x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

On-the-run murderer trapped by police kills himself with shotgun

Manhunt for fugitive who shot his ex-girlfriend and her new lover was one of the biggest in British criminal history.

LONDON // A massive manhunt across north-east England ended yesterday when an armed killer shot himself after a six-hour standoff with police. The week-long search for Raoul Moat, who had critically wouded his former girlfriend's new boyfriend, critically wounded her and injured a policeman shortly after being released from prison, was one of the largest in modern British criminal history.

It involved armed policemen from 15 forces across the country, including specialist snipers from the Metropolitan Police and armoured vehicles brought over from Northern Ireland. Moat, a burly, 37-year-old former nightclub bouncer, had taunted police in a rambling, 49-page letter in which he vowed to keep killing officers until he was killed himself. He described himself as "a killer and a maniac". In a message posted on the Facebook website, he told police: "Ha, ha! You can come but you can't catch me!" And in a taped message found on Thursday, he said that he was angered about "misreporting" in the media and that, if it happened again, he would kill a member of the public.

Moat had been living in the Rothbury area of Northumbria. His rampage came to an end at about 1.15am local time when armed officers, who had been negotiating with him since he had been spotted on a riverbank the previous evening, closed in on him. He embarked on his rampage after being released from Durham Prison on July 1, where he had been serving a sentence for an attack on a child. Prison authorities warned police that Moat, a father of three, might cause serious harm to his former partner, Samantha Stobbart, 22, who had jilted him while he was behind bars. But this warning appears to have gone unheeded and, yesterday, it became the subject of an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

On July 3, Moat, armed with a sawn-off shotgun, killed Ms Stobbart's boyfriend, Chris Brown, 29, a martial art instructor, outside a house in Gateshead. Ms Stobbart herself was then critically injured as Moat opened fire on her through a window of the house. Police said that later that day Moat took two men hostage, although their exact role remains unclear as they have since been arrested and charged with assisting an offender.

Just after midnight on July 4, Moat struck again, shooting and seriously injuring a police officer, David Rathband,, 42, in an unprovoked attack in Newcastle. Moat had called 999 about 12 minutes before the attack, threatening to shoot a police officer, and rang back 50 minutes afterwards to gloat about the fact that he had done it. On Monday, he got away with cash in an armed robbery of a fish and chip shop in a northern town. On Tuesday, the police search switched to the small town of Rothbury after a farmer reported finding Moat's car there.

For the remainder of the week, armed police swarmed over the town and surrounding countryside, imposing a 16-km exclusion zone. They discovered a tent and mobiles phones that Moat had used but got no sighting of the fugitive. On Friday afternoon, amid growing speculation that Moat had slipped through the police cordon, an RAF Tornado jet with advanced imaging equipment was brought into the hunt. And, at about 7pm local time, Moat was cornered on a riverbank in Rothbury. Surrounded by police snipers, he held a sawn-off shotgun to his own throat as negotiators began talking to him.

In the early hours of yesterday, as police moved in to disarm Moat, according to eyewitnesses, the gunman shot himself in the head. He was rushed to Newcastle General Hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival. Locals who overheard the negotiations during Moat's final stand told reporters they heard him bemoan the fact that he did not have a father and that: "Nobody cares about me." In his letter to police, Moat, tried to explain the rages that overcame him, comparing himself to the Incredible Hulk character.

"It's like The Hulk, it takes over and it's more than anger and it happens only when I'm hurt, and this time I was really hurt," he wrote. Although Moat had allowed police to bring him food and water during the standoff, which took place in pouring rain as he sat beneath a tree, he consistently refused to surrender, before taking his own life. Peter Abiston, whose house overlooks the scene of the incident, told the BBC: "From what I can see he shot himself. He lay down and shot himself. I think there was two, but there was certainly one shot."

Sue Sim, temporary chief constable of Northumbria, said afterwards: "While the incident has been brought to a close we must be mindful of the impact it has had on many lives. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of those affected." dsapsted@thenational.ae