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Police face scrutiny over decision to give Plymouth gunman his shotgun licence back last month

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The police watchdog will investigate the Devon and Cornwall force over Plymouth gunman Jake Davison’s possession of a shotgun and shotgun certificate.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has said it is looking into how Davison acquired the weapon and licence, after they were removed from him by police last December following an allegation of assault in September.

However, his firearm and licence were returned to him in early July this year – just a month before Thursday evening’s deadly incident.

It is not yet known if this particular weapon was the one used in the attack.

Davison, 22, shot and killed his 51-year-old mother Maxine Davison, also known as Maxine Chapman, at a house in Biddick Drive in the Keyham area of the city.

He then went outside on to the street and shot dead Sophie Martyn, three, and her father Lee Martyn, 43, in an attack witnessed by horrified onlookers.

He then killed Stephen Washington, 59, in a nearby park, before shooting Kate Shepherd, 66, on Henderson Place. She later died at Derriford Hospital.

More on Jake Davison

Davison also shot at two local residents – a man aged 33 and a 53-year-old woman – leaving them with significant injuries that are not believed to be life-threatening.

Plymouth shooting map

The IOPC said that the investigation follows a mandatory referral from Devon and Cornwall Police and will look at police “decision-making” concerning Davison’s possession of a shotgun.

The investigation will also look at whether the force had any information about the shooter’s mental health and if any such information was “appropriately considered”.

IOPC regional director David Ford said: “We can confirm that this morning we received a mandatory referral from Devon and Cornwall Police relating to yesterday’s tragic events in Plymouth in which six people lost their lives.

Forensic officers investigate the scene of Jake Davison's shooting spree, which left five others dead and two injured before the shooter turned the gun on himself
Image: Forensic officers investigate the scene of Davison’s shooting spree
Image: The incident was over in minutes after Davison turned the gun on himself

“Our thoughts remain with all of the many people who will be severely affected. The referral related to yesterday’s events as well as police contact with Jake Davison prior to the incident, including the force’s role and actions regarding firearms licensing.

“After assessment of the referral we have determined we will carry out an independent investigation focusing on Jake Davison’s firearms licensing history and its impact on the tragic events of Thursday 12 August.”

Mr Ford said that no investigation will take place into the force’s response to the shootings which lasted around six minutes before Davison turned the gun on himself.

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Plymouth shooting aftermath caught on dashcam

He was reported dead at 6.23pm, just minutes after police were alerted at 6.11pm.

Although, the investigation will look to see if there is any “causal link between the arrival of police and Mr Davison apparently shooting himself”, Mr Ford said.

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Plymouth gun rampage ‘without precedent’ – police

A police spokesman said the firearm believed to have been used during the atrocity was legally held by Davison, who had a firearms licence.

It is believed that the mass shooting, which police are yet to establish a motive for, began with a “domestic-related incident” between Davison and his mother.

Floral tributes and soft toy tributes left outside the Lidl supermarket on Wolesley Road, near Biddick Drive in the Keyham area of Plymouth where six people, including the offender, died of gunshot wounds in a firearms incident Thursday evening. Picture date: Friday August 13, 2021.
Image: Floral tributes and soft toy tributes left outside a local supermarket near the scene of the incident

Witnesses have told police Davison turned the weapon – described as a pump-action shotgun – on himself before armed officers could engage him.

Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police Shaun Sawyer told Sky News: “We’ve never in my time had homicide followed by a rampaging firearms attack on random members of the public and then taking one’s life.

“That is without precedent in my time as chief constable.”

He added that those responding to the incident had faced “some of the most challenging scenes”.

“The first officers on scene encountered the child that had been shot in the street, with the adult, using what is described as a pump-action shotgun,” Mr Sawyer said.

“I won’t expand on that but most people can imagine what that was like for arriving officers.”

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Plymouth gunman speaks of ‘frustrations’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for the issue of how Davison came to legally own a gun to be “properly investigated” and described the shooting as an “absolutely appalling” incident.

There are questions about Davison’s mental health in the weeks before the shooting.

In videos shared online just weeks before the massacre, he spoke of being “beaten down” and “defeated by life”.

Davison, who posted on a YouTube channel under the name Professor Waffle, said he did not have “any willpower to do anything anymore” in a recording dated 28 July.

In several clips, he referred to the “incels” – an abbreviation online for “involutory celibacy”, the online subculture that involves men who are unable to find a romantic or sexual partner despite desiring one, often expressing hostility and extreme resentment towards those who are sexually active, particularly women.

Although saying he did not “clarify” himself as an “incel”, Davison talked about “people similar to me have had nothing but themselves”.