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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 February 2006, 16:31 GMT
Police criticised over BBQ murder
Emma Walton (left) and Vicky Horgan (right)
The coroner has criticised the police's response to the shooting
A coroner has criticised police for taking an hour to enter a house where two women died after being shot.

Nicholas Gardiner, Oxfordshire's coroner, spoke out at the end of an inquest into the deaths of Vicky Horgan, 27, and her sister Emma Walton.

The pair were killed at a barbecue in Highmoor Cross. Their mother survived being shot in the stomach by her daughter Vicky's estranged husband.

Verdicts of unlawful killing were recorded on Wednesday.

I will never know whether my daughter Emma would have survived had it not been for the delay
Jacqueline Bailey

Mr Gardiner said he could see "no reason" why Thames Valley Police officers had not entered the house "about an hour earlier".

Mr Gardiner said, in this case, the police force's plans and procedures were "too prescriptive".

"However good they (the plans) look on paper, they may fail to meet the needs of a given situation and that is, I think, what happened here," he said at the inquest at Oxford's Old Assizes.

The coroner added that the delays in the police response were "inexcusable" but said he was satisfied that the women could not have survived their injuries.

Ms Horgan, her 25-year-old sister and their mother Jacqueline Bailey were all shot by 39-year-old Stuart Horgan, who later killed himself in prison.

Jacqueline Bailey
Mrs Bailey spoke out after Wednesday's inquest

Mrs Bailey - who survived the attack - questioned the coroner's findings about her daughters' chances, saying: "No-one had even alerted the hospital that we were seriously injured or arranged for doctors to come to the scene to provide immediate help.

"I will never know whether my daughter Emma would have survived had it not been for the delay."

She also hit out at the declaration in a Thames Valley Police review that no individual was to blame for the delay in attending the scene.

She said police assertions that firearms policy has been changed in the wake of the disaster were not enough.

'Overly cautious'

"We need a public inquiry to look at the whole issue of firearms and the safety of the public."

Alex Marshall, Acting Deputy Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, said: "The anger and frustration felt by Mrs Bailey is entirely understandable."

Following an Independent Police Complaints Commission review which said the police response was "overly cautious", the Thames Valley force now has five armed response vehicles rather than the three it had in June 2004.

Mr Marshall added: "These changes mean the force is now far more effective at dealing with spontaneous firearms incidents."

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