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Plymouth remembers Keyham massacre one year on

Floral tributes left in Biddick Drive, Keyham in Plymouth, Devon, where five people were killed by gunman Jake Davison in a firearms incident on Thursday evening. Picture date: Monday August 16, 2021.
Floral tributes left in Biddick Drive, Keyham in Plymouth, Devon, where five people were killed by gunman Jake Davison in a firearms incident on Thursday evening. Picture date: Monday August 16, 2021.

People have gathered at a civic service to remember the victims of one of the UK’s worst mass shootings.

Last August 12, Jake Davison killed his mother, Maxine Davison, 51, after a row and then shot four others dead in a 12-minute attack.

Sophie Martyn, three, her father Lee, 43, Stephen Washington, 59, and Kate Shepherd, 66, all died.

Davison, 22, an apprentice crane operator, then turned his pump-action shotgun on himself before armed officers reached him.

On the first anniversary Plymouth was marking the milestone with a service at the Minster Church of St Andrew and later vigils took place in North Down Crescent Park in Keyham and on The Hoe, which were attended by hundreds of people.

Local MP Luke Pollard and members of the public hold a minute's silence during a vigil at North Down Crescent Park in Keyham (Rod Minchin/PA)
Local MP Luke Pollard and members of the public hold a minute’s silence during a vigil at North Down Crescent Park in Keyham (Rod Minchin/PA)

Members of the public and the emergency services attended the 45-minute service alongside politicians and civic leaders.

Those present included Shaun Sawyer, chief constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, police and crime commissioner Alison Hernandez, local MP Luke Pollard and the Lord Mayor of Plymouth.

During the service, Holly Peters, Plymouth’s young poet laureate, read her poem Loneliness, and soul and blues singer Joanna Cooke performed Way Over Yonder by Carole King.

The Lord Mayor, Councillor Sue Dann, told the congregation: “Today is a time to think about those families who have lost the most and how their lives have been broken in ways they could never have foreseen and certainly never have chosen.

“For them time will probably never heal the wounds and the pain, which we pray might one day ease.

“The city will always remember that shocking day as it continues to offer help to those who live in and around Keyham.”

Among those attending the service was Shaun Sawyer, chief constable of Devon and Cornwall Police (Rod Minchin/PA)
Among those attending the service was Shaun Sawyer, chief constable of Devon and Cornwall Police (Rod Minchin/PA)

Speaking ahead of the service, St Andrew’s rector Reverend Joe Dent said: “A year ago when the events unfolded on the streets of Keyham there was a real sense of shock and horror and grief.

“I think that a year on that sense of grief and loss is still just as real.

“So this service is going to be an opportunity for those who want to come to be able to express their grief together, their sense of loss together, to pay tribute and to pray together.

“I know that there are various events taking part in the city but hopefully this service will be a time when those who have been most deeply affected – either families who have been bereaved or those who survived the horrific events and those who responded to it can come together and find a sense of ability to express their sadness and respect.”

Rev Dent said although it was a civic service, it would be a very personal one to the families of those who died with them choosing pieces of music to remember their loved ones.

“We felt that a year on it was very appropriate to look back to think about the present and to look forward so we’re going to be lighting three candles – one for the past, one for the present and one for the future,” he said.

Plymouth incident
A forensic officer carries an evidence bag in Biddick Drive in the Keyham area of Plymouth, Devon, where the attack took place (Ben Birchall/PA)

“So, looking backward in memory, thinking about the present the way that people, communities and authorities have responded to the situation and then looking forward to the months and years ahead.

“We all know that things like this don’t just go away but people need love and encouragement for a long, long, long, long time.”

The killings led to outpourings of sympathy and offers of help from across the community.

Since the shooting, which was witnessed by up to 300 people, nearly £2 million has been pledged in Government support to help Keyham and the surrounding areas recover.

Plymouth incident
Jake Davison killed his mother and four others in the attack a year ago (PA)

The atrocity happened weeks after a shotgun and licence were returned to Davison by Devon and Cornwall Police.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is investigating how the force approved his application and gave him back the licence and shotgun.

Police will now have to check someone’s medical history before issuing a gun licence, the Home Office announced.

Davison had received mental health support during the coronavirus lockdown.

Social media usage suggested an obsession with incel – or involuntary celibate – culture, as well as an interest in guns and the US.

His mother had reported him in November 2016 to the Government’s counter-terrorism Prevent programme, which aims to stop people becoming terrorists, months before he applied for a shotgun licence.