‘I can’t laugh anymore but I cry every day’ – gun massacre survivor still haunted by family’s shooting

Laura McGoldrick who survived being shot by mother's partner Michael Atherton, after he killed his partner Susan McGoldrick as well as her sister Alison Turnbull and her niece Tanya before turning the gun on himself

Laura McGoldrick who survived being shot by mother's partner Michael Atherton, after he killed his partner Susan McGoldrick as well as her sister Alison Turnbull and her niece Tanya before turning the gun on himself

1
Have your say

A SURVIVOR of the Horden gun massacre has revealed she is plagued by suicidal thoughts after seeing her step-dad gun down three members of her family.

Laura McGoldrick was injured as Michael Atherton went on a shooting rampage at their home in Horden, killing her mother, Susan McGoldrick, 47, her aunt, Alison Turnbull, 44, and cousin, Tanya Turnbull, 24, on New Year’s Day last year.

The 21-year-old, who was peppered with shotgun pellets in the horror, said the inquest in March brought everything “flooding back” and has been plagued by suicidal thoughts and been forced to seek treatment in a psychiatric unit. Laura said: “She was laughing when she got shot in the back, that’s all I keep seeing – my mam laughing. Over and over again, I see my mum laughing, then her head and body arched back as the barrel of the gun moved.” Laura, who was 19 at the time, ran for her life after Atherton opened fire, jumping to safety from a bedroom window as Atherton went on the rampage at the family home before killing himself.

Somehow Laura kept herself together after the tragedy that tore her life apart but the re-enactment at the inquest was the moment that finally broke her.

Laura, who says the inquest led to a complete mental breakdown, added: “I can’t laugh anymore but I cry every day.

“I’ve stopped going out, I’ve put on three stone, I won’t answer my phone and I even sold my car because every time I look in the wing mirror I see my mum covered in blood, or him.”

Coroner Andrew Tweddle called for “root and branch” changes to gun licensing at the conclusion of the inquest held earlier this year into the events in Greenside Avenue, Horden.

Atherton, 42, killed his partner, Susan McGoldrick, 47, her sister, Alison Turnbull, 44, and Ms Turnbull’s daughter, Tanya, 24, before turning the gun on himself.

Mr Tweddle reached a verdict that the women were unlawfully killed and that Atherton killed himself.

The inquest heard that Atherton, despite a history of domestic abuse and threats to self-harm, legally owned six weapons including three shotguns.

Laura has also revealed that Atherton regularly battered her mum and said she watched helplessly as her mum was beaten during his drunken rages.

Laura, who now lives in Hesleden, said: “She always had black eyes and bruises all over her body. But it was the mental abuse which was worse. He used to get his unloaded gun, come up from behind as my mam sat on the sofa and shout ‘bang, bang, you’re dead’.”

Speaking about the moment Atherton started shooting, Laura said: “I could see his eyes popping out and focused.

“He was hunting us and I knew I was next. It felt like everything was really still for a very long time but it was just seconds. I feel so guilty. I wish I had run towards him and tried to push him over.”

Laura has since had a portrait of her mum tattooed on her right arm and the poem she read at her mum’s funeral inscribed on her back. Her mother’s ashes are blended in the tattooist’s ink.

Laura added: “I still text her and try to phone her. I tell her I’m sorry. I feel I let her down by running away.”