Bishop criticises ‘blame culture’ in wake of Plymouth shooting tragedy

A senior church leader has called for a change in our society’s culture that always seeks to find someone to blame at times of tragedy.

The Bishop of Plymouth, the Right Reverend Nick McKinnel, spoke out as he led a church service paying respects to the five people killed in one of the UK’s worst mass shootings.

His address appeared to defend the actions of Devon and Cornwall Police, which is under scrutiny over the decision to return a firearms certificate and shotgun to gunman Jake Davison, 22, just weeks before last week’s devastating events in the Keyham area of the city.

Plymouth incident
The Right Reverend Nick McKinnel Bishop of Plymouth (Ben Birchall/PA)

The bishop said anger should instead be directed at those who “disseminate hate and feed on the insecurities, isolation and bitterness of confused and sick people”.

Civic leaders, religious figures, politicians, emergency service workers and the military joined around 200 people inside the Minster Church of St Andrew, in Royal Parade, Plymouth.

Davison, an apprentice crane driver, shot and killed his 51-year-old mother Maxine Davison at a house in Biddick Drive.

He then went outside into the street and shot dead three-year-old Sophie Martyn and her father Lee Martyn, 43, in front of horrified onlookers.

In the 12-minute attack, he killed Stephen Washington, 59, in a nearby park, before shooting Kate Shepherd, 66, on Henderson Place.

Davison then turned the gun on himself before armed officers reached him.

The half-hour service was led by the bishop and included readings and prayers from members of the Keyham community and civic and local religious leaders.

Among those attending were Shaun Sawyer, chief constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, Councillor Terri Beer, the Lord Mayor of Plymouth, council leader Nick Kelly and local MP Luke Pollard.

At the start of the multi-faith service a minute’s silence was held for those who died and all 10 of St Andrew’s bells were rung half-muffled – a technique reserved only for moments of memorial and remembrance.

For those not inside church, the service was relayed to a large TV screen outside, and also livestreamed by Plymouth City Council via YouTube.

During the service, candles were lit to remember each of the five victims and those watching outside or online were invited to also light a candle or lay flowers.

Addressing mourners, the bishop reflected on other tragedies that had hit Plymouth including the Fastnet race disaster and Lyme Bay canoeing incident.

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Candles are lit during a civic service led by the Bishop of Plymouth at Minister Church Of St Andrew (Ben Birchall/PA)

“The 12 minutes of murder in Keyham last Thursday night brought shocking
scenes to the very streets of a quiet residential district of our city in a way that none of us could have imagined,” he said.

“For a three-year-old child to be killed so senselessly, and her father; for someone not to return from walking the dog because a gunman is in the park; for someone to murder the parent that gave birth to them; and for children of primary school age to witness bodies lying in the road – it is too unbearably painful to contemplate.”

The bishop praised the emergency services for rushing to the scene not knowing what they faced but aware of shootings, death and terror.

“We appreciate and admire the calm leadership of the chief constable and the professionalism of those who serve under him,” he said.

“And I hope we can rise above the apparent need to always point the finger, always to find someone to blame, which is such an unattractive aspect of our culture.

“There should be anger, but let us direct it at those who disseminate hate and feed on the insecurities, isolation and bitterness of confused and sick people.”