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Plymouth killer’s school teacher in disbelief as questions mount over why he was handed back shotgun

A teacher who knew Plymouth killer Jake Davison expressed his fury and disbelief last night that his former pupil was allowed to own a shotgun – and revealed that he had been obsessed with firearms from a young age.

In the wake of Davison’s terrifying rampage – during which he massacred his mother, a three-year-old girl and her father, a dog walker and a bystander – stunned teacher Jonathan Williams described the decision to grant him a gun licence as a ‘catastrophic mistake’.

Mr Williams, who taught English, drama and music to Davison at Mount Tamar special school in the Devon city said: ‘You have to ask, what the hell were they thinking giving him this licence?

‘If you ask anyone who was involved in Jake’s schooling whether giving him a licence was a good idea, they would all tell you absolutely not.

‘How is it possible that a police officer read Jake’s history of obsessive compulsive disorder, anger issues and depression and concluded he should be allowed to own a firearm?

‘It was a catastrophic mistake with utterly tragic consequences. Something went badly awry and you can’t help but feel this whole tragedy could have been avoided. There will be serious questions now about who is responsible for all this happening.

‘I’m imagining what we, his teachers, would have thought about the prospect of him requesting a gun licence. We would probably have laughed in disbelief to be honest.’

A teacher who knew Plymouth killer Jake Davison expressed his fury and disbelief last night that his former pupil was allowed to own a shotgun – and revealed that he had been obsessed with firearms from a young age

Mr Williams, who taught the killer when he was aged 14 to 16, recalled how Davison¿s obsession with guns developed as a boy

Mr Williams, who taught the killer when he was aged 14 to 16, recalled how Davison’s obsession with guns developed as a boy

Weapon licensing laws in need of urgent overhaul, says expert

A firearms expert last night called for an overhaul of gun licensing laws in the wake of Jake Davison’s murderous rampage.

Under the current system, would-be gun-owners are assessed by their local police, who judge whether they have a ‘good reason’ to own a firearm and whether they pose a threat to the public.

But an expert last night said police forces were failing to visit people in person at home, and that there were insufficient mental health checks.

Weapons expert Mike Yardley said: ‘There is a glaring error in the way the licensing system works. We need to have more people laying eyes on people in their own home.’

Davison, 22, who was autistic, was stripped of his shotgun licence last December, following a violent altercation with his father Mark. The gun was returned to him in July after he attended an anger management course. A month later, he blasted to death five people – including his mother -– before turning the gun on himself.

It is unclear what checks were made on Davison before his licence was reinstated, but Mr Yardley said someone would have had to vouch for him.

He queried why vetting officers had overlooked Davison’s disturbing YouTube videos, in which he described himself as a ‘Terminator’ and said he had been ‘defeated by life’.

He said: ‘This was clearly a disturbed young man. It does not take an awful lot of research to work that out. How on earth could he be given a licence? There will be a lot of questions for everyone involved.’

 

Mr Williams, who taught the killer when he was aged 14 to 16, recalled how Davison’s obsession with guns developed as a boy.

He said: ‘He used to have books and books about guns. Whenever I put a film on in class which had a gun in it, he would instantly recognise it and knew the exact make and model. I remember him saying: “Oh, that’s a Glock” and he would be right.

‘His mum Maxine and I decided to try to help him get into the Army Cadets as an outlet for his fascination. She was extremely supportive and only wanted to do the best for him, and I remember going out to help get him boots.’

Mr Williams said Davison’s autism diagnosis should also have barred him from holding a shotgun licence. He questioned whether the 22-year-old had been receiving adequate care in recent years and believed that the killer would have had a ‘bright future’ if he had been given the right support.

He spoke of his shock that the boy he once described as the ‘success story of the year’ had gone on to shoot dead five in Britain’s first ‘incel’ mass shooting – named after a misogynistic online subculture of ‘involuntary celibates’ unable to find a sexual partner – before turning the gun on himself.

He said: ‘It is utterly horrifying and tragic. My heart goes out to Jake’s friends and family, as much as to those of his victims.

‘For me, having spent so much time with him and done all I could to help him, for it to end like this is heartbreaking. Jake would have had an education, health and care plan, which means the State would be required to provide support up to the age of 25. Was he really receiving the support needed?’

