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Inquest into taxi driver gun deaths

An inquest is to open into the deaths of a taxi driver and the three members of his family who he blasted with his shotgun on New Year's Day.

Michael Atherton, 42, killed his partner Susan McGoldrick, 47, her sister Alison Turnbull, 44, and Mrs Turnbull's daughter Tanya, 24, in a matter of moments following a row at the couple's semi-detached home in Horden, Peterlee, County Durham, on Sunday.

His devastated 17-year-old son, also Michael, has expressed his grief at losing "the best mother in the world" and said he could not understand why "such a good man" would kill.

Mrs McGoldrick's 19-year-old daughter Laura, who escaped the carnage by climbing through a window, made a joint statement with Michael which added: "At the end of the day, we have lost four loved family members and we hope they are all at peace now."

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has launched an investigation into Durham Police's firearms licensing after it emerged Mr Atherton had his weapons taken off him, then returned, three years ago.

Police were alerted in September 2008 that he had threatened to harm himself, but he applied to get his firearms back and they were returned in November that year.

IPCC commissioner Nicholas Long said: "We have launched an independent investigation and are committed to fully examining the issues around the granting of Mr Atherton's firearms licence and subsequent renewals."

Durham Police said it had voluntarily referred the case to the IPCC.

Assistant Chief Constable Michael Banks said: "In the interests of the public and especially the relatives and friends of the deceased, it was felt there were certain issues relating to the granting of Mr Atherton's firearms licences which would benefit from independent scrutiny."

A brief hearing to open the inquests will take place at Chester-le-Street Magistrates' Court on Thursday.


From Belfast Telegraph