No “automatic barrier” to ban Horden killer from keeping guns

Michael Atherton

Michael Atherton

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A HISTORY of domestic violence did not automatically mean police could revoke the shotgun licence from a taxi driver who went on to shoot three members of his family dead then kill himself, an inquest heard today.

Michael Atherton, 42, blasted his partner Susan McGoldrick, 47, her sister Alison Turnbull, 44, and Alison’s daughter Tanya Turnbull, 24, in the back before taking his own life on New Year’s Day last year at his home in Greenside Avenue, Horden.

Retired chief superintendent Carole Thompson-Young, whose role included heading Durham Police’s firearms licensing unit, said he was known to have a history of violence towards Mrs McGoldrick.

But legal advice said he would win an appeal if his shotgun licence was taken off him solely on those grounds as he had never used weapons in any attack on her.

Ms Thompson-Young told the inquest in Crook, County Durham, about a similar case involving a different force where the gun owner won an appeal against having his licence revoked.

“The judge deemed that the person was entitled to have a gun because there had been no guns used in relation to the domestic violence,” she said.

“The force appealed against the outcome but the original appeal stood.”

She took that legal advice to mean that Atherton’s history of domestic violence was not an “automatic barrier” to him having a shotgun licence, she told the hearing.

Ms Thompson-Young, who retired in 2010, said she received no formal training when she took on responsibility for the firearms licensing unit.

The inquest continues and keep logging on here for further updates.