‘How could my dad have done this?’

Michael Atherton
Michael Atherton

THE son of shotgun killer Michael Atherton has spoken for the first time and asked: “Why did my dad do it?”

Michael Atherton Jnr, 17, expressed his grief at losing “the best mother in the world” and says he cannot understand why “such a good man” could kill three people and then turn the gun on himself.

Atherton, 42, slaughtered the teenager’s mum Susan McGoldrick, 47, aunt Alison Turnbull, 44, and cousin Tanya Turnbull, 24, in a bloodbath that has shocked the nation.

Heartfelt tributes have been released from the McGoldrick and Turnbull families saying how they have been left shocked and shattered at losing their loved-ones when they had their lives ahead of them.

They come as Atherton’s parents Peter and Christine Atherton have expressed their sympathies to the families of their son’s three victims and apologised for his actions.

Police were called to Atherton’s home on Sunday after receiving frantic 999 calls saying he had opened fire on his family after a row broke out when they returned from separate nights out.

The community around Greenside Avenue in Horden has been left stunned after gun-enthusiast Atherton opened fire with a one of the three shotguns he was registered to hold.

The three women were found in two downstairs rooms in the semi-detatched house, while Atherton was found dead in the hallway with a shotgun by his side.

Susan’s daughter Laura McGoldrick scrambled for her life and dived through an upstairs window after suffering minor pellet injuries to her wrist and shoulder.

She was treated at the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton, but was released soon after.

Devastated Michael Jnr has spoken for the first time since the massacre when he released a statement through police on behalf of himself and his sister Laura.

They said: “We are truly devastated.

“Me and my sister have lost the best mother in the world. We don’t understand why my dad would do anything like this as he was such a good man.

“At the end of the day we have lost four loved family members and we hope they are all at peace now.”

Atherton’s parents have apologised for his actions after his New Year’s Day shooting spree and admitted: “We don’t know why he did what he did”.

In a statement issued through Durham Police, Peter and Christine Atherton, said: “We and our whole family want to express our sympathies to the families of Susan, Alison and Tanya.

“Although we loved Michael we are sorry for his actions and don’t understand why he did what he did.

“We dearly loved Susan as a daughter for over 20 years and are devastated by the loss.”

Inquests into the four deaths will open at Chester-le-Street Magistrates’ Court at 10am today.