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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Pictured: Partner of gunman shot dead by 'suicidal' taxi driver who killed THREE in New Year's Day shooting

-Susan McGoldrick, 47, was shot dead by her boyfriend Michael Atherton
-Tanya Turnbull, 24, was McGoldrick's niece and the youngest victim
-Atherton also killed Miss McGoldrick's sister Alison Turnbull, 44
-Police called in 2008 after claims Atherton was threatening to self-harm
-Laura McGoldrick, 19, escaped through upstairs window after being shot
-Two other survivors discovered in the house where shotgun was found near Atherton's body
-David Cameron says gun licence laws 'will not be revisited'

By Chris Brooke and James Tozer

Shot at close range: Susan McGoldrick, circled bottom right, the partner of gunman Michael Atherton, was killed in the massacre; the identities of her friends in this image is not known

These are the first pictures of the victims of the a 'suicidal' taxi driver who shot dead three women on New Year's Day

Susan McGoldrick, 44, was the partner of gunman Michael Atherton, 42, while her niece Tanya Turnbull, was the youngest of three women killed.

Both are believed to have been shot at close range on Sunday night, alongside Alison Turnbull, 44, who was Miss McGoldrick's sister and Tanya Turnbull's mother.

After shooting the three women, Atherton turned the gun on himself.

Atherton, 42, was licensed to own a small arsenal of six guns despite being investigated three years earlier when officers were tipped off about his mood swings.

There have today been calls from the pro-gun lobby to avoid a 'knee-jerk reaction' to the tragedy and, despite the concerns of Grahame Morris, the Labour MP for Horden, David Cameron's official spokesman has said there are currently 'no plans' to revisit the licencing laws.

However, that is likely to anger Mrs McGoldrick's family. Her brother Bobby Hardman has described the family as 'numb from head to toe'.

'We've lost three family members in one swoop and that's all I can say really,' he said.

Atherton, who is believed to have been recently suffering from depression, also wounded stepdaughter Laura McGoldrick, 19, in the late-night rampage inside the family home.

She witnessed the bloodbath and survived only by escaping through a first-floor window and jumping to safety. The bloodsoaked teenager then raised the alarm.

Questions about the ‘senseless’ murders have now turned to why Atherton was still a lawful holder of the guns.

An independent investigation will examine the 2008 decision by Durham Police to clear Atherton and will spark further debate about Britain’s gun laws, which were tightened after the Dunblane massacre in 1996.

Escape: Laura McGoldrick, pictured at her 18th birthday party, was shot during the incident but managed to escape by climbing through a window

Desperate: Drenched in blood and hysterical, Laura, pictured, pounded on the door of a neighbour's house

Forensic specialists were seen arriving at the house today in a white van and uniformed officers kept guard at the top of the road as the investigation continued.

Senior investigating officer Detective Superintendent Paul Goundry said there had been other people in the house at the time of the shooting who were now being interviewed.

Atherton and his long-term partner Miss McGoldrick had gone out separately to local pubs on the evening of New Year’s Day.

The couple were not known to have argued over the holiday period and Atherton was said not to have been drunk.

However, Atherton was said to have been depressed following a heart operation last summer,

Family friend Steve Patterson said Atherton's brother, Chris, had told him before the shootings that his brother had been suffering from depression.

Mr Patterson: 'He said he was fed up with the way his life was going. I think he started feeling down after an operation he had on his heart.'

Tributes: A police officer with flowers left by a member of the public places them at the scene in Peterlee today

Investigation: Police guard the home where three women were killed by Michael Atherton who then killed himself with a shotgun. Pictured is the rear of the property

Cordon: Police forensic investigators enter the house in Greenside Avenue, Peterlee, Co Durham, where the massacre took place

Police were called to the semi-detached house in Greenside Avenue, Peterlee, Durham, at 11.45pm, moments after the shootings.

Witnesses told of chaotic scenes after gun shots were heard.

A neighbour recalled seeing a man coming out of the house covered in blood and ‘screaming’ at police arriving at the scene.

He said: ‘He was saying “he has shot my lass. She is dead, she is dead. He has shot her in the head.”’

The group of seven family and friends had gathered at the house after returning from the pub when Atherton took a shotgun and started firing.

Investigation: A forensic team member carries an evidence bag with a white investigation tent in the background

Bloodbath: Police on the scene at Greenside Avenue in Peterlee where neighbours told of chaotic events after shots were heard

Horrific: Uniform officers confer with forensic investigators outside the semi where the bodies were found on Sunday

He is believed to have blasted Miss McGoldrick, her sister and her niece to death from close range.

Three other people in the house survived the slaughter which ended with Atherton shooting himself.

Firearms officers arrived within 20 minutes to find all four bodies close to each other downstairs in the three-bedroom house.

Laura McGoldrick – the teenage daughter of Susan from her earlier marriage – was hit by shotgun pellets in the wrist and shoulder.

She clambered on to a sloping roof and jumped 8ft to safety before running to a neighbour’s house.

Laura, a performing arts student, was released following hospital treatment and gave police a detailed account of the horror that unfolded.

Investigation: Police have cordoned off the house, not pictured, while they carry out a forensic examination of the scene

Detective Superintendent Paul Goundry said he believed all the shootings took place within ‘seconds’ of each other. A long-barrelled shotgun was found beside Atherton’s body and police are not looking for anyone else in connection with the murders.

Atherton and supermarket worker Miss McGoldrick were not married but had been together for around 19 years. Their 17-year-old son Michael, junior, is believed to have been one of the ‘survivors’ from the house.

A taxi driver friend said the couple had split up some years ago but got back together.

