The family of a gunman who killed five people, including his own mother and a three-year-old girl, in Plymouth in 2021 have spoken of their devastation and told an inquest jury that they wished they could turn back time to prevent the tragedy from happening.
Jake Davison, 22, killed his mother, Maxine Davison, 51, after an argument. He then shot dead four others, among them Lee Martyn, 43, and his three-year-old daughter Sophie – who was pushing a buggy with a teddy inside as they walked the family dog, in the 12-minute attack.
Stephen Washington, 59, and Kate Shepherd, 66, were also killed on the evening of 12 August 2021 in the Keyham area of the city before Davison, an apprentice crane operator, turned the pump-action shotgun on himself.
At the start of inquests into Davison’s five victims at Exeter racecourse, pen portrait statements were read to the jury on behalf of the families of those who died.
Josh Davison, the gunman’s brother, said his family was “appalled” by his actions. “We are grappling to understand and manage our own health, emotions and bereavement,” he said.
“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.”
The inquest was told that Davison had a firearms licence. This was revoked in 2020 but his shotgun was returned to him not long before the killings.
In the statement, which was read by the barrister Nick Stanage, Josh Davison described his mother, who had worked on fishing trawlers, as a “complicated person”. He said: “She was thoughtful but impulsive. Reserved and quiet on the one hand, creative, adventurous and able to attract attention, on the other.
“She was very much an independent, free-spirited soul and really was one of a kind. Sometimes unpredictable and stubborn and very much dancing to the beat of her own drum.”
He said she was “slight and petite” but “could go off like a firecracker”, adding she had felt “safe and settled” in the cul-de-sac where the shootings began.
Rebecca Martyn, the wife of Lee and mother of Sophie, described how they were killed by Davison as they walked their family pet. She said her husband was a talented footballer who had trials with professional clubs before beginning work as a carpenter at a yacht manufacturer in Plymouth.
Martyn, a hospital worker, said: “Lee would protect his family if he was ever confronted with a violent situation” and described Sophie as “daddy’s princess”.
On the evening of their deaths Lee and Sophie had taken their British bulldog, Mabel, for a walk, and Sophie pushed her buggy with her teddy in it.
“It was a purple scruffy looking buggy and Sophie will always place either a doll or a toy in it,” Rebecca Martyn said in a statement read by her barrister Dominic Adamson KC.
“I now know that Sophie had taken a teddy in the pram – a beige teddy wearing a white and green checked scarf.”
Rebecca Martyn was out taking her son to a gym lesson and getting some shopping when she said a friend texted her at 7.14pm to say something was going on. Later that evening police told her that her husband and daughter had been fatally shot.
Stephen Washington, a carer for his wife, Sheila, was shot dead as he walked his dogs, Poppy and Drift. Sheila Washington said she heard some bangs but thought it might be fireworks or children messing about.
She said: “Then I heard a bang on the front door. I opened it and Poppy came running into the house with her lead still attached. She was shaking. Not long after that I started hearing sirens … Never could I imagine losing him in such horrendous circumstances.”
John Shepherd, the husband of Kate Shepherd said he went to look for his wife, an artist, when she failed to answer her phone and came across the scene of the shooting.
“A whole team of people from the emergency services were working on someone. It was Kate,” he said. “There were screens around her and I could only see her feet.”
He added: “Her empathy, compassion and care for others was outstanding. I have made thousands of decisions in my life, but the best by far was marrying Kate.”
The inquest continues.