The Independent Police Complaints Commission has been asked to investigate a shooting in which a taxi driver who held various gun licences and had previously been referred to police shot and killed three women family members in their home late on Sunday.
Michael Atherton, 42, is understood to have begun shooting at his family late on New Year's Day at their house in County Durham. The alarm was raised by Laura McGoldrick, 19, who clambered out of a bedroom window during the incident, which left four dead. Police said Atherton shot and killed his partner Susan McGoldrick, 47, her sister Alison Turnbull, 44, and her niece Tanya Turnbull, 24, before turning the gun on himself.
Atherton's body and those of the three women were found in "close proximity" downstairs in the semi-detached home in Horden, Peterlee.
Questions were being asked as to why a man with a previous history of threatening to self-harm, was allowed to keep shotguns.
Police said Atherton had a licence to keep three shotguns and three other section one weapons, which require greater authorisation than a shotgun.
Assistant Chief Constable Michael Banks said: "I can confirm that a resident at the address was a lawful holder of shotguns and firearms licences and we cannot confirm at this stage whether any of those weapons that were lawfully held have been used." (Guardian UK)
POLICE carrying out the investigation into Horden gunman Michael Atherton have confirmed there was a history of domestic violence in a “volatile relationship” with Susan McGoldrick.
Various family friends and neighbours had suggested that police were aware of some domestic issues prior to the New Year’s Day killing spree carried out by the 42-year-old taxi driver.
As the investigation into what led to the tragedy continues, police have moved to confirm that between 2002 and 2004, officers were called to four domestic-related incidents at the house in Greenside Avenue, none of which resulted in either party being charged with any offence.
Two of the incidents resulted in an arrest, the first one in July 2002 when Mr Atherton was arrested to prevent a breach of the peace following an argument between him and Ms McGoldrick.
In April 2004, he also received a police caution for common assault on Ms McGoldrick after he returned home in an “intoxicated state”.
Since then the only time police have been called to the home was the incident in September 2008 when Mr Atherton was alleged to have threatened to shoot himself. He denied this and after initially being arrested to prevent a breach of the peace he was released.
Assistant Chief Constable Michael Banks, from Durham Police, said:
“As many people know, Mr Atherton and Ms McGoldrick had what might be described as a volatile relationship.
“However, I am satisfied that these incidents were dealt with appropriately at the time and apart from the incident referred to in 2008, police have not been called to the family home for more than seven years.
“There may well have been other incidents in those intervening years, however if they were, the police were not informed.
“Their relatives are of course well aware of the history between them and know that we have disclosed these details today.
“I would therefore ask that the the family be allowed to privately grieve their considerable loss without having to suffer further as a result of often uninformed, inaccurate and unattributed comments.”