POLICE had warned a taxi driver who shot three members of his family before turning the gun on himself that any “irresponsible, irrational or uncontrollable behaviour” would lead to him losing his firearms licence, an inquest heard.
Officers were concerned about Michael Atherton, 42, owning guns because he had a history of domestic violence against his partner Susan McGoldrick, and he had threatened to blow his own head off during a drunken dispute.
But Durham Police did not permanently take his guns off him or revoke his shotgun licence and he went on to kill 47-year-old Mrs McGoldrick, her sister Alison Turnbull, 44, and Alison’s daughter Tanya Turnbull, 24, in Horden, County Durham, on New Year’s Day 2012.
Officers did take away his legally-held guns after he threatened to shoot himself in September 2008, the inquest at Crook Civic Centre heard.
Retired Chief Superintendent Ian MacDonald, in charge of firearms licensing, told the hearing Atherton had got involved in a family row and threatened to “blow his head off”.
Mr MacDonald told the hearing he wrote to Atherton in the light of the threat to self-harm, warning him about his future conduct.
Earlier, Mr MacDonald’s predecessor, Chief Superintendent Carole Thompson-Young, said Atherton was not refused a firearms licence, as legal advice stated a history of domestic violence alone was not a good enough reason.
* The inquest continues.