A Gulf War veteran was told today he will spend at least 15 years in jail after a court heard how he executed four members of his family.
Cannabis-smoking loner David Bradley, 43, shot his uncle, aunt and two cousins at close range with a silenced 7.65mm handgun he had smuggled into the UK from Bosnia while serving in the Army.
Peter and Josie Purcell, both 70, and their sons Keith, 44, and Glen, 41, were all blasted in the head at close range at their home in Newcastle upon Tyne in 2006.
Last year Bradley admitted four counts of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility after two psychiatrists agreed he was mentally ill.
Today he returned to Newcastle Crown Court to be sentenced and received four life sentences, with a recommendation that he serve at least 15 years imprisonment.
Psychiatrists agreed that although Bradley was mentally ill, under the law he could not be sent to a psychiatric hospital indefinitely because his condition is not treatable.
Instead Justice Secretary Jack Straw ordered that Bradley be detained at Rampton for an undetermined period of treatment.
The massacre happened because Bradley “flipped”, smashed up his bedroom and then had a fight with his cousin Keith when he was confronted.
It resulted in the ex-soldier killing his family over a five-hour period on the night of July 8 2006 at their home in the West End of Newcastle.
The former Royal Artillery private shot father-of-six Peter and Keith immediately, before lying in wait for his aunt Josie and cousin Glen to return home.
Toby Hedworth QC, prosecuting, read to the court a statement Bradley made to the police after the killings.
“At about 8pm I was feeling jaded and weird and started to freak out. The heat was getting to us. The noise and sh**,” Bradley told detectives.
“I just started smashing things up in my room.”
Mr Hedworth said Keith Purcell shouted from downstairs to find out what Bradley was doing after he smashed the upstairs lightbulbs.
“I was in such a state and ran downstairs and started laying into him. Went upstairs and got my gun and I shot him in the head,” the defendant said.
“I went straight into the sitting room and saw Peter on the settee. I didn’t hesitate. I just walked clean up to him and popped him.
“I then went upstairs and put the gun down.”
Bradley told police that for the next few hours he continued to destroy all his possessions in his room until his aunt Josie returned home.
“I just automatically picked up the weapon and popped her in the back of the head and then dragged her into the sitting room because she was in the way,” Bradley told police.
Glen was the last to arrive home and when he walked into the dining room he discovered his brother’s body.
“I just put one in his face and then put a couple in the back of the head.”
After the killings, Bradley stayed in the house, had a shower and changed his clothes.
Then at 5.55am — laden with an arsenal of weapons, including a home-made nail bomb, sawn-off shotgun, silenced pistol and ammunition — he walked to his local police station to surrender to police.
He told officers: “I have killed four members of my family.”
Armed police drove to 45 Benwell Grove and at 7.37am they went inside and discovered the bodies.
Peter and Josie were found in the living room while Keith and Glen’s bodies were in the kitchen. Peter, Josie and Keith had each been shot once in the head, while Glen had been shot four times in the head.
Later that morning Army bomb disposal experts carried out a controlled explosion in the police station to destroy the thunderflash device, which Bradley left at the counter wrapped in nails.
During police interviews, Bradley admitted that he felt no emotion about the killings.
“There’s just nothing there. I’ve always been a cold b****** and a loner,” he told detectives.
“I didn’t even think about it. I just had to kill them.”
Psychiatrists for the prosecution and defence said Bradley was a heavy user of cannabis, which might have contributed to his deteriorating mental health.
They agree Bradley was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after serving with the Army in Northern Ireland.
But they agreed that he did not suffer from Gulf War Syndrome, contrary to reports which appeared in the aftermath of his killing spree.
The Gulf War veteran had lived with his aunt and uncle since moving into their end-terrace house following a row with his mother.
Paul Sloan QC, defending, said: “When David Bradley was about 17 years of age, Peter and Josie Purcell provided him with a roof over his head, provided him with a home and welcomed him into their family.
“On the night of July 8 and 9, David Bradley repaid their kindness and generosity by unleashing a maelstrom of violence, destroying four lives and, in the process, devastating a wider family.
“The events of that night can only be described as both shocking and horrific and simply beggars belief.”
It later emerged that the loner would lock himself in his bedroom smoking cannabis and hoarding a deadly arsenal of weapons.
Bradley would waste the hours by watching television and DVDs, and reading his collection of military magazines, spurning invitations to socialise with his family.
Prior to the massacre, he complained to doctors of being tense, wound-up and wanting to “kill someone”.
After leaving the Army in 1995, Bradley developed alopecia — caused by his mental breakdown — and all his hair fell out.
Mr Purcell, a retired roofer, and his wife, a former care worker, were well-known in the local West End community.
They had six children: Keith, a former roofer who had worked with his father in the family business before an accident left him disabled, Glen, who lived and worked in Cardiff as a glazier, Peter, 50, and Jacqueline, 47.
Another son, Michael, died as a toddler and second daughter Lorraine died from cancer four years ago at the age of 41.
Passing sentence, Judge David Hodson, the Recorder of Newcastle, said it was for the parole board to decide if Bradley would ever be released.
“If your release can be considered by the parole board I express the hope that in this case where there has been multiple killings, the parole board would never contemplate releasing you unless it was completely and utterly satisfied you pose no risk whatsoever to other members of your family or the wider public.
“From all I have read for this case I am of the opinion that your psychiatric disorder and mental illness are of such a degree it may never be safe for you to be returned to the community.”
Chief Superintendent Paul Weir, Newcastle Area Commander, said: “This was a terrible case and my sympathy is with the relatives of the Purcell family.”