Police returned gun to ‘mentally ill’ Plymouth shooter even after family begged for help

Plymouth: Police give statement after 5 killed in shooting

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The weapon Davison used to kill his victims had been confiscated nearly a year ago following an allegation of assault. The Independent Office for Police Conduct has said it will now investigate Devon and Cornwall Police over Davison’s possession of a shotgun and shotgun certificate.

The gunman, 22, was a licensed firearm holder with a legally held shotgun, despite having “mental health problems”.

His family were so concerned about his behaviour and views on women they contacted the NHS for help and also asked police for support in the days before the killings, it was said.

Yesterday it was claimed Davison’s family had pleaded for help from NHS mental health services.

His father Mark “begged” for an NHS assessment as his son’s condition deteriorated and his hatred of women grew, it was said.

Investigators will be trying to assess whether Davison’s frame of mind led him to murder his mother Maxine after bursting into her home with a pump-action shotgun.

And relatives of victims Sophie Martyn, three, her father Lee, 43, Stephen Washington, 59, and Kate Shepherd, 66 will all want to know if their deaths could have been prevented.

One person who knew Davison has said his family asked for help from mental health experts. The unnamed individual said: “The dad even begged the mental health team to assess him, but they basically said they were too short of staff to come out.

“So not only have the mental services in this country let these poor families down, they could have prevented this.

“He had severe mental health problems. People like that need 24/7 help.

“How he got a gun to kill these people is crazy. With his mental health condition he shouldn’t have been on the streets.

“The family begged 101 to send an officer out two days before and rang NHS mental health to come and assess him.”

Last night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his thoughts were with the victims of the “absolutely appalling” incident and their families.

He said the issue of how Davison came to legally own a gun should be “properly investigated”.

During his horrific rampage on Thursday evening, the killer is said to have told an onlooker there was “nothing to worry about” as he made his way from his home, where he had killed his mother, who had only just been given the all-clear from cancer.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct will now investigate all contact that officers had with the Davison family.

This will include what the Devon and Cornwall force knew about him and why he retained his gun licence.

A close friend and neighbour said: “Maxine and Jake used to be close. You’d always see him helping her with the shopping up the road.

“But then his views changed and he went against women and he became misogynist. They clashed a lot about that. I know she found that upsetting as a mum and as his parent. As a mum you expect to be respected.

“Jake was always very quiet growing up, almost introverted. He was a troubled soul.

“He got into guns and he knew everything there was to know about them.”

The friend said Davison had suffered from ADHD, prompting his parents to seek professional help for him.

Firearms fanatic Davison was said to have been fascinated with previous atrocities, including the Hungerford massacre in 1987 ‑ one of the worst UK gun attacks in history.

Unemployed former labourer Michael Ryan had shot dead 16 people with semi-automatic rifles and a handgun during the atrocity.

In a chilling post written just over three weeks ago about the evolution of gun attacks over the past 80 years, Davison wrote: “There are a lot more guns in Europe and the UK than people think.”

One eyewitness, whose first-floor flat overlooks the street where the killings began, described watching Davison.

The witness said: “It was like something from a shoot ’em up game.

“I heard the first shots and happened to be by my window. The big lad walked down the street blasting away.

“I didn’t see the kid get killed but saw the other two, who I’ve been told survived. How they did is a mystery to me.

“It just reminded me of one of those video games where a character goes on the rampage.

“It didn’t seem real until the police, helicopters and ambulances turned up. It’s horrible to think what happened.” 

Davison shot himself before firearms officers engaged him and police did not fire any shots, the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police Shaun Sawyer said.

A nearby resident who knew the family said: “I live on the street. His poor mum has only just got cleared of cancer.

“His sister was a harmless soul. She was in the same class as my son.”

Another person said: “My boyfriend went to school with him and said he was pretty shy and quiet and would talk about how cool Americans are.

“He liked the idea of having a gun collection. My boyfriend said he was autistic and had anger issues.” 

In an online rant just weeks before he committed his atrocity, Davison compared himself to a “terminator”.

He had said: “I like to think sometimes, you know, I’m a terminator or something.

“And, despite, you know, reaching almost total system failure, he keeps trying to accomplish his mission.”

Last night, a large crowd gathered at a vigil following the horrific shootings.

People placed flowers and held candles in North Down Crescent Park in Plymouth to remember those who were killed.

‘He had severe mental health problems… how he got a gun to kill these people is crazy’

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