In July 2010, the small sleepy village of Rothbury in Northumberland, England found itself under siege. The chosen location for the final showdown of a man hunted by police for the last seven days after shooting his ex-girlfriend, her new partner and a police officer, Raoul Moat was not about to give himself up easily. Six long hours of negotiation followed with Moat lying in the grass pointing a gun to his head. The residents of Rothbury were terrified and trapped inside their homes as they listened to the helicopters circling above the village. On their TVs they, along with the rest of the country, watched the national news play out what was happening just feet from their front doors.
Raoul Moat was a man with deep anger and resentment who was taking a stand against the authoritarians he thought were doing him wrong. As he emerged from the woods in the village of Rothbury with his gun at his side on 9 July 2010, he was surrounded by police with nowhere to go.
A week earlier, Moat had been released from prison and within 24 hours had tracked down his ex-girlfriend Samantha Stobbart and her new partner Christopher Brown to Birtley in Gateshead. He waited in the shadows and opened fire on them as they left Samantha’s parents house late at night. Christopher Brown was shot three times and died at the scene. Samantha Stobbart ran back into the house and was critically wounded when she was shot in the stomach through the front window. Raoul Moat checked his shots had met their targets and then slipped back into the shadows and disappeared.
Almost 24 hours later on the 4 July 2010, PC David Rathband was on duty in his police car at a roundabout in East Denton when Raoul Moat approached his car. He briefly recognised Moat as a man he had encountered during a traffic stop years earlier before Moat pulled out a gun and fired twice, hitting PC Rathband in the face and the shoulder. With horrendous injuries, he managed to report he had been shot through his radio before he passed out.
Raoul Moat was an imposing man. As body builder who regularly used steroids, he was used to taking advantage of his physical size to get what he wanted. At 37-years-old he had a string of unsuccessful relationships behind him with several children with different women and one child with his most recent ex-girlfriend Samantha Stobbart. A woman who had come to fear him with good reason. Samantha had met Moat while he was a bouncer at a nightclub in Newcastle where they both lived. Initially, their relationship seemed to be going well however, it was volatile with arguments being a common feature. Raoul Moat became abusive with physical violence against Samantha, violence he would apologise for and she would take him back and the cycle of domestic abuse would continue.
Moat was domineering and jealous, exploding in rage if he thought she was talking to other men. He was a man with a complicated past who wanted to settle down into what he thought a relationship should be. When Moat was arrested and convicted of an assault on his own daughter, Samantha saw her opportunity to escape from his grasp, cutting all ties with him. It was a rejection he was unable to take.
While Moat was in prison, Samantha met a new partner, Christopher Brown, and started a relationship. 29–year-old Chris, was a karate instructor and had recently moved to Northumberland from Slough in Berkshire. He had been in a relationship with Samantha for only a few short weeks before he was shot by her jealous and crazed ex-boyfriend. Samantha had told Moat their relationship was over and that her new boyfriend was a police officer. A lie, but one no doubt she thought would help keep Moat away from her and let her get on with her life.
This information however, incensed Raoul Moat who had an intense hatred of the police force in general. The police were symbols of the authority figures he despised and thought had treated him unfairly in the past. The idea that the girl he wanted and believed should be with him was dating a police officer fired his anger further.
While in Durham prison he began to plan his revenge. Inmates who served time with him during that period testified to his demeanour and his comments on what he was planning to do.
“He’s a lunatic and will end up killing someone. He indicated that he was going to take some sort of revenge against her and her partner”.
Raoul Moat however, needed help if he was going to exact the revenge that he had in mind. He contacted his friend Karl Ness and told him he needed a gun ready for when he was released from prison. He also asked him to track down Samantha Stobbart for him and find out who the man was that she was seeing. He wanted to know where they were and have the means available to him to cause them harm as soon as he stepped outside the prison gates and unfortunately, his friend Karl Ness dutifully complied.
It was Karl Ness that was with him the night he shot Samantha Stobbart and Christopher Brown and it was Karl Ness who helped track them down. After the shootings, Moat arrived at the door of a friend’s house, Andy McAllister. Moat told him everything and ignored his friend’s pleas to give himself up. Horrified by what his friend had done when Moat left, Andy McAllister phoned the police to tell them what Moat had told him.
That night Raoul Moat made contact with the police, but it was not to hand himself in. He admitted the shootings earlier in the evening and declared war on Northumbria Police. He believed Christopher Brown was a police officer from that force and they were harassing him. He told them he wanted revenge on them all. Within minutes of this call to police, he approached a police vehicle and shot PC David Rathband in the face.
