Plymouth shooting: Watchdog investigates how gunman came to have licence for firearms

The people of Plymouth gather to remember those lives taken, as ITV News Correspondent Chloe Keedy reports

An investigation has been launched into how the Plymouth gunman was in possession of a firearm and had his licence to own one returned by police.

Jake Davison, who shot dead five people in Plymouth, had his shotgun and licence returned by police last month after they were removed in December 2020 following an alleged assault.

In Thursday's attack, the 22-year-old killed his mother Maxine Davison, 51, also known as Maxine Chapman, at a house in Biddick Drive, Keyham, on Thursday evening.

He then went on to shoot dead four other people and injure two more.

Police have named the victims killed as:

  • Maxine Davison, also known as Maxine Chapman, aged 51, who was the gunman's mother;

  • Sophie Martyn, aged three, and her father Lee Martyn, 43;

  • Stephen Washington, 59;

  • Kate Shepherd, 66, who was injured at the scene and died later at Derriford Hospital.

Devon and Cornwall Police removed Davison's firearm and license last year after an alleged assault in September 2020. But both were returned to him in early July after he attended an anger management course.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has announced it will investigate the police force's decision-making in relation to Davison’s possession of the weapon and certificate.

Who was Jake Davison? ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand looks into the gunman's background

The police watchdog's regional director David Ford said the referral related to Thursday’s events as well as “police contact with Jake Davison prior to the incident, including the force’s role and actions regarding firearms licensing”.

He said: “We will examine what police actions were taken and when, the rationale behind police decision-making, and whether relevant law, policy and procedures were followed concerning Mr Davison’s possession of a shotgun.”

It will also look at whether the force had information concerning Davison’s mental health and if this was “appropriately considered.”

Mr Ford added: “It has not yet been established whether the shotgun returned to Mr Davison was used in yesterday’s shootings.”

Kate Shepherd and Stephen Washington were killed in the attack. Credit: Facebook

Police previously confirmed said the gun used by Davison in the attack was carried legally. No investigation will take place into the force’s response to the shootings.

In an update issued on Saturday night, police said an online page has been launched by the force for those who may have information to assist with the investigation into the mass shooting.

The force added that post-mortem examinations are taking place and due to continue into early next week.

Police said Davison was one of thousands of people in the area to have a firearms licence granted to him.

Tearful tributes were paid to the victims Credit: Ben Birchall/PA

A large cordon remains in place at the scene of the shooting in Plymouth as local residents continue to pay their respects after one of the city's 'darkest days'.

A candlelit vigil was held in North Down Crescent Park, Keyham, on Friday night (13 August) to pay tribute to those killed.

Another has been planned for Monday evening in Saltash. Plymouth City Council said a minute’s silence will be held for the victims at 11am on Monday.

A minute's silence is held at Home Park in memory of shooting victims

Players and fans at Home Park Stadium also held a minute's silence on Saturday (14 August) to pay their respects.

Elsewhere Home Secretary Priti Patel spoke to members of the local neighbourhood watch team in Keyham, supported by Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police Shaun Sawyer and local MP Luke Pollard.

Ms Patel heard locals describe the tragedy as "our September 11".

How events unfolded in Plymouth on Thursday 12 August:

After shooting his mother, Davison killed Sophie Martyn, aged three, and her father Lee Martyn, aged 43, in the street.

He then killed Stephen Washington, 59, in a nearby park, before shooting Kate Shepherd, 66, on Henderson Place. Ms Shepherd later died at Derriford Hospital.

Davison also shot two residents – a man aged 33 and a 53-year-old woman, who are known to each other – in Biddick Drive. They have significant, though not life-threatening, injuries.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the issue of how Davison came to legally own a gun should be “properly investigated” as he described the shooting as “absolutely appalling.”

Sir Keir Starmer welcomed the investigation as "a very good thing" but added "there are wider questions [about] how on earth he got a gun licence in the first place".

Sir Keir Starmer welcomes the investigation

The Labour leader said a review of the gun licencing laws could also be investigated.

As part of police investigations into the shooting, detectives are examining Davison’s social media and phone use.

Davison posted multiple lengthy videos of himself on YouTube under the name 'Professor Waffle.'

His social media suggests he had an interest in guns, America, and “incel” culture - short for “involuntary celibate”.

The "incel" culture has amassed a following online among some men who feel they are unattractive to women and unable to get a girlfriend.

YouTube has since confirmed an account belonging to Davison has been terminated from the platform, for violating its offline behaviour policy.

Facebook also confirmed that accounts belonging to the Plymouth gunman have been removed.

Flowers left at the scene of the Plymouth shootings. Credit: PA

Davison had been an apprentice at Babcock International since August 2020.

Babcock CEO, David Lockwood, said: "I am shocked and deeply saddened by the events that have unfolded overnight in Plymouth and the deaths of six people.

"Our thoughts and condolences are with the friends and families of those involved in this tragedy. We stand with the city at this difficult time.

"As one of the largest employers in Plymouth, we are providing support and help for any of our colleagues who feel affected by this incident."