Shooting murders are rare in the UK and that is a result of the limited access to firearms. Criminal shootings are generally perpetrated with illegally procured weapons. Domestic murders and mass shootings are often prosecuted with licensed guns. The murders of the Epsom College headteacher Emma Pattison and her 7 year old daughter Lettie in February 2023 again brought to the surface the sheer horror of so called domestic murders.

The soft term, domestic killing inadvertently suggests some sort of mitigation; it is nothing of the sort. The Epsom murders were perpetrated by Emma Pattison’s husband, George Pattison who then committed suicide. This was yet another male instigated domestic murder/suicide.

George Pattison held a SGC, (shotgun certificate). The media in initial reports kept referring to a firearm licence, (FAC). This is a separate document with different requirements and the two are often confused in narratives. The Pattison family had recently moved from Caterham to Epsom and Surrey Police had only days before the murders been in contact with George Pattison to establish the change of address details on his licence. This was a simple administrative process and unless there was something else to be established there was nothing odd about it.

Surrey Police had the option to visit the Epsom address in the future to check that Pattison had secured his gun safe in the new property.

We now know there had been difficulties in their relationship. If we consider it alongside other such murders there is a pattern. Was Emma Pattison’s husband jealous of her success. Was he in debt and struggling with his own failing business. We know he drinking. What did he use his shotgun(s) for, clay targets, rough shooting or was he opting for expensive syndicate game shooting. There is such a location offering this shooting pursuit close to Caterham.

On the evening of the murders the Pattison’s had hosted a dinner party at their new home inside Epsom College. Guests reported that there was no hint of discord and the evening went very smoothly. Emma Pattison did however call her sister, apparently in a distressed state much later after everyone had left. Her call, and whatever she said was important enough to prompt her sister to drive back. By the time she arrived she found the family all dead. 

In August 2008 Christopher Foster shot his wife Jill and his 15 year old daughter Kirstie in their beds in their large property on a 16 acre plot in Maesbrook, Shropshire. Foster was a failing millionaire who had amassed large debts. He also shot and killed the family’s horses and dogs. He finally went back to the house, set it alight and committed suicide. He had used a licenced .22 rifle. Engaged in expensive shooting pursuits he and his wife and daughter had attended a neighbours barbecue that very afternoon. Nobody there had noticed anything strange about his behaviour.

The way shootings are reported and remembered in the UK is very distorted. The establishment and the media sub divide gun killings. Domestic killings and murder/suicides, (victims known to the perpetrator), lone wolf rampage shootings, (known and random victims), criminal exchanges and terrorist gun slay incidents that to date have only occurred in Northern Ireland.

How events are referenced is highly significant. Purely domestic killings are simply not given the same attention. The three largest UK mainland shootings were rampages with domestic inclusion in two of them and are remembered by place name, Hungerford, Dunblane and Cumbria. The Northern Ireland terrorist scenarios are never remembered to us or included in any debate.

A senior Devon & Cornwall Police Officer oddly and very badly described the 2021 Plymouth shootings as a ‘domestic incident that spilled onto the streets’.

Despite the raw horror associated with any type of shooting murder, here in the UK we are very smug about the fact that we don’t come close to the gun death carnage inflicted in countries like the USA. However, the full picture about shootings in the UK is still very disturbing.

Gun rampages are shocking affairs, and the perpetrators always have significant personal issues which have developed well before the events they instigated. Not only did they have access to guns and harbour dangerous tendencies, they also flaunted them. They openly displayed clues for all to see and experience; they were waving red flags. A high proportion have been perpetrated by legal licence holders which always shines a light on the wider peaceful and compliant shooting fraternity. It is not dissimilar from the recent series of arrests of police officers for murders and rapes. It creates a wave of mistrust which questions the respective organisations, administration and safeguarding.

Domestic shooting perpetrators are often quieter and more private than rampage shooters although there is always a back story. Confined within a family or close relationship group the killing events are often described as private incidents that don’t involve members of the public. That is completely wrong. These are not private circumstances where victims have played a part in provoking attacks behind closed doors. These victims are innocent members of society in the same way rampage victims are. These attacks with very few exceptions are prosecuted by men and in domestic killings the victims are nearly always women and children.




The Plymouth Mass Shooting – 12 August 2021.

On Wednesday 12 August 2021, Jake Davison, a 22-year-old trainee crane driver shot and killed his mother, Maxine Davison, 51, in her home in Plymouth, Devon. He used his licensed pump-action 12 bore shotgun. He then walked out of the property in Biddick Drive, a cul-de-sac in the district of Keyham and randomly shot Sophie Martyn, just 3 years old and her father Lee Martyn, 43. He killed them both. He then walked from the back of the cul-de-sac onto a tarmac footpath that led to and accessed the small and narrow, Linear Park. He then shot and injured two more people, they both survived. Once in the park heading slightly uphill towards the gate at the southern end he encountered Stephen Washington, 59, walking his dog. He shot and killed him. Davison reached the gate in the image below and emerged onto Royal Navy Avenue.