Mr Williams’s comments came as Devon and Cornwall Police faced mounting criticism over their decision to return Davison’s shotgun licence after an alleged assault last December. Friends of the killer’s victims, as well as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Plymouth MP Luke Pollard, called for urgent answers as to why the permit was given back to him last month after attending an anger management course.

In a 12-minute massacre, Davison first shot dead his 51-year-old mother, then killed three-year-old Sophie Martyn and her adoptive father, 43-year-old Lee. His two next targets – Ben Parsonage, 33, and his mother Michelle, 53 – both survived. He then killed 59-year-old Stephen Washington, who was walking his two pet huskies in a nearby park. His final victim was Kate Shepherd, 66, who was smoking a cigarette outside a hair salon.

In further developments related to the tragedy yesterday:

  • The Independent Review of Terrorism Legislation said the Government could start treating ‘incel’ shootings as terrorism incidents;
  • It was warned that there are 10,000 people in Britain with ‘incel’ views;
  • Home Secretary Priti Patel laid flowers at the scene of the massacre and described the killings as ‘tragic beyond words’ – but declined to answer questions about gun control;
  • Mourners also left hundreds of bouquets;
  • A former leading prosecutor said Davison was ‘exactly the type of person’ the authorities should have had on a watchlist;

Last night, Mr Williams added that despite Davison being well-built as a teenager, he never had to physically restrain him. ‘We often had problems with some students, I don’t remember ever having to use physical force with Jake,’ he said.

‘He was never violent. In fact, he was often very gentle and kind with his classmates.

‘He liked to get people involved with class activities and he was witty too. He had fantastic creative writing skills too and was just very thoughtful. It is just utterly tragic to think what has happened.’ 

Adopted Sophie Martyn, 3, and her father Lee, 43, (pictured) were shot by Jake Davison at random. Lee's wife Becky is pictured right. Witnesses have told how Lee died while trying to shield his daughter from the gunman

Adopted Sophie Martyn, 3, and her father Lee, 43, (pictured) were shot by Jake Davison at random. Lee’s wife Becky is pictured right. Witnesses have told how Lee died while trying to shield his daughter from the gunman

Sophie and Lee were rushed to nearby Derriford hospital, where Lee's wife Becky works, but both passed away despite the medics' best efforts. Sophie was pushing a toy pram when the gunman struck

Sophie and Lee were rushed to nearby Derriford hospital, where Lee’s wife Becky works, but both passed away despite the medics’ best efforts. Sophie was pushing a toy pram when the gunman struck 

Jake Davison's mother Maxine  was the first to be killed. She and other relatives are claimed to have begged the police and NHS to help him with mental health problems

Jake Davison’s mother Maxine  was the first to be killed. She and other relatives are claimed to have begged the police and NHS to help him with mental health problems

66-year-old Kate Shepherd was Davison's final victim, and was gunned down by Blush hair salon in Plymouth

66-year-old Kate Shepherd was Davison’s final victim, and was gunned down by Blush hair salon in Plymouth

 

Jake Davison then moved on towards a nearby wooded area where he shot and murdered dog walker Stephen Washington, 59, (above)

Jake Davison then moved on towards a nearby wooded area where he shot and murdered dog walker Stephen Washington, 59, (above)

Meanwhile, a relative in the Shetlands where 51-year-old Maxine’s family came from, who asked not to be named, criticised the authorities.

Another unnamed relative added: ‘The family members up here in Shetland are traumatised, we struggle to string a sentence together as we are all devastated not just for our family, we are grieving for every single person that was affected by this – and we have to live with that for the rest of our days.’

Survivor Ben Parsonage is a former junior boxer whose strong character will help him cope with Davison’s murderous rampage, a family friend said last night. The friend, who asked not to be named, said Ben was a promising teenager fighter who had boxed at shows across the West Country.

He said: ‘He was well respected at junior level. His mum Michelle used to travel with him and watch him ringside.

‘He is a strong character and he knows how to look after himself. I do feel he will come through this, though. He has a good family and a lot of good friends ready to support him.’

Speaking to community leaders in Keyham, Ms Patel said: ‘The impact of this will be long-standing. It’s a very sad time, very tragic. I think in the aftermath, so many people will be affected.

