawfully owned. Guns can be purchased through an extensive process that includes requirements for character references, a background check and a police interview.

“My thoughts are with the friends and family of those who lost their lives and with all those affected by the tragic incident in Plymouth last night,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote on Twitter. “I thank the emergency services for their response.”

Priti Patel, the cabinet minister responsible for crime and policing in Britain, said on Twitter that the shooting was “shocking.” Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, said his “thoughts are with the families and neighbors of those caught up in this nightmare.”


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