Horden massacre family were shot in the back, inquest hears

Horden gunman Michael Atherton
Horden gunman Michael Atherton

THREE women killed in a New Years Day bloodbath were all shot in the back, an inquest into their deaths has heard.

Horden massacre victims Susan McGoldrick, 47, her sister Alison Turnbull, 44, and Alison’s daughter, Tanya Turnbull, 24, all died quickly from devastating gunshot wounds to their backs, according to post-mortem examination results.

Susan’s partner, taxi driver Michael Atherton, 42, is said to have fired a shotgun at close range behind all three women before putting the weapon to the left side of his head and pulling the trigger on New Year’s Day last year.

Dr Nigel Cooper, a forensic pathologist, revealed his findings from the four post-mortem examinations he carried out at Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) during the first day of the full inquest.

He told the hearing in Crook that all three women suffered sever internal injuries and will have died quickly due to the damage caused to their internal organs.

The amount of alcohol in Atherton’s body was also revealed to be the equivalent of being one-and-a-half times the drink drive limit.

All three women had also been drinking but not excessively.

Hartlepool Golf Club greenkeeper Bobby Turnbull, 24, son of Alison and brother of Tanya, has been at the inquest and is raising an e-petition calling for a series of changes to gun laws, including stricter checks of medical records for licensees.

He met Criminal Justice Minister Damian Green last week and he has promised to look into the possibility of establishing a hot-line for people to call with concerns about domestic abuse involving gun licence holders.

The killings came after Atherton was allowed a gun licence despite having a history of domestic abuse and police removing his guns in 2008 before they were returned.

Bobby, who is campaigning for better vetting of gun licence applicants with a history of domestic abuse, recently travelled to the Houses of Commons for a meeting with Policing and Criminal Justice Minister Mr Green.

The 24-year-old, from East Street, Blackhall, joined members of the Gun Control Network, which was set up in the wake of the 1996 Dunblane tragedy, during the hour-long meeting at Whitehall.

It followed an appointment he had with Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper earlier this month.

Bobby hopes for another meeting with Mr Green after the inquest’s conclusion and the publication of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) report.

He has also had a meeting with the IPCC commissioner and Durham Police about findings of the IPCC’s report into the shootings, which suggested warnings had been placed on Atherton’s file about issuing his gun licence.

Bobby’s petition can be found at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/41060

The inquest is expected to last a fortnight.

Keep logging on for further updates throughout the inquest.