GP did not comment on mass shooter’s shotgun application, court hears

·5-min read

Plymouth mass shooter Jake Davison’s GP declined to comment on whether he was suitable to hold a firearms licence when asked by the police force considering his application, a court has been told.

Davison killed his mother Maxine Davison, 51, after a row at her home before going outside and shooting dead four others in a 12-minute attack on the evening of August 12 this year in the Keyham area of the city.

Three-year-old Sophie Martyn and her father Lee, 43, were shot dead in front of horrified onlookers as they walked their pet dog in Biddick Drive.

Davison then shot Stephen Washington, 59, in a nearby park, before shooting Kate Shepherd, 66, on Henderson Place.

Stephen Washington was among those who died (Devon and Cornwall Police/PA)
Stephen Washington was among those who died (Devon and Cornwall Police/PA)

The apprentice crane operator then turned the shotgun on himself before armed officers reached him.

Davison applied for a shotgun certificate in July 2017 and after the application was processed by Devon and Cornwall Police, a certificate was issued to him in January 2018 which was valid for five years.

The pre-inquest hearing heard on Thursday that as part of a child death review being undertaken by the University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust into Sophie Martyn’s homicide, investigators had sought information from Davison’s GP about his firearms licence application.

Paediatric consultant Dr Carolyn Adcock, who is the trust’s designated doctor for safeguarding children, told the hearing the review would be considering “whether the GP involved had responded appropriately to a request for information by the police when there was a request for the provision of a gun licence by the perpetrator”.

“The GP’s response was that there was a request made for information,” she said.

“The GP wrote declining to give information because he did not feel he was in a position to be qualified to comment on the personality of a patient to say whether or not they were safe to hold a gun licence.”

Davison's killing spree began in Biddick Drive in Keyham (Ben Birchall/PA)
Davison’s killing spree began in Biddick Drive in Keyham (Ben Birchall/PA)

In the wake of the shootings, the Home Office announced the police will now have to check someone’s medical history before issuing a gun licence.

All firearms applications must be accompanied by a medical document signed by a registered, practising doctor.

New statutory guidance also says any relevant health records – particularly any information on mental health, neurological conditions and substance abuse – will have to be reviewed as part of the process.

It means police, for the first time, will be legally required to follow the guidance to help improve standards and consistency across forces in the UK.

Police have also been told to review an applicant’s social media accounts and financial history as well as carry out domestic violence checks in cases where officers believe more evidence is needed before authorising a licence.

As well as the coroner’s investigation, two other inquiries are already under way into the shootings.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is examining the decision by the Devon and Cornwall force to return Davison’s shotgun certificate and weapon to him just weeks before the killings after they were seized following an allegation of assault.

The IOPC has previously said a police staff member who handled Davison’s original shotgun application and also decided to return the weapon had been issued with a gross misconduct notice.

A police officer who investigated the assault against Davison was issued with a misconduct notice.

The National Police Chiefs Council is also leading an investigation, in conjunction with the local police and crime commissioner, into the force’s firearms policies and procedures.

Ian Arrow, senior coroner for Plymouth and South Devon, was told the IOPC would be able to provide a final report by the end of January, but it was “premature” to say whether disciplinary proceedings would follow.

People gathered outside the Guildhall in Plymouth to hold a minute's silence to the victims (Ben Birchall/PA)
People gathered outside the Guildhall in Plymouth to hold a minute’s silence to the victims (Ben Birchall/PA)

Devon and Cornwall Police said it would be able to submit its report by the end of February but was still awaiting evidence relating to ballistics and the contents of Davison’s mobile phone.

Members of the victims’ families attended the hearing, as did relatives of Davison.

He had received mental health support during the coronavirus lockdown and had been in contact with a telephone helpline service in Plymouth run by the Livewell Southwest organisation.

Social media usage by Davison suggested an obsession with “incel” culture, meaning “involuntary celibate”, as well as an interest in guns and the US.

Reports have suggested Davison’s mother had been struggling to get help for her son, having become concerned about his mental health.

A further pre-inquest review will take place on March 15.

In a statement issued after the hearing, the IOPC said a third Devon and Cornwall employee had been served with a gross misconduct notice.

The watchdog said the employee was part of the force’s firearms licensing department and was involved in granting a shotgun certificate to Davison in 2017.

A man has also come forward to allege he reported to police he was assaulted by Davison outside a supermarket in Plymouth in 2016, which the IOPC is investigating.

The IOPC said a one pump-action shotgun was recovered from Davison’s possession for which he held a certificate. Several air weapons were found by police at his home address.

Regional director David Ford said: “We have gathered and reviewed a considerable amount of information in the course of our investigation.

“While our investigative work is close to completion, we have followed the evidence as it has emerged and now have a small number of remaining actions to undertake.

“We have provided a preliminary report to the coroner this week and are keeping the families and Devon and Cornwall Police updated throughout our investigation.”

Lawyer Patrick Maguire, who represents the Shepherd, Washington and Martyn families, said: “My clients are greatly concerned about how Davison came into possession of the firearm against the backdrop of matters aired at today’s hearing.

“We welcome the IPOC investigation, and we will now await its conclusion and full report in order to respond appropriately.”

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