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Raoul Moat: The story behind Britain's biggest manhunt

A CGI graphic showing police tape in front of a road bridge at Rothbury, Northumberland
Image: A CGI graphic showing police tape in front of a road bridge at Rothbury, Northumberland |

22-year-old Samantha Stobbart had feared her ex-boyfriend, Raoul Moat, for quite some time. The couple, who lived in Newcastle, had been together for around six years and had a three-year-old daughter together, Chanel.

Moat, who stood at six foot three inches and weighed around seventeen stone, was employed as a bouncer, and often used his large structure to his advantage, pummelling his fists down on anybody who ever dared to cross him. Over the years, he found himself in trouble with law enforcement, having been arrested twelve times. Only seven of those arrests resulted in charges and just one resulted in a conviction.

In February 2010, Moat was ordered to serve eighteen weeks in Durham Prison after assaulting his nine-year-old daughter from a previous relationship. Social services had become involved, and they warned Samantha that she could lose Chanel if she stayed with Moat, who was physically abusive to his two other children as well as to Samantha. Each time Moat was violent, Samantha would leave, but she was always lured back by Moat.

With Moat behind bars, Samantha wrote a letter to him, falsely claiming that she had an affair with a police officer. Finally free of her abusive ex-partner, Samantha embarked on a new relationship with 29-year-old Chris Brown, a Taekwondo martial arts instructor who had just recently moved to Gateshead from Berkshire.

On 1st July, Moat was released from prison. He posted a chilling threat on Facebook: ‘I’ve lost everything, my business, my property and to top it all off my lass of six years has gone off with someone else. I’m not 21 and I can’t rebuild my life. Watch and see what happens.’

He spent the next two days hunting down Samantha. At around 2:30am on 3rd July, Moat finally tracked her down. She was with Chris at a friend’s home in Birtley, Gateshead, just two doors away from her parents’ house. Moat was armed with a sawed-off shotgun, and he crouched below an open window listening to their conversation. As he lay in wait, Samantha walked Chris, who was leaving because he had a busy day ahead, to the door.

Once Chris was outside, Moat took aim and shot him. Chris staggered, and Moat shot him once more. Samantha began to scream, and ran back into the house, slamming the door behind her. Moat caught a glimpse of Samantha in the living room, frantically trying to comprehend what had just happened. He lifted the shotgun and aimed in the direction of the window. He pulled the trigger and the bullet hit Samantha in the arm and travelled through to her abdomen.

As Moat absconded from the scene, police and paramedics were called by neighbours who had been awoken by the loud commotion. One neighbour, Ray, ran outside to find the lifeless body of Chris. He recollected to the People newspaper: ‘He was obviously dead. It wasn't worth me trying for a pulse. He was lying spread-eagled, face down in the grass.’

Samantha was rushed to hospital where she underwent surgery to repair her liver. She was protected at the hospital by an armed guard as the search for Moat began. Police weren’t waiting long before they heard from Moat himself. He called the police to taunt them: ‘Hello there, this is the gunman from Birtley last night. What I’m phoning about is, is to tell you exactly why I have done what I have done, right? Now, my girlfriend has been having an affair behind my back with one of your officers. Yous b*******s have been on to me, right, for years. Yous have hassled us, harassed us, yous just won't leave us alone. I went straight six years ago when I met her and I have tried my best to have a normal life and you just won't let up. Yous won't leave us alone for five minutes. I can't drive down the street without the blue lights flashing.’

At around 12:30am on 4th July, Moat called the police once more. He informed them that he was on the hunt for police officers and would kill any that he come across. Just fifteen minutes later, he spotted married father-of-two, Police Constable David Rathband, who was sitting in his patrol vehicle on a roundabout near East Denton. Moat approached the driver’s side of the vehicle and shot PC Rathband once in the face with a handgun. The police officer was blinded by the blast, but he survived. Tragically, however, in 2012 PC Rathband took his own life at his home in Blyth after struggling to adapt to life without his sight.

Just twelve minutes after the shooting, Moat once again called the police to taunt them. He offered no sympathy for his actions and complained that the police had not been taking him seriously enough. Northumbria Police issued a direct appeal to Moat, with Detective Chief Superintendent Neil Adamson stating: ‘You believe that Sam was having an affair with a Northumbria police officer‚ Sam has told us this was not true. Our inquiries have verified this to be not true. Mr Moat, yesterday when you contacted the police it was clear you believe certain things to be true. You have told us police that we are not taking you seriously; I can assure you we are. I want you to know you have our full attention. Innocent people have been hurt.’

Moat then sent police a 49-page handwritten letter, which declared war on them. It read in part: ‘Last night I called 999 and declared war on Northumbria Police before shooting an officer on the West End A69 roundabout in his T5. Rang again and told them they're gonna pay for what they've done to me and Sam. I went straight but they couldn't let it go. The public need not fear me, but the police should as I won't stop till I'm dead.’

The manhunt for Moat intensified and became one of the largest in UK history, involving 160 armed officers and armed response vehicles, many of whom were seconded for the operation from other police forces. They were able to establish that Moat had been driving a black Lexus. On 6th July, they found the car in the Northumberland town of Rothbury. The entire town was placed on lockdown as armed officers descended in search of Moat.

On 9th July, Moat was finally tracked down to a rainwater culvert on the north bank of the River Coquet. He was armed with a shotgun. A 110-yard cordon was set up around the scene as negotiations began. A three-strong specialist police negotiation team was brought in, and for almost five hours, they spoke with Moat. He spoke both passionately and calmly, and his surrender seemed well within grasp.

The weather took a turn for the worse around 12:10am the following morning, as drizzle began to fall around Moat and the three negotiators. Moat then started to talk about his life. He said that he had nothing to live for. ‘Nobody cares about me,’ he lamented. He gripped tightly to his shotgun as the negotiators emphasized that they understood he had endured a ‘bad year’. They were trying to talk him down from the proverbial ledge so that they could arrest him without incident.

Moat, however, had a different idea. Shortly after 1am, he lifted the shotgun and placed it underneath his chin. He was surrounded by police officers. Moat then moved the gun, aiming it directly at the side of his head. The shot echoed throughout Rothbury, bringing an end to one of the largest, and most intense, manhunts the country has ever seen.