A 19-year-old girl is the only survivor after a man shot dead his partner and two other women before turning the gun on himself in a horrific New Year’s Day bloodbath.
Michael Atherton, 40, a taxi driver and Susan McGoldrick were discovered dead by police at a house in Horden, near Peterlee, Co Durham, just after midnight.
The bodies of two other women were lying alongside them in the living room of the three-bedroom terrace.
Police made the horrific discovery after the 19-year-old, who was herself shot, managed to flee covered in blood and banged on the door of a neighbour’s home.
Armed police responded after the alarm was raised at about 11.45pm last night. Ages of the female victims have not been released, but the youngest is thought to be just 16.
According to people who knew the family, Mr Atherton, who was in his 40s, was a shooting enthusiast. A shotgun is believed to have been found next to his body. He was said to be a licensed fire arm holder.
The 16 year old lone survivor was treated for minor shotgun wounds after she was found by officers at another home in the same street.
According to reports, the teenager ran to a neighbouring property after being shot and it was the residents of that home who raised the alarm.
After receiving several hysterical calls from neighbours, armed police sped to the scene but found all four people in the house already dead.
The 19-year-old, who has not been identified, has since been released from hospital after having shotgun pellets removed from her wrist and shoulder and is now helping police with their inquiries.
Martin Wallwork, a spokesman for Durham police, said the survivor was believed to be connected to the other people involved.
‘The indications are this happened very very quickly. We had a call at 11.45 on Sunday night saying a number of people had been shot,’ he said.
One of the dead women was named locally as Susan McGoldrick.
Police did not release the names of the victims, but Durham Police assistant chief constable Michael Banks told a news conference that 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 requiring greater authorisation than a shotgun licence.
The revelation is likely to spark renewed debate over whether to further tighten Britain’s gun licensing laws.
Police could not confirm at this stage whether any of those lawfully held weapons had been used in the shooting, Mr Banks said.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
One neighbour, who lives on the road, told local paper the Northern Echo: ‘I was walking home from work at quarter past 12 last night and the first thing I saw was a guy running around covered in blood.
‘He was shouting: “Someone’s been shot in the head.”
‘I knew the family quite well. No-one can believe it’s happened.’
Another neighbour said: ‘We thought we heard fireworks last night, but when we woke up this morning we heard it was a shooting. It’s horrific.’
According to neighbours, Ms McGoldrick worked at an Aldi supermarket. A neighbour who did not want to be named said: ‘Sue was a lovely woman.
‘She had two children, Laura, who is about 19, and Micky who is about 16 or 17.
‘Micky was Michael’s son and Laura was to a different relationship.
‘They were just a lovely couple. I don’t know why it’s happened and for it to be on New Year’s Day – it’s a hell of a time, everyone was in.
‘Micky was a taxi driver and he liked shooting – it was his hobby so I knew he had firearms, it wasn’t a secret.’
Robert Bailey, 72, a long-standing resident of Greenside Avenue, spoke of his shock following the news.
He said he knew the people involved by sight only – and they had appeared ‘normal, ordinary people’.
‘There is shock. There is never any trouble here and we have been here for nearly 50 years,’ he said.
Labour party ward councillor Paul Stradling said it was the most shocking incident he had come across in 30 years as a politician.
He said: ‘I have had a few phone calls this morning asking if I was aware of it – it’s terrible news.
‘Greenside Avenue is normally a very quiet area of the village so it has shocked everybody.
‘It’s a typical North East village, quiet most of the time with a little bit of anti-social behaviour but crime levels are usually low.
‘I will be out and about today and am waiting for further reports from the local police inspector.’
The area around the house has been cordoned off while police carry out a forensic examination of the crime scene.
It is expected to be some time before police are able to formally identify those who have died.
An incident room is being set up at police headquarters in Durham staffed by officers from the force’s major crime team
-Mail and Press Association