Murdered family's relatives say gun laws must change

The grave of Michael Atherton's victims, Alison, Tanya and Susan The grave of Michael Atherton's victims, Alison, Tanya and Susan

Few people have to suffer the heartbreak of burying more than one relative at a time.

So, it is hard to imagine what it must be like to have three of your own family taken at once.

Susan McGoldrick, her sister Alison Turnbull, and Alison's daughter Tanya were all shot dead on New Year's day, 2012.

Susan's partner Michael Atherton was described by locals as a quiet, friendly taxi-driver. The family knew different. He would come home drunk and launch violent attacks on Susan.

Report into Horden Shootings

Independent Police Complaints Commission
  • Actions by firearms licensing unit found to be 'poor', 'unacceptable' and 'inexcusable'
  • Decisions based on partial facts
  • Missed opportunities
  • Little or no formal training

Durham Police knew this, as they had been called out to the house on more than one occasion. Despite that he was granted a licence to hold guns. Six in all.

A yet-to-be published report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission reveals that the police missed many opportunities to rescind the licence.

The examination into the way the firearms licensing unit was run is damning.

Despite finding individual officer actions 'unacceptable', the report does not name names and it seems no one will be held directly accountable.

Durham Constabulary says the report is right not to identify the individuals concerned publicly, and that procedures and policies have since changed.

The family's concerns over the way guns are administered has given them a focus.

This summer Inside Out filmed them when they addressed a meeting of the National Victims' Association.

It is an organisation no-one would ever wish to join.

By definition its members are united in tragedy. What it provides is support and the knowledge that others have a real understanding of what you're going through.

Murder victim Susan McGoldrick Susan McGoldrick was gunned down by her partner on New Year's Day

Susan McGoldrick's partner Michael Atherton shot her, her sister and niece before turning the gun on himself.

The family's account of the day of shootings is harrowing. However, with the killer dead revenge is obviously not on their agenda.

What they want is a change in the gun laws. They have launched an e-petition.

Among their demands is an outright ban on anyone with a criminal record, a history of mental illness, domestic violence, alcohol or substance abuse owning a gun.

If you have an opinion then please feel free to add your comments to this blog.

Inside Out is on BBC One North East and Cumbria at 19:30 GMT, Monday, 19 November, 2012

Chris Jackson Article written by Chris Jackson Chris Jackson Presenter, Inside Out, North East & Cumbria

Inside Out returns for a new series in 2015

Inside Out returns for a new series in 2015 but Chris Jackson's blog is coming to an end and he can now be found on social media.

Read full article


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Another case of someone who should have been refused his license. The current firearms legislation is more then adequate, in fact t following the pistol ban the number of illegal firearms used by criminals has increased significantly. The problem lies with it's administration, there are huge differences between police forces who are supposed to be all following the same rules.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    "Despite finding individual officer actions 'unacceptable', the report does not name names and it seems no one will be held directly accountable."
    First two officers are prosecuted for selling guns which the firearms department knew about, and now this awful tragedy, yet still no-one is named or disciplined apparently. Something smells.The system is strong - but the Durham administration of it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Yesterday the BBC reported on the case of Toby Day, a former police officer who killed himself, his wife, and his daughter - (
    Last month the BBC reported on Michael Pedersen, who killed himself and his two children - (
    Neither men used guns.
    People kill people, not guns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    'Guns don't kill people, people kill people' Only problem there is that often it's people armed with guns.

    Why does ANYONE need a gun? I've handled one once or twice in my life and decided each time that the power inherent in them, that being the power over life and death, is too much for my hands. Firearms should be banned entirely in public life, except for security services.



Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.