27 September 2021

Inquest to probe how father held firearms licence before he and family of four shot dead

27 September 2021

How a father came to hold a firearms licence before he and his family were shot dead during lockdown 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.

The killings shocked the quiet West Sussex village, a close-knit community located a few miles east of Chichester.

Ms Fitzgibbons was described by her sister as “wonderful and special”, who said her loss “left a hole in our hearts”.

Forensic officers at the scene in Duffield Lane, Woodmancote, West Sussex, where a family of four and their dog were found dead (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Archive)

Speaking at a hearing on Monday, 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.

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.

Police believe the killings are an isolated incident, and no-one else is being sought in connection with them (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Archive)

In April last year, police announced that following post-mortem examinations, the provisional causes of deaths for the family were “injuries consistent with gunshot wounds”.

Sussex Police said at the time that they believed the killings were an isolated incident and nobody else was being sought in connection with the deaths.

In a tribute, Ms Fitzgibbons’ sister Emma 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.

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