In 2009, Rathband had pulled over Raoul Moat in his van and the encounter became aggressive with Moat ranting about police and social services. Rathband had predicted then that this was not the last they would hear from Raoul Moat. Chillingly his words would come true with tragic consequences for him personally.
Once again Raoul Moat turned up at his friend Andy McAllister’s home and this time with Karl Ness in tow. He gave Andy McAllister a written statement that he wanted to be given to the police. Moat made it clear he wanted a manhunt, he wanted press attention, and he intended to harm as many police officers as he could find. Leaving Andy McAllister’s house for the final time, he once again phoned the police himself. He indicated he had two hostages with him but refused to give any further details on them before admitting shooting PC Rathband and challenging police to find him.
The manhunt for Raoul Moat was the largest police operation searching for one man the UK had ever mounted with armed officers brought in from neighbouring police forces. Raoul Moat needed to be found and soon. After an armed robbery at a chip shop in the village of Seaton Delaval and reported sightings of a man fitting Moats description, police announced they believed Raoul Moat was hiding out in the area of Rothbury, to the horror of local residents.
Sniper teams, sniffer dogs, armoured response vehicles, and scores of police officers descended on the area, spreading out across the fields with exclusion zones covering two miles being set up around the village. Two men were found wandering down the quiet streets of Rothbury, originally thought to be the two hostages that Moat had with him. The media got as close to the action as possible, interviewing residents, filming the mass of police searching the area and waiting for any developments to be there on the scene when they happened.
For four days Rothbury was on lockdown. A small village set in thousands of acres of woodland, Raoul Moat could be anywhere. Armed police stood outside the school. All vehicles coming in and out were stopped and checked. Police found the remains of a campsite not far away from the centre of the village. In amongst the few belongings at the site was a dictaphone which contained hours of rambling from Raoul Moat. He said he was not happy at how he was being portrayed in the media, that the details were inaccurate and threatened that for every report he heard containing details he thought were wrong, he would harm a member of the public.
Bizarrely there were some in the UK who seemed to view Raoul Moat as some kind of hero. His stand against authority, his pleas that he had been treated unfairly and just wanted the truth to be known seemed to resonate. Fan pages on Facebook appeared for Raoul Moat and social media was a mix of horror at his actions and support for his mission. Somehow these people had forgotten or in their own minds justified the horrific acts of violence this man had carried out against three innocent people, one a serving police officer simply doing his job, and the terror and fear he had caused amongst the residents of Rothbury.
On 9 July 2010, Raoul Moat emerged from the bushes on the edge of the village of Rothbury. Carrying his shotgun he moved down to the edge of a stream and under a large tree where he lay down and pointed the gun to his head. Police quickly closed in getting as close to Moat as they could and the final showdown of Raoul Moat ensued. For six hours Moat threatened to kill himself as police tried to negotiate with him to give himself up without doing himself any harm.
Every TV set in the country was tuned into the news which displayed aerial shots of Moat and the police as the negotiations continued. After six hours Moat’s demeanour changed. Police fired tasers to try and get him to lay down his gun, but his response was to shoot himself in the head. Rushed to the hospital, Raoul Moat did not survive his injuries and died the following morning.
While Raoul Moat was known to be responsible for the murder of Chris Brown and attempted murders of Samantha Stobbart and PC David Rathband, two others were also implicated including his loyal friend Karl Ness and another friend Qhuram Awan. Both of whom police believed had helped Moat track down his ex-girlfriend, get hold of the gun he used to shoot her and himself and helped him hide from police by bringing him food and supplies before they were found wandering alone through Rothbury.
They were brought to trial in 2011, charged with conspiracy to murder. Their claims that they were hostages of Raoul Moat were quickly dismissed with all evidence pointing to them being active and willing participants in Moat’s plans and without them, Moat would most likely have not been able to carry out the violence that he did. Both were found guilty with Awan given a minimum of 20 years in prison and Ness a minimum of 40 years.
In the aftermath of the Raoul Moat manhunt, the police came under criticism for how they dealt with the incident and particularly the last hours of Moat’s life. The use of tasers to try and control the situation was investigated by the Police Complaints Commission with a final ruling that police were not in the wrong for their actions on that day.
A further tragedy attached to the story of Raoul Moat is the devastating effect his actions had on his victims, especially PC David Rathband. After being shot in the face by Moat, David Rathband’s injuries were extensive and he lost his sight as a result. The rebuilding of his life was slow and painful trying to deal with the condition the shooting had left him in and the impact on his life.
He set up the Blue Lamp Foundation to help police officers injured in the line of duty and fought to keep the events of July 2010 alive so people didn’t forget, but for David Rathband the personal struggle became too much. In February 2012 he was found dead after committing suicide at his home. A tragic end to a courageous two years and another life lost at the hands of Raoul Moat.