Shotgun killer had been referred to the Prevent programme, inquest hears
Mass shooter Jake Davison had been reported to the Government’s counter-terrorism Prevent programme by his own mother months before he applied for a shotgun licence, an inquest has heard.
The 22-year-old spree killer’s mother, Maxine, 51, had contacted the multi-agency scheme, which aims to stop people becoming terrorists, in November 2016 with concerns about her son.
Details of the referral were not disclosed during a pre-inquest hearing at Plymouth Coroner’s Court but will be a key area of examination in the inquest which will begin in January next year.
Davison killed his mother after a row and then shot dead four others in a 12-minute attack.
Three-year-old Sophie Martyn; her father, Lee, 43; Stephen Washington, 59; and Kate Shepherd, 66, all died on the evening of August 12 last year in the Keyham area of the city.
The apprentice crane operator then turned the pump-action shotgun on himself before armed officers reached him.
The killings happened just weeks after the shotgun and licence had been returned to him by Devon and Cornwall Police. They had been seized last year after Davison assaulted two teenagers in a park.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is investigating how the force approved his application and then later gave him back the licence and shotgun.
Davison applied for a shotgun certificate in July 2017 and after the application was processed by the force a certificate was issued to him in January 2018 that was valid for five years.
As part of the investigation, two members of staff in the firearms licensing department involved in the granting of the shotgun certificate have been served with gross misconduct notices, while an officer has been served with a misconduct notice.
Ian Arrow, senior coroner for Plymouth and South Devon, said the inquest was likely to be held under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which widens the scope of the hearing.
Referring to the Prevent scheme, Mr Arrow said: “To deal with the matters of November 2016 being the disclosure re the Prevent scheme made by Mrs Davison.”
He added that those running the scheme could be invited to be “interested persons” meaning they could be legally represented and have the right to ask questions of witnesses.
Mr Arrow said the inquest would also consider how Davison’s application for a shotgun was processed by the police, how the allegations of assault against him were dealt with and his referral to the pathfinder scheme.
The inquest would consider the seizure of his shotgun and licence and return a few weeks before the shootings.
Davison’s contact with mental health services in May 2021 would be examined and a later occupational health assessment.
The inquest would also consider the events of August 12, Mr Arrow said.
Social media usage by Davison suggested an obsession with “incel” culture, meaning “involuntary celibate”, as well as an interest in guns and the US.
Reports have suggested Davison’s mother had been struggling to get help for her son, having become concerned about his mental health.
Jason Beer QC, representing Devon and Cornwall Police, said the force was still actively investigating the events of last summer.
This included examining Davison’s use of chatrooms on the social media site Reddit.
“A review of Jake Davison’s computer tower and mobile telephone showed he was an active member of Reddit forums,” Mr Beer said.
“Some of these were incel related. Some of the forums were pro-incel and some were anti-incel.”
Mr Beer said police had secured some posts and they had asked Reddit for further data.
“It did so against a backdrop of Reddit almost immediately deleting Mr Davison’s account once the shootings and his links to Reddit were known about publicly,” he said.
“Reddit declined to assist in any dialogue for the provision of that material and said if you want the material you have to do it under the treaty of mutual legal assistance.”
The inquest heard a peer review was also undertaken into Devon and Cornwall’s firearms licensing procedures by Durham Police, which has made a series of “indicative views”.
“Due to the force’s wish to identify promptly if there were any public safety issues that it needed to be aware of in its firearms licensing processes, policies and practices, a peer review was commissioned immediately,” Mr Beer said.
He said one of the recommendations was for a “more robust system” that automatically flags concerns to the firearms licensing unit without the need for human intervention by cross-checking databases.
Another was to review firearms licence holders who had “contention” and had weapons returned to them.
Mr Beer said the police had also commissioned psychological reports into spree killers, incel-motivated killers and “similarities or differences to Jake Davison and the prevalence or not of steroid abuse in the commission of violent crimes”.
In the wake of the shootings, the Home Office announced that the police will now have to check someone’s medical history before issuing a gun licence.
All firearms applications must be accompanied by a medical document signed by a registered, practising doctor.
A further pre-inquest review will take place on December 19.