He was described by a witness as looking like a patrolling soldier, purposefully striding towards an objective. He crossed the road turning left and after one hundred metres Royal Navy Avenue became Henderson Avenue. He confronted Kate Shepherd, 66, who was outside the Blush Nail and Beauty salon and shot her. Kate was badly injured but later died in hospital. The perpetrator then walked another 20 metres to the junction of Bedford Close, stopped and turned the gun on himself just as armed police began to arrive.

Davison’s murderous rampage was a theme that has been enacted many times before in many parts of the world. A mentally and totally dysfunctional male individual sets off to avenge his narcistic dilemma which he blames on society. Without emotion, saying little if anything he dispatches both known and random victims with a coldness that baffles sane human beings. It is the final gesture of complete control in what has been for them a miserable but self-centred existence, the suicidal ending is often an important part of the process.

Davison only walked 500 metres to issue his despicable punishment on a mostly random element of Plymouth society. He had apparently studied Michael Ryan’s wandering rampage in Hungerford in August 1987. It was indeed very similar to specific aspects of Ryan’s murderous phase in that town. This had started in South View, also a cul-de-sac where he shot and killed neighbours, a police officer and his mother Dorothy Ryan outside the home he shared with her. He had also proceeded towards a park via a footpath from the top of this road and killed a dog walker, Kenneth Clements, 51. Ryan would kill a total of 16 people before taking his own life. Control to the end.

Davison used a pump-action shotgun. This style of shotgun is single barrelled, magazine fed and operated by a slide action incorporated in the forend under the barrel. On a standard UK shotgun certificate, this gun would be limited to a magazine capacity of two rounds with one round in the chamber. Pump-actions are cheap but not hugely popular. The UK has a traditional history amongst sporting shooters who generally prefer double barrelled break-action shotguns. Pump-actions are perfectly reasonable and functional, but they have a film and folklore association with gangsters and criminal elements. Some American gun enthusiasts favour these weapons, and they are able to use full capacity magazines. Pump-actions have a very visible, noisy and intimidating reload/recycle action. They evoke an image. It is perhaps interesting that Davison chose one.

Jake Davison had held a shotgun certificate since 2017. Some reporting outlets have also made reference to the certificate being a firearms licence. This is standard confusion for the media, shotgun and firearm certificates are different forms of licence and the criteria for issue is different. It is possible to have both. Prior to an application Davison was accused of instigating an assault on a couple in a park in Plymouth in 2016. He was not formally charged but he did receive a warning from the police. This incident clearly did not prevent him being issued with a Shotgun Certificate a year later.

Having held the licence for three years he was arrested again for another assault, this time on a younger male in September 2020. Davison had his licence revoked and his gun removed by the police as a standard safeguard in December 2020 pending an investigation. No charges were brought, and he had the licence and gun returned to him in July 2021 but only after he had attended an anger management course.

Davison was clearly having mental health problems and personal anxiety issues and this had started before he had even applied for a shotgun certificate in 2017. These facts would appear to contravene the strict criteria for gun licence issue but the fact that he had not been formally charged or treated for anything was significant. This made all the difference and despite his predilection towards violence and confrontation. The decisions for him to continue as a gun owner bizarrely fell in his favour.

Davison’s choice of a pump-action would undoubtedly have some raised eyebrows within Devon & Cornwall Police when he had it withdrawn and secured. It would have provoked discussion again when it was returned. The legal argument however is that the processes and procedures were adhered to by the requirements of the law. What those involved in the process thought or were uneasy about had no bearing on it. It would be unfair to accuse the powers involved to lack foresight in hindsight but there was history to draw on. Our society embraces liberty and personal freedoms. That is a good thing but not acting on potentially dangerous behaviour which abuses these values is questionable. This has happened before.

Kevin Weaver 14 October 1987

Kevin Weaver, 24, lived with his mother and sister in Bristol and had licenced shotguns. On 14 October 1987 he planned to kill his ex-girlfriend at her workplace in Bristol. She had jilted him but had remained in contact. He was obsessed with her and could not except the breakdown in their relationship. He had resorted to stalking her. He first murdered his sister because he knew she wouldn’t allow him use of her car which he desperately needed. He then killed his mother when she arrived home because she would find his dead sister. He bludgeoned them both to death with a hammer. He then took his sisters car and walked into his ex-girlfriend’s office location with shotguns. Two of his ex-girlfriend’s work colleague’s shielded her as she fled across the facility. He shot both of these men to death, one of whom was a former police officer. For some reason few people can recall this monster and what he perpetrated just three months after the August Hungerford massacre.

