Firearms laws will go ‘under the microscope’ during inquest into family deaths
How a father came to hold a firearms licence before he shot dead his partner and daughters before turning the weapon on himself is to be examined at an inquest.
The bodies of parents Robert Needham, 42, and Kelly Fitzgibbons, 40, were found along with those of children Ava Needham, four, and Lexi Needham, two, at a house in Woodmancote on March 29, 2020, shortly after the start of the first pandemic lockdown.
Speaking at a hearing on Monday (September 27), senior coroner Penelope Schofield said that firearms laws would be put under the microscope in relation to the deaths.
She said the inquest would consider “Mr Needham’s mental and physical health and any matters that may have had a bearing on his state of mind”.
It will also examine “circumstances that led to Mr Needham holding a firearms licence and having access to a shotgun,” she said.
It is understood that Mr Needham was able to obtain a licence despite Sussex Police knowing he had failed to disclose mental health issues and a conviction.
Parallels were drawn between the Woodmancote killings and those in the shooting in Plymouth last month, where firearms legislation has also been under the spotlight.
The Home Office is expected to be involved in the inquest in relation to its involvement in setting national firearms policy.
Ms Fitzgibbons’ twin sister Emma Ambler called for tougher national checks on licence holders. “It’s time for people to stop coming out and defending the law rather than acknowledging there are gaps,” she said.
“Kelly was a wonderful and special person. She was kind, caring, funny and always smiling with an amazing love for life. Kelly was a dedicated and loving mother and adored Rob and her two beautiful children. She had many friends and was devoted to her friends and family. Kelly will be missed by so many people and has left a hole in our hearts that will never be filled.”
The inquest is expected to take place in May next year, with a final decision on a jury yet to be made.