Call for police to face action

Bobby Turnbull
Bobby Turnbull

THE son of a Horden gun massacre victim has demanded police be brought to book after a leaked report revealed failings in handing out a firearms licence to his mum and sister’s killer.

Bobby Turnbull said police should now face disciplinary action after findings suggested warnings had been placed on Michael Atherton’s file about issuing his gun licence.

But the licence was granted because it was thought he would win an appeal against a decision.

He then went on to gun down partner Susan McGoldrick, 47, and her sister and Bobby’s mum, Alison Turnbull, 44, and Alison’s daughter Tanya Turnbull, 24, in Horden.

The report is recommending no disciplinary action or misconduct procedures for Durham Constabulary.

But Bobby, from West Street, Blackhall - who faces his 24th birthday next week without his mum and sister - said: “The bits of the report I have read just show mistake after mistake and missed opportunity after missed opportunity by the police. It plays on my mind that it’s all the police’s fault - it could have easily been avoided.

“I would like to see some discipline, whether it’s for one officer of the whole department.

“I know it won’t change anything, but it would make me feel a small amount better knowing someone’s been held to account.”

Atherton had been allowed to keep his guns despite domestic violence complaints and threatening to shoot himself in 2008.

But an astonishing report into the Greenside Avenue shootings is understood to have branded Durham Police’s failure to remove Atherton’s guns as “inexcusable” and “unacceptable”.

BBC’s Inside Out North East and Cumbria claimed to have seen the Independent Police Complaints Commission report, and detailed claims that police considered revoking Atherton’s licence to hold six shotguns.

The programme said the report details how a note was stuck to Atherton’s file when he applied for his licence which said: “4 domestics – last one 24/4/04 . . . .would like to refuse – have we sufficient info – refuse re public safety”. But the show claimed this recommendation was overruled because it was thought Atherton would win an appeal.

The programme claimed the IPCC has not recommended criminal or disciplinary action, but found there was no “meaningful review” of Atherton’s licences by police after the 2008 incident and no record of why the decision was made.

Durham Constabulary’s Deputy Chief Constable Michael Banks confirmed that the IPCC is recommending no criminal or misconduct cases to answer for officers. He said it would be inappropriate to comment further until after the inquest into the deaths. The IPCC could not comment.

Bobby has written to Policing and Criminal Justice minister Damien Green, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett asking for a meeting to discuss his campaign on greater gun controls. His petition is at