To read this content please select one of the options below:

The Cumbria spree killing – how mobility affects the policing of critical incidents

Stuart Kirby (School of Law, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)
Jerry Graham (Cumbria Constabulary, Penrith, UK)
Michelle Green (Applied Social Science Department, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)

International Journal of Emergency Services

ISSN: 2047-0894

Article publication date: 4 March 2014




Spree killing impacts significantly on emergency services and is becoming more prevalent across the world. The purpose of this paper is to explore the Cumbrian spree killing, which resulted in the fatal shooting of 12 people with a further 11 wounded. This study highlights why these events are so difficult to manage in an attempt to assist policy makers and practitioners deal with them more effectively.


A qualitative methodology was used, examining open source information and internal police documentation. This was supported by semi-structured interviews with command staff (three), and questionnaires involving a representative group of police staff (11), who were all deployed on the incident.


This case study mirrored the characteristics of many other spree killings. The sophistication of the killer, together with the speed of mobility, significantly increases the challenges posed to the police, specifically in terms of: deployment, decision making, interoperability and managing the media. Further, it questions the effectiveness of normal command and control management approaches that are typically used in these situations.

Practical implications

Spree killing (active shooter) events are increasing across the globe. This study highlights the critical challenges to be dealt with. It argues a more innovative inter-agency paradigm is needed to deal with crimes in action.


There are few academic papers in relation to spree killing. This paper analyses the factors that impact upon the effectiveness of the police response.



Kirby, S., Graham, J. and Green, M. (2014), "The Cumbria spree killing – how mobility affects the policing of critical incidents", International Journal of Emergency Services, Vol. 3 No. 1, pp. 34-48.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles