Inquest begins into New Year’s Day gun massacre victims

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AN inquest will begin today into the shootings that shocked an East Durham village just over a year ago.

Taxi driver Michael Atherton, 42, shot dead his partner Susan McGoldrick, 47, her sister Alison Turnbull, 44, and her daughter, 24-year-old Tanya Turnbull.

He then turned the gun on himself at their Horden home on New Year’s Day 2012.

An inquest into the deaths was opened and adjourned at Chester-le-Street Magistrates’ Court just four days after the shootings, so that the bodies could be released and funeral services held.

It will resume today at Crook Coroner’s Court and is expected to last two weeks.

Susan’s McGoldrick’s daughter, Laura McGoldrick, and her boyfriend escaped by scrambling out of an upstairs window at the house in Greenside Avenue. Atherton’s 17-year-old son – called Michael – also fled the scene.

At the inquest opening last year, Durham Coroner Andrew Tweddle was told all the victims died of gunshot wounds.

Ms McGoldrick was shot dead in the kitchen, where the bodies of Alison and Tanya Turnbull were also found.

Michael Atherton, who was a gun club member, had turned the weapon on himself in the doorway between the kitchen and living room.

Atherton, who legally owned three shotguns and three section-one firearms, had been due to go out shooting rabbits the day after the killings.

Investigating officers have consulted a forensic psychologist, who worked on the 2010 shootings in Cumbria by taxi driver Derrick Bird, about the case.

Since the shootings, Alison Turnbull’s son Bobby has campaigned to tighten legislation on gun ownership.

The golf club worker, from Blackhall, has already won the backing of shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper after meeting her in the House of Commons last month.

Mr Turnbull, 24, is raising an e-petition calling for a series of changes to gun laws, including stricter checks of medical records for licensees. He said: “Knowing I’m getting towards the end of all the meetings might help me with closure and to start moving on. Although I know the pain will never end, hopefully we will get closer to receiving answers.”

Twitter: @sunderlandecho