IPCC condemn police failings over man who shot dead three women after being allowed to keep guns - despite complaints of domestic violence

 

A man who shot dead three women had been allowed to keep his guns by police despite complaints of domestic violence and then threatening to shoot himself, according to a report seen by the BBC.

Taxi driver Michael Atherton, 42, killed his 47-year-old partner Susan McGoldrick, her sister Alison Turnbull, 44, and her niece Tanya Turnbull, 24, before taking his own life on New Year's Day.

The four bodies were found in a semi-detached house in Horden, near Peterlee, County Durham.

The BBC's Inside Out North East & Cumbria has seen a report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) on the handling of Atherton's firearms certificate.

The IPCC is not due to officially release the report until the conclusion of inquests into the four deaths.

But according to Inside Out, the report brands Durham Police's failure to remove Atherton's guns "inexcusable" and "unacceptable".

It said the report details how a note was stuck to Atherton's file when he applied for his licence which said: "4 domestics - last one 24/4/04 . . . . . would like to refuse - have we sufficient info - refuse re public safety".

But this recommendation was overruled because it was thought Atherton would win an appeal.

He was given a licence to keep six guns and warned it would be revoked if he behaved "irresponsibly".

Officers removed his guns after a drunken incident in 2008 during which he threatened to "shoot his own head off".

But they were returned six weeks later.

The programme said the IPCC has not recommended criminal or disciplinary action but found there was no "meaningful review" of Atherton's licences by police after the 2008 incident and no record of why the decision was made.

Laura McGoldrick, who escaped from the house, told Inside Out: "I know I'm not Einstein or anything (but) if a man tried to commit suicide, or pretended to, why would you give a man a gun back like that with a family in the house?"

Durham's Deputy Chief Constable Michael Banks told the programme he was aware the families of those who died had been updated by the IPCC.

He confirmed the commission had recommended that there were no criminal or misconduct cases to answer for any member of Durham Constabulary.

Mr Banks said: "At the conclusion of the inquest, Durham Constabulary will respond in full to all of the issues raised in the IPCC's report. Since the tragic events in January, we have carried out a full review of policy and procedures.

"It would be wholly inappropriate to comment further on the outcome of an investigation in advance of the official publication of the findings, and the coroner's inquest.

"We will not be making any further comment at this time."

The IPCC said it could not comment.

:: Inside Out North East & Cumbria is on BBC One tonight at 7.30pm.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
Sport
David Silva, Andy Carroll, Arsene Wenger and Radamel Falcao
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'