VANDALS targeted a taxi owned by killer gunman Michael Atherton on the day of his victims’ funerals.
Peterlee Police are investigating after paint stripper was poured over the 42-year-old’s Skoda Octavia and offensive words scratched into it.
The vandal attack is said to have taken place some time between 8.30am and 12.30pm on Wednesday, with the funeral of Atherton’s partner Susan McGoldrick, 47, her sister Alison Turnbull, 44, and Mrs Turnbull’s 24-year-old daughter Tanya taking place at 12.15pm that day.
Officers will not confirm what was etched onto the car, belonging to Atherton, who worked for Phillips Taxis, but say it was not directed at any of the surviving relatives.
As reported yesterday on the Hartlepool Mail’s website, police are appealing for witnesses to the incident and say this is the last thing the family need as it has only led to more distress for them.
Inspector Dave Coxon, of Peterlee Neighbourhood Policing Team, said hundreds of pounds worth of damage had been caused to the car.
He added: “The local community has been very supportive of all the victims’ relatives so this additional distress is a matter of great concern.
“The only people being hurt by this are the surviving family members.
“I can only imagine the effect it would have on the family at what is a really difficult time for them to think someone would take this course of action against what it essentially their property now.
“It doesn’t hurt those that have gone, it hurts those that are left behind.
“All the residents in that area are particularly disappointed by what has happened.”
He urged anyone with information to contact the police immediately.
The taxi had been parked in the back yard of Atherton’s Greenside Avenue home, in Horden, on the day Ms McGoldrick, Mrs Turnbull and her daughter were laid to rest.
Their joint funeral was held at St Andrew’s Church, in Hesleden Road, Blackhall.
The private affair had been followed by Ms McGoldrick’s cremation at Stranton Crematorium, in Hartlepool, and the interment of Mrs Turnbull and her daughter at Blackhall Cemetery.
The funeral of Atherton, who blasted himself with his legally-owned shotgun after killing the women after a family row on New Year’s Day, took place yesterday at St Mary’s Church, in Blackhills Road, Horden.
Anyone with information about the alleged criminal damage is asked to call Durham Police on the new contact number 101 and ask for PC Chris Woollett, of Peterlee Neighbourhood Policing Team, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.