Massacre survivor relives horror

Laura McGoldrick
Laura McGoldrick
Share this article

A GIRL who fled through a window as her shotgun-wielding stepfather blasted three of her close relatives to death has spoken at length about her horror.

Laura McGoldrick, 19, was injured as Michael Atherton went on a shooting rampage at their home in Horden, killing her mother, Susan McGoldrick, 47, her aunt, Alison Turnbull, 44, and cousin, Tanya Turnbull, 24, on New Year’s Day.

Laura, who was peppered with shotgun pellets in the horror, said her mum was killed first before he fired at Alison and then Tanya.

She said Alison died immediately, but Atherton’s first shot failed to kill Tanya and he reloaded the weapon before shooting her again as she lay on the floor.

He then turned the gun on himself. In an interview with a national newspaper, Laura relived the moment she tried to shout a warning to her mother but was unable to get the words out as the taxi driver killer struck.

The teenager, who was hit by the spray of shot aimed at her mother, said: “He walked into the house with the gun raised, aiming it at my mum’s back.

“He had this focused, determined look as if he was about to shoot a rabbit or a pheasant. He definitely targeted my mum, he wanted her first.

“I wanted to get words out but my mouth wouldn’t let me. It was like a nasty dream.”

Atherton, 42, turned the gun on himself following the attack at the semi-detached home in Horden, Peterlee. It was one of several firearms he held legally.

During the attack, musical theatre student Laura managed to escape with her boyfriend Myren Grant, 19, through her bedroom window. Her stepbrother Michael, the 17-year-old son of Atherton and Mrs McGoldrick, also escaped.

The teenager added: “I am surprised he didn’t run upstairs after me. I’m very lucky that I escaped. He would definitely have killed me if he had the chance.”

She described Atherton as a “Jekyll and Hyde” character with “seven personalities” and revealed he had been violent towards her mother on numerous occasions in the past.

Laura said: “One time she had a huge black eye, a real corker, after he’d punched her. He didn’t want her to do anything or go anywhere and if she did, he would beat her.

“It was real hard core stuff. We had a glass clock in the living room and he smashed it over her one day.

“Another time he got her leg and pulled it behind her so hard she tore all the muscles in it and couldn’t walk for days.

“He told her all the time he was going to shoot her, then pass it off as a joke.”

Laura, who also spoke of the horror in a TV interview with ITV’s Daybreak this morning, also called for a change in gun laws to stop similar incidents occurring.

“There is no need to have guns in your house. And people’s backgrounds should be checked better,” she said.

The shootings are the subject of BBC documentary Inside Out, which in screened at 7.30pm on BBC One this evening.

Durham Police said officers were called to the home of Atherton four times between 2002 and 2004 over domestic violence incidents. The force said he had “a volatile relationship” with his partner.