Ex-soldier admits massacre of his family

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The Independent Online

A Gulf War veteran today admitted brutally executing four members of his own family after "flipping".

Loner David Bradley shot his uncle, aunt and two cousins at close range with a silenced 7.65mm handgun.

Peter and Josie Purcell, both 70, and their sons Keith, 44, and Glen, 41, were all shot in the head at close range at their home in Newcastle upon Tyne last July.

Bradley admitted four counts of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility after two psychiatrists agreed the ex-soldier was mentally ill at the time of the killings.

He pleaded guilty on the morning that his murder trial was due to begin at Newcastle Crown Court.

Detectives said the massacre happened because Bradley "flipped", began smashing up the house and then fought with his cousin Keith.

It resulted in Bradley killing his family over a five-hour period on the night of July 8 and 9 at their home in the West End of Newcastle.

The former Royal Artillery private, who served in the first Gulf War, Bosnia and Northern Ireland, shot father-of-six Peter and Keith immediately, before lying in wait for his aunt Josie and cousin Glen.

After the killings, Bradley stayed in the house.

Then at 5.55am - fully-laden with an arsenal of weapons, including a home-made nail bomb, sawn-off shotgun, silenced pistol and ammunition - he walked to his local police station on Westgate Road to calmly surrender to police.

Bradley was immediately arrested on suspicion of murder.

Armed police went to 45 Benwell Grove and at 7.37am they went inside and discovered the bodies of the Purcells.

Peter and Josie were found in the living room while Keith and Glen's bodies were in the kitchen. Peter, Josie and Keith had each been shot once in the head, while Glen had been shot four times in the head.

Later that morning Army bomb disposal experts carried out a controlled explosion at the front office of the police station to destroy the Thunderflash device, used by the Army in training, that Bradley left at the counter wrapped in nails.

Part of Benwell Grove was also evacuated while searches were made of the house to make sure Bradley had not left any booby-traps.

Bradley lived with his aunt and uncle since he was 16 after moving in following a row with his mother.

Mr and Mrs Purcell had lived at the end-terrace house for 25 years and been married for 52 years.

Mr Purcell, a retired roofer, and his wife, a former care worker, were well-known in the local West End community.

They had six children. Keith, a former roofer who had worked with his father in the family business before an accident, Glen, who lived and worked in Wales as a glazer, Peter, 49, and Jacqueline, 46.

Another son Michael died as a toddler and second daughter Lorraine died from cancer nearly three years ago at the age of 41.

Bradley was a heavy user of cannabis which may have contributed to his deteriorating mental health, the court heard.

Toby Hedworth QC, prosecuting, said the shaven-headed ex-soldier's pleas to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility were acceptable to the Crown.

He said two medical experts for the Crown and defence agreed that Bradley had suffered mental illness.

"Both of these eminent doctors are of the view that the defendant has suffered life-long behavioural and emotional difficulties which worsened following his 1995 discharge from the Army.

"His mental state deteriorated more acutely in 1997.

"They both agree at the time of the killings that the defendant was suffering from a mental disorder which constitutes an abnormality of the mind."

Mr Hedworth said the defence's expert believed Bradley was suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after serving with the Army in Northern Ireland.

But both experts agreed that he did not suffer from Gulf War Syndrome, contrary to reports which appeared in the aftermath of his killing spree.

Bradley saw no active service during his deployment to the Gulf, the court heard today.

The prosecution's psychiatric expert was not convinced that Bradley had suffered PTSD, although he did not rule it out, the court heard.

The psychiatrist believed Bradley may have suffered a psychotic disorder, schizophrenia or PTSD.

Mr Hedworth said: "He may have been suffering from all three and his heavy use of cannabis may have compounded them."