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3 January 2012, 05:10
Police have named the victims of a New Year's Day gun rampage in Peterlee in which a man shot himself after killing three women.
Durham Police said Michael Atherton, 42, shot and killed his 47-year-old partner Susan McGoldrick, her sister Alison Turnbull, 44 and her niece Tanya Turnbull, 24, before turning the gun on himself.
The bodies were found in "close proximity'' downstairs in the semi-detached house in Greenside Avenue, Horden, Peterlee, after police were alerted to shots being fired shortly before 11.45pm on Sunday the 1st of January.
A shotgun was found lying next to the man's body.
Durham Police assistant chief constable Michael Banks told a news conference a resident at the address was the "lawful holder'' of shotgun and firearms licences.
He said these were for three shotguns and three ``section one'' firearms, a category of firearms requiring greater authorisation than a shotgun licence.
Police can't confirm at this stage whether any of those lawfully held weapons had been used in the shooting.
"This is a tragic event. We have four people who died late last night and our thoughts and feelings are with their family and friends at this moment.'
"I would like to reassure our communities that the police are in control of this incident.
"At this moment, we are looking for no-one else in relation to this inquiry.''
Police also say there had been other people in the house who were now being interviewed.
Banks said there had been an initial arrest of a male at the house who has since been released with no further action.
He said this person was being treated as a significant witness.
Police say they believe the Atherton "may be a member of a gun club. We're still researching that.''
The matter has been voluntary referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) by Durham Police, as they had previous contact with the family in 2008.
Detective Superintendent Paul Goundry said:
"We have had contact with the family. We are busy reviewing the exact circumstances around that. There was a report of a male at that address self-harming. That was some years ago. We are researching all of this.
There were words. There was nothing came from that.''
Police believe the family members had been out at a pub or for a meal before returning to the house where the incident took place.
As the shooting began, a teenage woman, understood to be Mrs McGoldrick's 19-year-old daughter Laura, fled through an upstairs window and raised the alarm. She ran into the street and pounded on a neighbour's front door asking for help.
A spokeswoman for Durham Police said:
"We can confirm that police currently believe Mr Atherton shot the three women before turning the weapon on himself.
The exact weapon used has still not been established and will also form part of continuing inquiries. Post mortem examinations are being carried out this evening and we hope to release more details of them tomorrow.
The families of those involved have asked not to be contacted by the media. Some of victims' relatives are also being treated as significant witnesses."
Neighbours have spoken of their shock at the incident.
One woman, who didn't want to be identified, said:
"I always called them Mike and Sue. I am devastated, totally devastated. Two nice people, I did not think anything like this could happen.
We are all just shocked, just stunned. There are no other words to describe it. I cannot believe that four people died there.
He (Atherton) was very nice, kind and considerate. We both shared the same drive with our cars and, if he saw you, he would open the gate.
He was nice, so was she. I have just been taking my cards down and I had a Christmas card from them.''
Robert Bailey, 72, a long-standing resident of Greenside Avenue, said he knew the people involved only by sight, and they had appeared ``normal, ordinary people'