TRIPLE killer gunman Michael Atherton was not being treated for any psychological illness, police have told the Echo.
Detectives leading the inquiry into the New Year’s Day killings in Horden revealed there was no evidence the 42-year-old taxi driver was depressed or mentally ill.
Tributes from the family of his three victims have also been paid as the shocked community struggles to come to terms with the seemingly senseless massacre.
The family of Atherton’s partner, Susan McGoldrick, 47, her sister, Alison Turnbull, 44, and niece, Tanya Turnbull, 24, have spoken out after the tragedy in Greenside Avenue.
They said: “Susan loved her job in a local supermarket where she was held in high regard. She was very easy going and was always laughing and joking.
“Alison was a fantastic mother, sister and partner who was always there for her family and friends when we needed her.
“She was a fantastic mam to her son Bobby and daughter Tanya, always so caring and loving.
“We are destroyed by the loss of Alison and struggling to come to terms with her death.
“Tanya was the most amazing daughter, partner and sister you could ever wish for.
“She was a popular, funny and a gorgeous girl with her whole life ahead of her, and we idolised her.
“Tanya and her boyfriend Michael were in the process of preparing for their life together and had plans to buy their first home.
“It was an exciting time for Tanya and she was always smiling and happy.
“This horrific loss is still sinking in and, as we are sure you can appreciate, we are devastated to lose Tanya in such tragic circumstances.”
Detective Superintendent Paul Goundry, who is in charge of more than 25 officers working on the case, revealed the teenage son of Atherton and Susan was in the house at the time his father opened fire.
The 17-year-old, also called Michael, fled through the front door, while his sister Laura, 19, and her boyfriend, who has not been named, jumped from an upstairs window.
Another woman in the house also escaped injury.
Atherton had been out drinking in the village separately from his victims. When they all returned, an argument broke out shortly before midnight.
Det Supt Goundry said the women believed he had left the house to stay elsewhere when he returned with the weapon.
The shooting spree was over in a matter of seconds.
Speaking yesterday, Michael junior, 17, said: “We are truly devastated.
“Me and my sister have lost the best mother in the world.
“We don’t understand why my dad would do anything like this as he was such a good man.
“At the end of the day we have lost four loved family members and we hope they are all at peace now.”
Det Supt Goundry has met with the family and today praised them for their bravery.
He said: “I’ve met Laura and Michael and had the opportunity to speak to them in detail. They are an incredibly brave pair of young people.
“No-one can understand exactly what they have been through but they have the love of their family around them in order to get them through this terrible time.”
He added: “I would like to thank, from the bottom of my heart, the community of Horden and surrounding villages, who have given us valuable assistance.
“I would particularly like to thank the residents of Greenside Avenue for their patience whilst this investigation and forensic examination has been carried out and I am fully aware of the inconvenience that has been caused and the residents of that street have allowed that without complaint.”