IN a bizarre twist of fate the partner of one of the Horden massacre victims escaped the bloodbath because he had earlier opted to walk instead of take a taxi back to the house where the carnage unfolded.
Susan McGoldrick, 47, her sister Alison Turnbull, 44, and niece Tanya Turnbull, 24, were gunned down by Susan’s partner Michael Atherton, 42, before he turned the gun on himself on New Year’s Day.
It has emerged that Sue and her family and friends had been out at Horden Rugby Club and went home by taxi, but Alison’s partner decided to walk home as there was not enough room in the cab.
Minutes later he walked in on a scene of carnage.
The man, who has not been named, then desperately tried to revive Alison, becoming coated in her blood as he did.
When police arrived at the house in Greenside Avenue, Horden, he emerged from the house covered in blood and was arrested.
Det Supt Paul Goundry, the officer in charge of the investigation into the four deaths said “Alison’s partner returned at the worst possible time, just after midnight.
“The horror he witnessed is unimaginable. He walked into the house to find carnage, four dead bodies spread through the house. He was the first person on the scene.
“He tried to revive Alison, but there was nothing he could have done.
“When paramedics arrived they were greeted by the sight of Alison’s partner emerging from the front door covered in blood and obviously very agitated.
“When officers arrived they arrested him. It took some hours to begin to piece together what has happened.”
While Atherton’s victims had been out drinking that night, he was drinking in the Victory Club in Horden.
He returned home before Susan at around 10.30pm.
When Susan and the others arrived home, she argued with Atherton.
It was then that he left the house and took a shotgun from his car and shot the three women.
Alison’s partner arrived home soon after.
Also in the house were Atherton’s stepdaughter Laura McGoldrick, 19, who was injured when she was hit by pellets as Atherton aimed at another victim.
She managed to escape from an upstairs window with her boyfriend.
Susan and Atherton’s son, Michael Jnr, 17, escaped through the front door.
Mr Goundry praised Laura’s courage saying: “She is coping brilliantly and is helping her younger brother too. She is very protective of him and the pair are surrounded by loving relatives as they try to come to terms with what is an almost unfathomable tragedy.”
The village is still coming to terms with the tragedy and on Saturday a minute’s silence was held at a local rugby match between Horden and Gosforth.