Weaver had recorded all the TV footage about Michael Ryan and the mass shooting he had perpetrated. Weaver had previously been arrested for kidnapping his girlfriend, (she had managed to get away). As a result he had his licensed revoked and guns taken away. He had also been convicted of drink driving and was serving a driving ban. Both his girlfriend and his mother had later written to the police pleading for clemency and his licence and guns had been returned. If we don’t get really tough on conditions for gun licence holders like Weaver and Davison, (and there have been others), it will happen again.

The inquest into the Plymouth shooting has concluded that Davison, ‘unlawfully took the lives of his five victims’. Friends and families of the people he murdered insist that Davison was literally given a ‘licence to kill’ by a negligent and incompetent police authority.

So what is a mass shooting?

There is no clear definition, The American FBI definition of a mass shooting is the killing or injuring of 4 people with no interruption or ‘cooling off period’ and not including the perpetrator. The US Investigative Assistance for Violent Crimes Act of 2012 defines it as 3 victims. In Australia it’s 5. In the UK where shooting murders are far less frequent than in the US or other parts of the world there is no specific definition.

If we look closer at shootings in the UK that killed at least three victims in a single or short time instance it reveals a darker picture than most people see and relate to in the UK. The media very much drive and format these incidents. In the list below I have included a couple of odd occurrences which relate to intent rather than outcome.

1955 – Napoleon Green, 3 deaths + perpetrator suicide 

1966 – Harry Roberts, 3 deaths, perpetrator imprisoned

1969 – Paul Beecham, 4 deaths, perpetrator imprisoned / released + a later murder + his suicide

1978 – Barry Williams, 5 deaths, perpetrator imprisoned / released / re-imprisoned

1982 – Barry Prudom, 3 deaths + perpetrator suicide

1985 – Jeremy Bamber, 5 deaths, perpetrator imprisoned

1987 – Michael Ryan,16 deaths + perpetrator suicide

1987 – Kevin Weaver, 4 deaths, (hammer & shotgun), perpetrator imprisoned.

1989 – Robert Sartin, 1 death, perpetrator imprisoned

1996 – Thomas Hamilton,17 deaths + perpetrator suicide

1999 – George Knights, no deaths + perpetrator imprisoned

2010 – Derrick Bird,12 deaths + perpetrator suicide

2012 – Michael Atherton, 3 deaths + perpetrator suicide

2020 – James Needham, 3 deaths + perpetrator suicide

2021 – Jake Davison, 5 deaths + perpetrator suicide

The 1989 Monkseaton shootings – Robert Sartin killed one victim and injured a further 14. He used his father’s legally held shotgun and it was undoubtedly the longer ranges he ignorantly engaged targets from that saved most of the victims from fatal injuries.

The George Knights incident took place on 28 April 1999, just 2 days after the gun murder of Jill Dando in Fulham. In this bizarre sequence the fact that nobody was injured let alone killed was remarkable when one considers that Knights fired a total of 80 rounds from an illegally possessed 9mm semi-auto handgun and a 5.56mm assault rifle. He fired at pursuing police officers and hijacked vehicles along miles of busy London suburbs, disabling three police cars before he was eventually contained. His 20 year prison sentence reflected the seriousness of his assault. Despite parole boards he has since not been considered fit for release.

What is never included in UK mass shooting data are the terrorist shooting atrocities that occurred in Northern Ireland during ‘The Troubles’, 1969-1998. The worst examples were prosecuted upon unarmed, unassuming and uninvolved citizens who were simply slaughtered in the most cowardly fashion and in a manner no different to domestic and rampage shootings. The incidents have been hidden behind the mask of sectarian armed conflict. These shootings were not combatant firefights or even sniper attacks on armed British soldiers or RUC. What makes them even worse is the fact that they often involved multiple gunman who blocked exits and means of escape. The victims were both male and female, young and old. The full picture on UK soil is very blurred.

Here are just two examples. In January 1976 sixteen Protestant and Catholic textile workers were on their way home from work in Glenanne, Co Armagh in a mini-bus. Four of the Catholics got off at Whitecross. The bus continued east on the narrow rural Kingsmill Road towards Bessbrook. The bus was stopped in what they thought was a British Army vehicle checkpoint. Eleven Republican terrorists emerged from the hedges. The only remaining Catholic was identified and ordered to walk away. The remainder were lined up and shot; only one survived despite being shot 18 times. The youngest victim was just 19.

In October 1993 three UDA Loyalist gunmen walked into the crowded Rising Sun Bar in Greysteel, Londonderry and indiscriminately opened fire on the predominately Catholic revellers in a so-called revenge attack. They killed eight which included two Protestants and injured 19. The youngest killed were 19 and 20 and the eldest 76 and 81.