AN ACCOUNTANT friend of Doncaster-born lawyer Kevin Commons had told mass killer Derrick Bird he would not go to prison over tax problems.
Mr Commons, who was raised in Cantley, became the second of 12 people murdered by Bird when he went on the rampage with two guns in and around Whitehaven, in Cumbria, later killing himself.
Bird faced an estimated maximum tax bill of £25,000 but was “financially secure” and had savings of more than £50,000, the inquest into the deaths heard.
The gunman, who killed 12 people before he shot himself dead last summer, had been convinced he was going to prison over his tax affairs.
Less than a fortnight before the shootings in West Cumbria on June 2, accountant Peter Ellwood told him he would not be going to jail over the matter - but he did not appear to listen to the advice, after being introduced to him by Mr Commons, a former officer at Doncaster Magistrates’ Court.
Self-employed taxi driver Bird, 52, met Peter Ellwood after the HMRC began an investigation into his self-assessment tax returns.
He told Mr Ellwood he thought he had under-declared his income and was liable to pay more tax.
The accountant told the inquests into the 13 deaths that his client might have to pay a maximum “worst case” figure of £25,000 if the investigators trawled back 15 years to when Bird first became a taxi driver.
He said Bird did not appear to be listening throughout the meeting at his office and was “anxious” when he left.
Another meeting was later set up between the men and former Doncaster Grammar School pupil Mr Commons. It was due to take place at Mr Commons’s offices in Workington at 3pm on the day of the shootings.
Mr Ellwood told the inquest: “Kevin thought Derrick was anxious. He thought it best if we have a meeting with him to put him at ease.”
Mr Ellwood and Mr Commons had discussed Bird in a telephone conversation, in which Bird was described as very anxious.
Later the hearing at Energus at Workington was told by Detective Constable Catherine Rogerson, financial investigator for Cumbria Constabulary, that Bird had not lived beyond his means and led a moderate lifestyle.
She said: “I can conclude that he appeared to have no money worries and was financially secure.”