‘I can still recall every little detail’ – Horden shooting bereaved

Alison Turnbull,  who was one of four people who were shot dead when her stepbrother Michael Atherton went on a rampage with a legally-owned gun. Alison's son Bobby, 23, has now launched a petition to change gun licensing procedures. Pictured with Bobby.
Alison Turnbull, who was one of four people who were shot dead when her stepbrother Michael Atherton went on a rampage with a legally-owned gun. Alison's son Bobby, 23, has now launched a petition to change gun licensing procedures. Pictured with Bobby.
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A YEAR ago today Bobby Turnbull’s life changed forever.

Within a matter of minutes he lost his mother, sister and aunt at the hands of his aunt’s partner Michael Atherton.

Atherton, 42, who had a history of domestic violence and allegedly threatened to shoot himself in 2008, blasted the three with his legally-owned shotgun after a row at his Horden home – before turning the gun on himself on New Year’s Day last year.

Twelve months on, the pain is just as unbearable for 24-year-old Bobby.

But he has used that time to try and make sure similar tragedies do not happen in the future.

And he is confident that the laws around medical records and gun licence applicants will change sooner than he ever envisaged.

Bobby is spending the traumatic anniversary away from his East Durham home, as are many of his family who are finding it hard to be near the scene of the massacre at this time of year.

He will be in London, remembering his mother Alison Turnbull, 44, sister Tanya Turnbull, 24, and aunt Susan McGoldrick, 47, in his own way.

“A lot of us are going away,” he said.

“I don’t think anyone wants to be around there at this time.

“I’m the type of person who takes each day as it comes.

“But if I was at home I don’t know whether I would have got out of bed today or gone somewhere on my own.

“I won’t forget – my mum, my sister and my auntie Susan – were three lasses who would go out, get drunk, dance like kids and have a laugh and probably go to the pizza shop at the end of the night.

“I’m trying to celebrate new year the way they would and the way I normally would.”

Bobby, of Blackhall, said what happened “feels like five minutes ago to me”.

“I can’t believe it’s been a year, I can remember every little detail,” he added.

But he said he had a lot to be positive about this year.

He feels his campaign, calling for extensive checks on gun licence holders and applicants who have a criminal past, including domestic violence and mental illness, and better co-operation between police and health professionals, is gaining real momentum.

His petition has already reached 12,200 names, with 100,000 needed for a Parliamentary debate on the issue.

The Hartlepool Golf Club worker has also had a meeting with the Independent Police Complaints Commissioner and Durham Police, about findings of the IPCC’s report into the shootings, which suggested warnings had been placed on Atherton’s file about issuing his gun licence.

Bobby said a number of top politicians who are interested in taking up his fight had also been in touch.

Ron Hogg, County Durham’s new Police and Crime Commissioner, is also giving his support.

“Personally I don’t think we need to get all these signatures to get changes made,” added Bobby.

He also plans to meet Shadow Home Office Minister Diana Johnson and Shadow Minister for Women Yvette Cooper, along with Policing Minister Damien Green.

“I think this year, things will move on a lot with the petition,” he said.

Easington MP Grahame Morris, who is supporting Bobby’s campaign, said: “What we are asking for isn’t anything revolutionary – they are sensible changes that will protect public safety.

“We have lessons we can learn to prevent a terrible tragedy like the one that befell this family last year.”

Bobby’s petition can be found at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/41060.

Twitter: @sunderladnecho