‘People will have seen things that, quite frankly, in all our lifetime we would never, ever want anybody to witness or experience.

‘It’s very hard. But you are not on your own, there is a great deal of support.’

Former Chief Crown Prosecutor for the North West Nazir Afzal told BBC radio that there were 10,000 people with ‘incel’ views like Davison in the country.

Mr Afzal said: ‘How many of them, a small minority, are a threat? We have to recognise that we have a responsibility to identify them and share that information.

‘He was exactly the kind of person that you would be keeping an eye on or the authorities should be keeping an eye on.’

Meanwhile, the Government is likely to consider treating so-called ‘incels’ as terrorists if there are more attacks like the Plymouth shootings, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation has said.

Jonathan Hall QC told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘The question is really whether or not the authorities want to treat the incel phenomenon as a terrorist risk. That would involve diverting resources or putting resources into it.

‘If we see more of these sorts of attacks, then I have got no doubt that it will be treated more seriously as terrorism.’

Home Secretary Priti Patel and Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, Shaun Sawyer, visiting the tributes in Plymouth today

Home Secretary Priti Patel and Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, Shaun Sawyer, visiting the tributes in Plymouth today

Plymouth residents last night came together for a candlelight vigil at North Down Crescent Park after the local community was rocked by the shooting spree

Plymouth residents last night came together for a candlelight vigil at North Down Crescent Park after the local community was rocked by the shooting spree

Hayley Locke, 37, who also works for the NHS in an admin role, was another woman who came down to the park to pay her respects. Pictured: Members of the public today

Hayley Locke, 37, who also works for the NHS in an admin role, was another woman who came down to the park to pay her respects. Pictured: Members of the public today

A message on one of the flowers is pictured to three-year-old Sophie, who was killed despite her hero father's best efforts to save her

A message on one of the flowers is pictured to three-year-old Sophie, who was killed despite her hero father’s best efforts to save her 

 SO WHAT TURNED THIS ‘COMPASSIONATE’ BOY INTO A MASS MURDERER?

 Gunman Jake Davison was praised as ‘compassionate’ and a ‘success story’ in a glowing school report.

His former teacher Jonathan Williams wrote that classmates had warmed to ‘his exceptional sense of humour, compassion, readiness to accept the rules and to help others’, and that he had ‘learned to ‘develop strong friendships’.

The report, obtained by The Mail on Sunday, contrasts starkly with the disturbing YouTube videos Davison recently posted in which he railed against women, claimed he had been ‘defeated by life’ and that he was ‘fat and ugly’.

Mr Williams, who taught autistic Davison for three years at Mount Tamar special school, wrote in 2013 that Jake had been ‘the success story of this year’.

He wrote: ‘At the beginning of the year, much of Jake’s attitude and behaviour were typical of children with his condition.

‘Something seems to have had a terrific effect on Jake, as over the year he has made exceptional progress, both on modifying his behaviour and putting in a much harder effort with his work.

‘His grades have increased considerably in literacy and other subjects.

‘The real change, however, has occurred in Jake’s social skills, where he has learned to develop strong friendships.

‘It is particularly pleasing to see Jake involve himself in Army Cadets, and the support he has received at home should ensure that this becomes a rewarding and valuable part of his training.

‘I’m really pleased with Jake this year, and look to him to set the example to other students next year.’

Last night, Mr Williams said: ‘I really thought Jake had a bright future ahead of him. I just can’t believe that the kind young man with such a bright future turned out like this. It’s an utter tragedy.’

Davison, described as 'compassionate' by his former teachers shot multiple people and then himself last night in the worst shooting atrocity in Britain for 11 years

Davison, described as ‘compassionate’ by his former teachers shot multiple people and then himself last night in the worst shooting atrocity in Britain for 11 years

In rambling and unsettling films made in the weeks before his rampage, he described an obsession with The Terminator and repeatedly mentions to 'incel' movement linked to mass shootings in the US

In rambling and unsettling films made in the weeks before his rampage, he described an obsession with The Terminator and repeatedly mentions to 'incel' movement linked to mass shootings in the US

In rambling and unsettling films made in the weeks before his rampage, he described an obsession with The Terminator and repeatedly mentions to ‘incel’ movement linked to mass shootings in the US


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