The families of Jake Davison’s victims have branded his shooting spree “an act of pure evil” but said he was “facilitated and enabled by a series of failings and incompetence from the people and organisations that are supposed to keep us safe”.
Three-year-old Sophie Martyn, her father, Lee, 43, Stephen Washington, 59, and Kate Shepherd, 66, were gunned down by Davison in a matter of minutes.
The shootings in Keyham, Plymouth, on August 12 2021 shocked the country and were one of the worst mass shootings in UK history.
“It is beyond us how Davison, a man with a known history of violence, mental health issues, and with no real need to own a firearm, was granted a licence to possess a gun in the first place,” they said in a statement released by their lawyers.
The families spoke out after an inquest jury returned conclusions of unlawful killing against their loved ones and Davison’s mother, Maxine, 51.
“Whilst today marks the end of this inquest, it will never mark the end of the pain for all of our families and loved ones,” they said.
“Nothing will ever bring back Sophie, Lee, Stephen and Kate.
“On August 12 2021 our lives were changed forever. Our hearts are still incredibly heavy with grief, and we are still struggling to come to terms with our loss.
“We will never be able to understand or comprehend why Davison did what he did.
“It was an act of pure evil.
“However, we now know that this evil act was facilitated and enabled by a series of failings and incompetence from the people and organisations that are supposed to keep us safe.
“The evidence that we have heard during this inquest, over the past five weeks, is a consistent story of individual failures, breathtaking incompetence and systemic failings within every level of the firearms licensing unit of the Devon and Cornwall Police force.
“It is beyond us how Davison, a man with a known history of violence, mental health issues, and with no real need to own a firearm, was granted a licence to possess a gun in the first place.”
They criticised the decision to return Davison’s shotgun and certificate after he assaulted two teenagers in a park.
“The evidence that we have heard from Devon and Cornwall Police was that of a system that was a shambles from the top to the bottom,” they said.
“Those in charge of making decisions as to who should possess a gun, had no training on how to do the job.
“There was no supervision of those individuals. There was no auditing of the decisions that were being made.
“Davison’s case was a prime example.
“These systemic failings with Devon and Cornwall Police have failed to protect the public. They failed to protect our loved ones.
“We firmly believe that these failings at Devon and Cornwall Police have resulted in the deaths of our loved ones.
“Warning signs were ignored and a licence to kill was granted.”
They accused senior officers from Devon and Cornwall Police of “seeking to defend the indefensible” and “closing ranks” during the inquest.
“So far, there has been very little evidence of regret or remorse in the decisions, actions, omissions or catastrophic mistakes made by Devon and Cornwall Police, its firearms and explosives licensing unit, multiple other agencies, care services and individuals,” they said.
“It felt to us that senior officers from Devon and Cornwall Police closed ranks during this inquest process.
“It is too late for an apology from Devon and Cornwall Police. The time for that has passed. We want accountability, ownership and change.”
They are now calling for a complete overhaul in firearms licensing in England and Wales as they were not “reassured” by the changes introduced since Keyham.
“During the next few weeks, we will be united in our commitment to making sure that fundamental changes are made to the way firearms are licensed in England and Wales,” they said.
“We hope that change can come so no other family has to endure the torment of what we have been, and still are, going through.”