The streets were filling up with families enjoying half-term, and Whitehaven was bright with the promise of summer. Then the first shots rang out.
Within a few hours, 12 people lay dead, and this quiet Georgian port had joined the ranks of Dunblane, Hungerford and Omagh as geographic shorthand for mass murder.
In the three-and-a-half hours from 10.35am, local taxi driver Derrick Bird, 52, was to unleash one of the most ferocious and perplexing killing sprees in modern domestic criminal history.
By the time police recovered his body 20 miles away in the idyllic beauty spot of Boot in Eskdale, the death toll had reached at least a dozen. His victims included several pensioners out shopping, most of them shot in the face or head at point-blank range either with a shotgun or a high-powered telescopic rifle. A further 25 perople were wounded. Three of them were in a critical condition last night while five others were described as being in a serious condition.
During the hunt for the killer, tens of thousands of people living and holidaying around the picturesque western fringes of the Lake District were ordered to stay indoors as Bird switched cars and opened fire in a series of small villages and country lanes with a randomness and ferocity that has left investigators puzzled. At the height of the manhunt the nuclear power station at Sellafield was locked down for the first time in its history, while Cumbria police deployed all their armed teams along with helicopters and dozens of vehicles to give chase.