West Sussex family deaths - Coroner could suggest changes to gun laws

A coroner will examine how a father came to be in possession of a shotgun after he was found dead alongside his partner and children in West Sussex.

The bodies of builder Robert Needham, 42, legal secretary Kelly Fitzgibbons, 40, and their two children — four-year-old Ava Needham and two-year-old Lexi Needham — were found at a property in Duffield Lane, Woodmancote, in March 2020. Read the family tribute hereThe post-mortems took place in April and the provisional causes of deaths were recorded as injuries consistent with gunshot wounds.

At a pre-inquest hearing on Monday (September 27), senior coroner Penelope Schofield said the current gun licensing procedure would be looked at, as well as ‘any proposal for change’. Forensic, toxicological and pathological evidence, 'relating to the means and cause of each death', will also be heard.

The Home Office and British Medical Association will be involved in the inquest in May next year, which will also delve into Mr Needham’s mental and physical health.

Kelly Fitzgibbons, 40, and her two children — four-year-old Ava Needham and two-year-old Lexi Needham

The coroner will also look into ‘any matters that may have had a bearing on his state of mind’. 'Potentially relevant' earlier events in March 2020 will be thoroughly investigated.

The coroner acknowledged that it may be difficult for an expert to provide a report as he would not have seen Mr Needham and it does not appear that he ever had any psychiatric input or psychiatric assessment undertaken. The coroner would, however, enquire as to what extent an expert could assist.

Representatives from Southbourne Surgery attended as 'two separate doctors' had involvement with Mr Needham's licensing.

Sussex and Hampshire Police will carry out a further review of any documents held.

The inquest will delve into Robert Needham’s mental and physical health

Any other person who feels that they should be identified as an interested person under Section 47 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 as such should make a written application to the coroner.

The inquest, which is likely to last at least a week, has been scheduled for May 2022. A further pre-inquest review hearing will take place on December 6, this year.