‘Lessons can be learned’ from New Year’s Day shootings, says Government

Michael Atherton
Michael Atherton
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LESSONS can be learned from a gun massacre where a father shot dead his partner and two members of her family before killing himself, the Government has been told.

The case of Horden taxi driver Michael Atherton, who shot his partner Susan McGoldrick, her sister Alison Turnbull and her daughter Tanya on New Year’s Day 2012, has been highlighted by Tory MP Jonathan Evans.

Mr Evans believes investigations into so-called family annihilation should be subject to psychological autopsies where relatives and friends of the deceased are spoken to, alongside a deeper analysis of coroners’ reports, police files and medical records.

He said lessons from such deaths – a total of 71 in England and Wales between 1980 and last year – appeared to have been denied, as coroners have no duty to look at the state of mind and background of the killer and they may avoid saying anything negative because the hearings can be distressing.

Mr Evans told a Westminster Hall debate: “The Atherton case and that of the serial killer Derrick Bird led to a proposal in 2010 for the individual health records of all NHS patients who held shotgun or firearm certificates to be file-tagged with a further proposal where a GP considered that such a patient might present a risk to themselves or the public the police should be alerted.

“This seemingly reasonable and prudent proposal to improve public safety was later vetoed by the Information Commissioner on the grounds of patient confidentiality.”

The Government said it has carried out a domestic homicide review process and agrees it must have a joined-up approach in addressing domestic violence.