CUMBRIA'S senior coroner David Roberts has announced that he will retire in May next year.

A coroner for the last 33 years, Mr Roberts has presided over investigations into some of the most notorious and tragic deaths in Cumbria – including those resulting from the killing rampage of west Cumbrian man Derrick Bird in 2010.

Mr Roberts began his career when appointed by Adrian Walker as an assistant deputy coroner for west Cumbria in 1985. He went on to become deputy coroner to John Taylor in 1995.

He was appointed coroner for north and west Cumbria when Mr Taylor retired in 2009 – the first coroner to take on an area that had previously been the responsibility of two coroners.

By 2018 Mr Roberts will have worked in the legal profession for 40 years, having qualified as a solicitor in 1980. He was senior partner in HFT Gough & Co in Whitehaven until 2011, when he left private practice to focus on coronial work.

He became HM senior coroner, covering the entire county in January 2015, following the retirement of Ian Smith, when the area became one coronial jurisdiction.

During his time in the job, he has been responsible for investigating upwards of 2,300 deaths each year covering an area of some 2,600 square miles from St Bees to Stainmore and Barrow to the Scottish border.

Mr Roberts, 62, said: “It has been a privilege to serve bereaved families and the people of Cumbria at the most difficult of times.

"A coroner’s role is to establish how people have come by their deaths, and I hope I have been able to give families answers and closure following the loss of a loved one.

"There have been a number of notable tragedies in the county in recent years and I could not have done my job without the help and support of so many people, including the police, county council, pathology services and my dedicated staff at the Cockermouth office.

"I wish whoever succeeds me in the role well and hope that they too have the same satisfaction I have had serving the people of Cumbria and the wider community."

Councillor Stewart Young, leader of Cumbria County Council, said:

"David has been exceptional in his role as the county’s coroner. Cumbria has very much been the benefactor of his exceptional judgment and professionalism and during his time he has successfully overseen some very difficult and challenging cases.

"I feel that much of this is due to his personal integrity, as well as his calm and measured manner. I can only wish David the very best in his retirement and thank him officially for all he has done."

The Derrick Bird inquests - conducted the year after Bird's killing spree - saw the jury return unlawful killing verdicts on the gunman's 12 victims, and a ruling that Bird killed himself.