THE family of a woman and her two daughters who were shot dead by their father have spoken out following the inquest.
Kelly Fitzgibbons, 40, Ava Needham, four, and Lexi Needham, two, were killed by Robert Needham at their family home in Woodmancote on March 29, 2020.
The 42-year-old “brutally murdered” his family after a quiet evening on the first Saturday of lockdown after ordering a takeaway and phoning his half-sister hours earlier.
Mystery still surrounds the events immediately leading up to the attack after an inquest in Horsham found the reason for the killings “remains totally unclear”.
In a conclusion yesterday, Deputy Medical Examiner Bridget Dolan QC said Needham was the perpetrator of the “heinous” act of violence, although she was prevented from finding criminal responsibility.
Ms Dolan returned conclusions on unlawful killings for Ms Fitzgibbons, Ava and Lexi and one on suicide for Needham.
Ms Fitzgibbons’ twin sister, Emma Ambler, spoke after the conclusion.
Ms Ambler said: “No family should ever have to go through what we have been going through for the past 27 months and while it will never bring Kelly, Ava and Lexi back, we are delighted to finally have the inquest and criminal investigation behind us .
“Kelly was not a victim of domestic violence up until the night of her murders and while there was no indication of what Rob was capable of, the investigation indicates that this was a premeditated evil act.”
Needham had purchased the gun used in the shootings from a registered dealer nine days before the attack, having obtained a license in 2016.
He first applied to the Hampshire Police Firearms Unit as he was living there at the time, but was granted by Sussex Police when he moved before the process was complete.
He had not disclosed key details about his medical history – including bouts of depression and work-related stress – and a police warning he received as a youth.
During the trial, a firearms investigator visited Needham for a face-to-face interview at his home and said police would review his database and speak with Needham’s family doctor to assess his suitability for gun possession.
At this point, Needham admitted he had failed to mention a police warning for his involvement in a bicycle theft.
When asked why he hadn’t disclosed it, he said he didn’t think it was relevant, adding that his partner Ms Fitzgibbons filled out the form because “he didn’t write well”.
Ms Ambler said: “We strongly believe they would still be here now if Rob had not legally accessed a weapon that enabled him to kill them in such a quick and cowardly manner.
“Holding a gun license is not a right. It’s a privilege.
“We are pleased that the investigation has highlighted the issues surrounding gun licensing that are so dear to us, particularly the way the system deals with a lack of integrity on the part of the applicant.
“Any dishonesty on the application form or failure to report mental illness or prior warnings or convictions, as in Rob’s case, should not expect a person to process the application or receive a firearms license.
“Because police self-identified during the course of the investigation, five years isn’t nearly frequent enough for license holder checks. These should take place annually and be fully borne by the applicant.
“As became very clear on Friday, the monitoring and information-sharing between medical professionals and the police is a mess, with both parties interpreting the guidance differently.
“Without adequate resources and effective systems, already overburdened GPs cannot be held accountable for reporting changes in the situation of gun license holders.
“Unfortunately, until the Home Office, police and GPs have a unified understanding of their roles and responsibilities, significant changes in concern will not be reported, as was the case with Rob.”
The family established the Kelly Fitzgibbons Foundation after her death with the aim of providing information, advice and guidance as well as practical and emotional support to families who have lost loved ones in traumatic circumstances.
Ms Ambler concluded: “We will continue to fight for change that will save innocent lives through the work of the Kelly Fitzgibbons Foundation.
“We would like to thank the police investigative team, Coroner Bridget Dolan QC and our attorney Daniel Sawyer for their work and support.
“We don’t want Kelly, Ava and Lexi to be remembered as murder victims.
“We want their memory as the beautiful and much loved souls they should live by.
“We miss them every day, they left a hole in our hearts that will never be filled.”
https://www.theargus.co.uk/news/20287700.woodmancote-murders-family-murdered-woman-young-daughters-speak/?ref=rss Woodmancote Murders: Family of murdered woman and young daughters speak out