Police probe of Plymouth gunman Jake Davison will look at another mass shooting in 2012

·4-min read
Lee Martyn and daughter Sophie (Facebook)
Lee Martyn and daughter Sophie (Facebook)

Investigators of the police decision to give Plymouth killer Jake Davison his shotgun back are looking at a similar mass shooting from nine years ago, it has emerged.

Jake Davison, 22, gunned down his own mother Maxine before going on a killing spree through the streets of Plymouth which left a further four people dead and two injured.

An Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is investigating the decision to hand back Davison’s shotgun and licence around a month before the fatal attacks.

It emerged on Thursday that investigators are exploring Home Office and police response to another mass shooting, by taxi driver Michael Atherton in County Durham in 2012.

Atherton had been allowed to own six guns despite a history of domestic violence, and went on to kill three women including his own mother.

At the opening of the inquest into Davison’s death, senior coroner for Torbay, Plymouth and South Devon Ian Arrow asked the investigating officer to raise the previous case with the IOPC.

“Would you kindly ask the IOPC to consider changes made by ACPO and the Home Office following the inquest touching the death of Michael Atherton in County Durham in 2012,” he asked.

Detective Inspector Steve Hambly, who is leading the Devon and Cornwall Police investigation into the shootings, said he had already passed on the message to the IOPC.

Atherton shot himself, his partner Susan McGoldrick, her sister Alison Turnbull and Ms Turnbull’s daughter Tanya on New Year’s Day 2012 after a minor argument.

Durham Police later admitted it knew about Mr Atherton’s history of violence, and the inquest heard of missed opportunities to remove the weapons he legally owned.

At Thursday’s hearing, Mr Arrow expressed sorrow for the deaths of the five innocent people who died at the hands of Davison last Thursday, as he formally opened their inquests.

Fatal shots after argument

Maxine Davison, 51, Sophie Martyn, 3, her father Lee Martyn, 43, Stephen Washington, 59, and Kate Shepherd, 66, were all shot dead in a shocking outbreak of violence which ended with Davison taking his own life.

Mr Arrow said he was “very sorry to hear” of the deaths of the five victims.

Davison, an apprentice crane operator, gunned down his mother Maxine at her home in the Keyham area of Plymouth before leaving the property to continue his shooting spree.

DI Hambly told the hearing that Mrs Davison suffered “fatal gunshot wounds following an argument with her son”, and died after suffering injuries to her head and torso.

Members of the public attended a vigil for the community in Plymouth following the shooting (Ben Birchall/PA) (PA Wire)
Members of the public attended a vigil for the community in Plymouth following the shooting (Ben Birchall/PA) (PA Wire)

Speaking of the death of Mr Martyn, the officer said: “While out walking with his daughter Sophie and their dog, he was fatally shot by an assailant not known to him.

“Police are not looking for any other persons in connection with his death.”

He said Mr Martyn, a carpenter, was shot in the head and torso, while three-year-old Sophie suffered a head injury, both dying at the scene.

“I’d like to express my sadness at hearing of Sophie’s death”, said the coroner, and expressed similar sentiments for all the victims.

Mr Washington, a full-time carer for his wife, was shot in the chest while also out walking his dogs, and Ms Shepherd, an artist suffered an injury to her abdomen. She was rushed to hospital after receiving emergency medical assistance at the scene, but her life could not be saved.

The coroner adjourned the cases until a review on December 9, to allow for a full investigation into the deaths.

A seperate inquest opening was held for the gunman this afternoon, as DI Hambly told the court Davison was single and an apprentice crane operator.

“Following an argument with his mother, Jake Davison fatally wounded his mother”, he said.

“He went along several different roads, fatally wounding four victims and injuring two more before taking his own life.

“The cause of death is a shotgun wound to the head.”

Police are under scrutiny after it emerged Davison was handed back his shotgun and firearms licence despite evidence of mental health difficulties and a recent allegation of violence.

He had made a stream of online videos and posts, supporting the so-called ‘incel’ movement and raging at women over his inability to lose his virginity.

Police forces around the country have now been instructed to review gun licences, and to pay closer attention to social media activity when granting permission to possess a gun.

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