Raoul Moat: Police say net closing on suspected gunman

Northumbria police say fugitive still at large but they believe he is in village of Rothbury, north of Newcastle

Raoul Thomas Moat, Gateshead shooting
Raoul Moat: Police say they believe the suspected gunman is in the village of Rothbury. Photograph: Northumbria police/PA

Detectives today said the "net was closing" on the suspected gunman Raoul Moat as the search was concentrated on a Northumberland village.

Residents in Rothbury, about 30 miles north of Newcastle, were told to to stay inside.

Officers earlier arrested two men who they had initially feared were being held hostage by the fugitive. The men, who were found walking in the Rothbury area, were held on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder.

A third man was detained after a raid on a property in Wrekenton, Gateshead. Police have yet to confirm the reason for his arrest.

There were reports that Moat had slipped into woodland near Rothbury, armed with two shotguns and a large amount of ammunition.

A black Lexus car apparently used by Moat was found at an industrial estate east of the village, after a tip-off from a member of the public.

Graham Noble, who lives on a farm in Rothbury, said the car had been there all day yesterday. Its significance was not realised until police issued details of the vehicle overnight.

Speaking at a press conference, Detective Chief Superintendent Neil Adamson, of Northumbria police, said officers had been dealing with a "complex, fast-moving and challenging situation".

He said Moat was still at large, but police had reason to believe he was in Rothbury. "At this time, Mr Moat has not been located. I am confident, however, that with the support of the public and the continuing efforts of our staff, that we are closing the net on Mr Moat."

Adamson said people "may still" be harbouring Moat but there was "no reason at this stage" to link him to a robbery at a fish and chip shop last night.

Adamson warned people to avoid the area, and issued a direct appeal to Moat. He said: "Mr Moat, I have a further message for you. I have made a number of requests to you to contact police and hand yourself in – that opportunity still exists.

"Please remember what I have said to you before – don't leave your children with distressing memories of their father. You still have a future. Give yourself up now."

Moat, a bodybuilder and former nightclub bouncer from Newcastle, is suspected of killing one man and seriously injuring his former girlfriend, Samantha Stobbart, 22, and a police officer. It emerged yesterday that he had written a letter in which he "declared war on Northumbria police".

Armed officers from six forces have been searching Newcastle and the surrounding area in an attempt to track down the 37-year-old, who friends and acquaintances said would not give himself up easily and was likely to prefer to be shot by police.

Northumbria police said they had been warned that Moat had said he wanted to cause serious harm to his ex-partner before he allegedly struck.

Details emerged yesterday of a 49-page letter, dated 4 July, that Moat wrote to police.

According to the Sun, the letter – delivered to police by one of his friends – said: "The public need not fear me, but the police should as I won't stop till I am dead. They took it all from me, kids, freedom, house, then Sam and Chanel. Where could I go from there. Obviously I have issues, but I was pushed. I never beat my kids."

He claimed he did not mean to hurt his former girlfriend, and then threatened those attempting to save her life.

"Those doctors better save her or I'll hit the hospital," he wrote. "I still love her despite everything, but my head is in a mess right now and I know I'm too far gone to make much sense of it."

He added: "I never cheated on her, I wish she hadn't on me. She pulled the trigger by doing so just as much as me."

Moat is suspected of shooting Stobbart and killing her boyfriend, 29-year-old Chris Brown, early on Saturday morning at her mother's home in Gateshead.

He later shot and critically injured PC David Rathband, 42, as he sat in a patrol car in East Denton, several miles away.

Moat had a 19-month-old daughter, Chanel, with Stobbart, who ended their relationship while he was in jail.

Apparently taunting the police, Moat also made a six-minute 999 call 12 minutes before shooting Rathband, outlining what he planned to do.

Earlier Stobbart, who is recovering from surgery, made an appeal through Adamson for Moat to give himself up.

Several people, including Stobbart, are under police protection.

Near Moat's home, in the Fenham area of Newcastle, one neighbour said she had seen him on Thursday, the day he was released from prison and two days before he embarked on his shooting spree. "He was dressed as if to go to war," the neighbour said.

Earlier, Sim admitted that officials at Durham prison, where Moat had been serving a short sentence until Thursday, had warned on Friday that he "may intend to cause serious harm to his [former] partner".

Police did not say whether Stobbart had been told about the threat. Sim has referred the case to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.


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