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1978: Gunman runs amok in West Midlands

Four people have been killed and four others seriously wounded after a gunman opened fire at two separate locations in the Midlands.

The attacks happened on the Bustleholm estate, Wednesbury and later at a service station in Nuneaton.

Shortly after 1930GMT a lone gunman went to Andrew Road and killed George Birkett and his son, Phillip, on their driveway and Mrs Birkett inside the house. Their daughter, Gillian Birkett, was seriously wounded.

He then rang the bell of the house next door, shooting Judith Chambers who answered and then her husband Joe as he went to her aid.

Indiscriminate shooting

The gunman is then said to have sped off in a Ford Capri shooting indiscriminately at houses, narrowly missing several people.

Resident Bob Nienhuis said: "I heard two series of shots. There were about 15 in all, then I heard a woman shouting and glass breaking."

The gunman went to a petrol station in Nuneaton where, having asked for some petrol, he shot dead the attendant and seriously injured her husband.

An ambulance officer called to the scene of the first attack said: "The police must be looking for a lunatic. I have no idea what happened but those are all very nasty injuries."

The injured, including the daughter of Mr and Mrs Birkett, have all been taken to Birmingham General Hospital.

Police are said to be looking for Barry Williams, 36, a neighbour of the Bustleholm estate victims.

The area around Andrew Road has been closed off in case Mr Williams attempts to return to his home. No motive has been given for the attacks.

In Context
It later emerged that one of the many shots fired in the Bustleholm estate narrowly missed a seven-year-old girl.

Following the attacks roadblocks were set up across the area.

The next day Barry Williams, a neighbour of the first victims, was arrested in Buxton, Derbyshire and charged with the murders after a car chase through the county.

Williams was sentenced to indefinite detention in Broadmoor in 1979.

He served 15 years and was sent to live in a Birmingham hostel just six miles from Andrew Road, West Bromwich, the scene of the first murders.

Aftyer a public outcry, he was moved to a privately-run residential home in Llys Meirchion, North Wales.

Since then Williams is believed to have changed his name and started a family.


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