Inquest hears harrowing accounts from Keyham victims’ families

The families of the victims of gunman Jake Davison have given harrowing accounts of learning of the deaths of their loved ones, an inquest heard.

The husband of Kate Shepherd found her fatally injured in the street being tended to by emergency services and the wife of Stephen Washington was alerted to his disappearance after one of his dogs returned without him.

While Rebecca Martyn became worried for her husband Lee and daughter Sophie when she heard from friends about a shooting and they had not come home.

An inquest into Jake Davison's death will take place after that of his victims (handout)
Jake Davison (Handout/PA)

Davison, 22, killed his mother Maxine, 51, after a row and then shot dead the four others in a 12-minute attack in Plymouth.

Three-year-old Sophie Martyn, her father, Lee, 43, Stephen Washington, 59, and Kate Shepherd, 66, died on the evening of August 12, 2021, in the Keyham area of the city.

Apprentice crane operator Davison then turned the pump-action shotgun on himself before armed police reached him.

Inquests at Plymouth, Torbay and South Devon Coroner’s Court resumed at Exeter Racecourse with pen portrait statements read to the jury of five men and six women on behalf of the families of those who died.

The family of Mrs Davison told the court they were “appalled” by her son’s actions that day.

Josh Davison, the gunman’s brother, said: “We are grappling to understand and manage our own health, emotions and bereavement following the incident.

“Even deeper than that, we think we share the feelings of despair, hurt and loss of the Martyn, Washington and Shepherd families knowing that it was a member of our family who was responsible for their loss.

“No words can describe the pain or heaviness of feeling this situation has caused.

“Our involvement in this inquest is to help prevent this from happening in future; an event like this cannot and should not ever happen again.

“If we had one wish, it would be that we could turn back time and allow everyone who had a part in the events leading up to this tragedy an opportunity to make changes to prevent it from happening at all.”

Stephen Washington was one of five people killed by Jake Davison (Devon and Cornwall Police/PA)
Stephen Washington was one of five people killed by Jake Davison (Devon and Cornwall Police/PA)

The killings happened just weeks after Davison’s shotgun and gun licence had been returned by Devon and Cornwall Police.

They had been seized in 2020 after Davison assaulted two teenagers in a park.

He had applied for a shotgun certificate in July 2017 and one was issued in January 2018 that was valid for five years.

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

After being sworn, the jury, which will hear evidence over five weeks at Exeter Racecourse, listened as family members and lawyers read pen portrait statements about each of the victims.

John Shepherd described how he went out looking for his wife, an artist, after she failed to return home from a walk and was not answering her phone – finding her fatally injured on Henderson Drive.

“It was whilst looking that I came across the scene of the shooting,” he said.

“I could see a whole team of people from the emergency services working on someone, it was Kate.

“There were screens around her, and I could only see her feet. I wasn’t allowed to get any closer as they were busy working on her.

“I told a female police officer that my wife Kate had not returned home, I asked was it definitely her. I was told after a short time it was Kate.”

Mrs Shepherd, who had recently celebrated her ruby wedding anniversary and had become a grandmother for the first time, died at Derriford Hospital.

Five lit candles on the altar following a civic service led by the Bishop of Plymouth at Minister Church Of St Andrew, to remember the five people who were killed by Jake Davison
Five lit candles on the altar following a civic service led by the Bishop of Plymouth at Minister Church Of St Andrew, to remember the five people who were killed by Jake Davison (PA)

The court heard that Sophie Martyn had taken her favourite buggy when she joined her father to walk the family dog.

Her mother, Rebecca Martyn, started to worry after they had failed to return home and friends had told her about reports of a shooting.

Sophie had gone out wearing a white dress with her favourite buggy to push along during the journey.

“It was a purple scruffy looking buggy and Sophie will always place either a doll or a toy in it,” Mrs Martyn said in a statement.

“I now know that Sophie had taken a teddy in the pram – a beige teddy wearing a white and green checked scarf with a white motif on the front.

“From knowledge of previous walks, she would push the buggy for a short while before giving up and one of us would have to carry it home.”

The inquest heard that Mr Martyn and his daughter suffered fatal shotgun wounds in Biddick Drive, after being confronted by Davison, who lived in the street.

Mrs Martyn said she sent a WhatsApp message to her husband at 6.13pm but he never read it and did not return her calls – later being told by police they had been killed.

“As a family man, he would have chosen to protect his family, if ever confronted with a violent situation,” she said.

Plymouth incident
Floral tributes left in Biddick Drive, Keyham, in August 2021 (Ben Birchall/PA)

Mr Washington’s wife Sheila said shortly after he left she heard loud bangs and became worried when one of their husky dogs, Poppy, came home alone.

She asked family members to go looking for her husband but they failed to find him and later that night were informed he had died.

“I am still finding it hard to come to terms with how Steve has died and how he is no longer with us,” she added.

“Never could I imagine losing him in such a horrendous circumstance.”

The hearing continues.