HE WAS a grandfather who courted a modest group of friends, and was always polite to his neighbours.
Yet in the space of three hours, Derrick Bird went on a murderous road trip across his home county of Cumbria which left 12 people dead and 25 wounded.
Last night, as police began to examine what had caused the 52-year-old to embark on his killing spree, his friends and neighbours expressed shock and disbelief.
Bird was well known in the Whitehaven area of the county where he claimed his first victim.
He lived in the hamlet of Rowrah, near Frizington, and travelled around nearby villages and towns in his Citron Picasso, working as a self-employed taxi driver. He had been doing the same job for more than two decades, forming a rapport with other drivers.
It was the group he socialised most with, his marriage having ended in the late 1980s.
Both of his sons – one of whom had become a father himself last month – were now grown up and had moved away.
Most weekends he would venture into Whitehaven for a night out with friends – mostly other taxi drivers – who knew him as "Birdy".
A small balding man, his private life was otherwise unremarkable. Bird had a passion for motorsports and diving. Occasionally he would venture abroad for scuba diving trips. More often than not, however, he could be found indulging in his pastime at Whitehaven's public swimming pool.
By Tuesday evening, something in Derrick Bird's life had changed traumatically, setting him on a course of destruction.
Peter Leder, a friend of the "outgoing, well-known guy who everyone liked", said he spoke to Bird on the eve of the killings. Bird told him flatly: "You won't see me again."
In Rowrah, the news that one of their neighbours had caused so much bloodshed was difficult to comprehend.
James Campbell, 68, who lived near Bird, said: "I have never found any fault in him. He has always been all right as long as I have known him. I used to speak to him as he was coming and going. We would say hello and pass the time of day."
Another neighbour, Dorothy Taylor, said: "I usually drive past him in my car. It's an awful shock … He was usually all right, quiet."
Sue Matthews, a telephonist at A2B Taxis in Whitehaven, described Bird as a "quiet little fellow", adding: "I know him through work. He was self-employed but it's a small place. I would say he was fairly popular. I would see him once a week out and about. He was known as Birdy."
Muriel Gilpin, 60, postmistress of Arlecdon Post Office, said Bird came from a "nice family" and occasionally popped into her store.
Michelle Haigh, 41, the landlady of Bird's local – the Hound Inn in Frizington – described the regular as a "normal bloke" and said: "He was just a normal bloke. He was a nice guy, nothing out of the ordinary. He would come into the pub, have a couple of pints, have a chat with his friend and go home.
"This is not in character with the Derrick Bird we know."