Family of Sussex mum and daughters shot dead by dad say tougher gun laws could have stopped him

  • ITV News reporter Chloe Oliver speaks to the family of Kelly Fitzgibbons who was shot dead with her two daughters by her husband.

The family of a woman who was shot dead by her partner alongside her two daughters in Sussex, say she would still be alive today if gun licensing laws were stricter.

Robert Needham, 42, shot and killed Kelly Fitzgibbons, 40, and their daughters Ava and Lexi Needham, four and two, at their home in Woodmancote, in March 2020.

He then turned the gun on himself.

He'd been granted a gun licence despite being diagnosed with depression.

Now Kelly's family are calling for an overhaul licensing laws. Campaign groups say the system is broken and are calling for more more stringent checks on gun owners.

Robert Needham claimed he purchased the licence so he could shoot rabbits - but Kelly's stepmother Pam Fitzgibbons said that can't be true: "A gun that will fire six shots, why do you need that to shoot rabbits?

"You don't.

"No checks were done, and as far as we know he never shot any rabbits. We believe he got that gun for that reason only. So if he hadn't of got a firearms licence, it's likely our family would still be alive today."

  • Pam Fitzgibbons

"He was even allowed to upgrade from a shotgun to a firearms licence, and he purchased the gun he used to kill the family only nine days before he killed them," Pam added.

The Gun Control Network which is a group of families, lawyers and academics- are calling on the government for a more rigorous system.

Amongst things they're calling for - annual review of licences instead of the current 5 years, which Kelly's family supports.

Pam continued: "The other thing is that checks on licence holders are only done every five years - but anything could happen in five years.

"It is much too long to wait for a check or review. We think it is important that it is reduced to annual checks."

A coroner at the inquest into their deaths ruled Kelly and her daughters were unlawfully killed.

The inquest heard Needham lied on his shotgun application to Sussex Police in 2016 about a caution for theft which could have been picked up if his application had been scrutinised.

A coroner at the inquest into their deaths ruled Kelly Fitzgibbons and her daughters Lexi and Ava were unlawfully killed. Credit: ITV Meridian

Other families like Kelly's whose lives have been ruined by gun crime across the country - are calling on the government to overhaul gun licensing laws as campaign groups say the “broken” system is needlessly putting lives at risk. 

They want independent oversight - as opposed to it being down to each individual police force, and a National gun hotline to record concerns.

Peter Squires is Professor in Criminology at the University of Brighton, and a member of the Gun Control Network.

He said: "Over time, research and policing has detected all sorts of loopholes where gun owners have gone off the rails and misused their guns violently.

"There are cracks in the system. People are falling through the loopholes. Tragedy can often result and we've seen too often of these recently."

  • Peter Squires, Professor in Criminology at the University of Brighton.

According to the Office for National Statistics, there’s been 8000 firearm offences in the last year - resulting in over 1000 injuries and 31 deaths. 

There are 1.3m licensed shotguns in the UK - and half a million firearms. Most of those are used for sport.

The Gun Control Network want to see people who lie on applications banned from owning guns, a closer relationship between GPs and police forces and more stringent checks on gun owners.

The Home Office is currently reviewing a Domestic Homicide report which is likely to include recommendations around gun licensing, including better communication with GPs and more frequent checks on gun licensees.Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has also said in the wake of recent shootings that the issue of whether gun ownership laws are strong enough needs to be looked at again.

Kelly Fitzgibbons' twin sister Emma is meeting with ministers this month to discuss her concerns over gun laws.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The UK has some of the strictest gun laws in the world, but we keep them under constant review, to ensure those with legal access to firearms use them safely, and to ensure criminals do not gain access to firearms.

"That is why we have brought in new Statutory Guidance for firearms licensing which means police must carry out robust checks on public safety grounds and ensure that they are consistently applied by all police forces."