UK & World News
Gun Reform Call After Taxi Driver Shot Three Dead
A coroner has called for gun reform after hearing how a taxi driver with a history of domestic abuse shot three members of his family dead before killing himself.
Andrew Tweddle said it was "fortuitous" there had not been more incidents like the one in Horden, near Peterlee, County Durham, on New Year's Day 2012.
Michael Atherton, 42, killed his partner, Susan McGoldrick, 47, her sister, Alison Turnbull, 44, and Ms Turnbull's daughter, Tanya, 24.
He then turned the gun on himself.
Mr Tweddle, sitting at an inquest in Crook, reached a verdict that the women were unlawfully killed and that Atherton killed himself.
The inquest heard that Atherton, despite a history of domestic abuse and threats to self-harm, legally owned six weapons, including three shotguns.
The inquest also heard that there was no formal training for police officers involved in granting firearms licences.
A note attached to Atherton's first application for a firearms licence in 2006 said: "Four domestics, last one 24/4/04, was cautioned for assault. Still resides with partner and son and daughter.
"Would like to refuse, have we sufficient to refuse re public safety?"
Atherton was nevertheless granted a shotgun licence and then a firearms licence two years later.
His weapons were confiscated after he threatened to "blow his head off" in September 2008.
But weeks later the guns were returned to him, with a final written warning telling him to behave responsibly.
Mr Tweddle said Durham Police had conducted a thorough review of its firearms licensing practices since the tragedy.
He said it highlighted that many other licences had been issued to "improper" people.
"The review undertaken by Durham Police has revealed an enormous number of unsatisfactory decisions having been made and it is fortuitous that, significant as this incident has been, there has not been more," he said.
Mr Tweddle will write to the Home Office calling for "root and branch" changes and possibly legislation to how police licence shotguns.
Durham Police chief constable Michael Barton offered an apology to the bereaved families.
Outside the hearing, Bobby Turnbull, Alison's son and Tanya's brother, said: "We consider the inquest has exposed some serious flaws in the way applications for shotguns and firearms were managed by Durham Constabulary Firearms Licensing Unit.
"This includes lack of training if any at all, lack of process, lack of accountability, poor leadership and poor communication structure.
"The family have had a very emotional and upsetting week but we will continue with our commitment to improvements to public safety, to ensure no other family have to endure what we have gone through and will go through for the rest of our lives."
Mr Turnbull, who works at Hartlepool Golf Course, is urging people to sign his e-petition on tightening gun licensing laws.
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what do you think?
Twenty four seems a bit young to die. I don't think people should have three shotguns unless they are farmers.
why on earth are checks not more thorough ,why give the guns back he was obviously unstable i hope the authorities are pleased with themselves .