Atherton had firearms licences for three shotguns and three ‘high-powered’ guns, believed to be high velocity rifles.

He regularly went out shooting rabbits and game on a farmer’s land and police said he was believed to be a member of a gun club.

Police are still investigating which gun or guns were used in the slaughter. All six of them were registered to the house but it is not known if they were routinely stored in a cabinet, as is required by law.

Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman said today the Government had no plans to revisit UK gun laws which were 'amongst the toughest in the world'.

'We are trying to balance the need to protect public safety with the need to make sure those controls are practical and work,' he said.

'On this specific case we need to wait for the investigation to conclude.'

Ministers were looking at guidance and the way gun laws were implemented following a critical report by the Home Affairs Select Committee, he

That chimed with the concerns of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), which warned against 'any knee-jerk reaction' to the tragedy.

Tragic: Flowers have been left at the scene while tributes have been posted online for Atherton, likely to be regarded as deeply offensive by the victims' family
But Grahame Morris, the Labour MP whose Easington constituency includes Horden, said Parliament must reconsider gun laws following the tragedy.

Speaking outside the police cordon, he said questions remained about whether Atherton should have had his shotgun licence revoked after an incident in 2008 when 'concerns were raised about his mental health'.

Another issue was whether he was 'a fit person to have firearms in a domestic situation'.

Mr Morris said: 'There are issues for Parliament and Government to look at. We need to take a measured approach.

'I don’t want to put any unfair criticism on the police.

'I think in the circumstances they have done a really good job in allaying public concerns.

'However, there are issues about whether we need to have some professional input and assessment where concerns are expressed about a person’s mental health, and whether someone suffering from depression should have, as a matter of course, their shotgun or firearms licence revoked.

'There are no easy answers. I know many hundreds of thousands of people enjoy quite legitimately countryside pursuits although I am not a shooter myself.'

Mr Morris, who grew up in the nearby village of Murton, added: 'This is a very tight-knit former mining community.

'Everyone knows everyone else and it has been a real shock.

'Gun crime is not the norm in this area. People are appalled and shocked.'

Assistant Chief Constable Michael Banks said officers were carrying out detailed inquiries into Atherton’s background and gun ownership. He said the force would be voluntarily referring itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission over the incident.

He said police were contacted about an incident in which Atherton ‘verbally’ threatened to ‘self-harm’.

‘We have had contact with the family. We are busy reviewing the exact circumstances around that.

'There was a report of a male at that address self-harming. That was some years ago. We are researching all of this,’ said Mr Banks.

‘There were words. There was nothing came from that.’

It is not known where in the house the guns were kept or the exact nature of the three ‘high-powered’ weapons.

Both Atherton and his partner came from large families and relatives were stunned by the tragedy.

Miss McGoldrick’s brother Bobby Hardman said of his sister: ‘She was just a wonderful person, what else can I say. It’s just devastating, the whole family is numb from head to toe. We’ve lost three family members in one swoop and that’s all I can say really – it’s devastating.’

Another brother Norman said: ‘I’ve no idea what led to this. It’s just a senseless waste of life.’

Michael Lloyd, the boss of the taxi firm for which Atherton worked, said he was ‘totally shocked’ as he had ‘not been in trouble before.’ He added: ‘He was just a really nice guy.’

A barman at the Victory Club said Atherton had been drinking earlier that night but was not drunk.

Miss McGoldrick had gone with her relatives to a different pub.

Another taxi driver friend said Atherton regularly gave him rabbits that he had shot. He said: ‘He was a quiet man. I’m surprised he would do a thing like that.’

One woman, who did not want to be identified, said: 'I always called them Mike and Sue. I am devastated, totally devastated. Two nice people, I did not think anything like this could happen.

'We are all just shocked, just stunned. There are no other words to describe it. I cannot believe that four people died there.'

Alison Turnbull had been married to husband Robert for 25 years. They had two children Tanya and Robert Jnr, 23.

Gun laws that should have prevented massacre

By Chris Greenwood Crime Reporter

The overwhelming question raised by the Peterlee massacre is how a man with known mental problems could be allowed to keep firearms.

Supposedly tough rules are designed to stop potentially unstable people getting their hands on weapons through legitimate channels.

And if suspicions are raised about a gun owner’s mental state after a licence has been granted, the police have ample powers to revoke the licence.

Those who apply for weapons must declare whether they have been treated for depression or mental illness when they apply for a licence. Police are also expected to make follow-up checks during the five years that a firearms licence is valid.

So they must now explain how Michael Atherton was able to amass an arsenal of six guns despite warnings he had depression.

His weapons included three traditional shotguns and three ‘Section One’ firearms, which could include rifles for shooting vermin, multi-shot shotguns or high-powered air rifles. Gun licensing was tightened in the wake of the Dunblane and Hungerford massacres which left more than 30 dead. Virtually all automatic and semi-automatic firearms, military weapons and modern handguns are illegal without special permission from the Home Secretary.

Those who want to possess a legal weapon must declare any criminal convictions and explain why they need it.

Medical records are usually checked only if police have concerns about an applicant’s state of mind.

Around 435,000 legitimately held guns are in circulation today, the highest since records began, and substantially more than before the 1996 Dunblane tragedy. Only a tiny number of licences are refused each year, around 1 per cent of all shotgun and firearms certificates.

In the wake of the Cumbria shootings in June 2010, when taxi driver Derrick Bird shot dead 12 people before killing himself, David Cameron said he did not want to see a ‘knee jerk’ reaction.

He added: ‘You can’t legislate to stop a switch flicking in someone’s head and for this dreadful sort of action to take place.'

source: dailymail


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