Skip to main content

Raoul Moat: Who was he and why did he go on the run?

Raoul Moat's Facebook page
Image: Image Credit: (Left) PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo (Right) NetPics / Alamy Stock Photo. Above: (Left) Police on the streets of Rothbury, Northumberland on the 9th July 2010, as fugitive Raoul Moat lies in a field surrounded by armed police. (Right)

In July 2010, Britain was shocked and fascinated by the biggest manhunt in the nation’s history. But just who was the target, Raoul Moat, and what devastating crimes did he commit?

Who was Raoul Moat?

Born in 1973, Raoul Moat was a former bouncer and tree surgeon from Newcastle upon Tyne. He was, by all accounts, a complex, contradictory man – a sociable jack-the-lad type who was also prone to frightening fits of jealous rage, paranoia and violence. Many speculated that the avid bodybuilder’s mood swings were worsened by steroid use. Moat himself had sought psychiatric help, describing himself as ‘emotionally unstable’ with ‘areas of fault’ that needed addressing.

Things finally spiralled out of control after he was released from Durham Prison on 1st July 2010, having served a short sentence for assault. An ominous Facebook post hinted at what was to come:

‘Just got out of jail, I've lost everything, my business, my property and to top it all off my lass of six years has gone off with the copper that sent me down. I'm not 21 and I can't rebuild my life. Watch and see what happens.’

The whole country would soon be watching.

What did Raoul Moat do?

Moat was intent on tracking down his ex-girlfriend, 22-year-old Samantha Stobbart, with whom he had a young daughter. In the early hours of 3rd July, Moat arrived outside the Gateshead residence where Samantha was spending the night with her new partner, Chris Brown.

Moat later claimed he’d heard Samantha and Chris laughing about him through an open window. What made it even worse was that he was under the impression Chris was a police officer, and Moat had an all-consuming hatred for the police. In actual fact, Chris was a karate instructor – Samantha had simply told Moat he was a copper in a vain attempt to keep her violent ex-boyfriend away.

Now Moat had arrived on their doorstep, a looming 6ft3 presence armed with a sawn-off shotgun. In the bloody moments that followed, Chris was shot to death by Moat, while Samantha was left wounded. Fleeing the scene, Moat’s need for vengeance wasn’t sated. He was now intent on targeting a police officer.

Doctors later had to cut the 22-year-old’s stomach open to examine the extent of her internal organ damage. CCTV captured Moat just once as he sauntered off into the night.

The next morning Moat rang a friend to say that the shootings had lifted a huge cloud off his shoulders and now he’s "full of beans". That afternoon, police announced they were after Raoul Moat. They made 28 arrests while trying to track him down. The shootings occurred just four weeks after gunman Derek Bird killed 12 people in Cumbria and national news channels began speculating that another spree killer was on the loose.

Andy McAlistair, an old friend of Moat's, answered a knock at the door and "nearly s**t [himself]" when he saw the wanted criminal standing there. He tried to persuade Moat to turn himself in and claim the murder was a crime of passion in a ploy to reduce sentence. However, Moat was unimpressed with the plan and left. Andy rang the police...but so did Moat

Just under 24 hours later, he came across PC David Rathband who was parked up in his police vehicle in East Denton, Newcastle. Before PC Rathband could protect himself, Moat shot him with devastating effect. The officer survived the attack but was left permanently blind.

Where was Raoul Moat caught?

Although Moat’s gun rampage was over, the manhunt had only just begun. More than 160 armed officers, around 10% of the total number available in England and Wales, were drawn from as far afield as London to track Moat down.

When a car believed to have been used by Moat was found near Rothbury, police immediately enforced a two-mile exclusion zone around the market town. Armed coppers searched woods, fields and empty buildings, with locals being told to stay indoors. Bushcraft expert Ray Mears was brought in to help police detect any trails Moat might have left, and an RAF Tornado was even scrambled to sweep the area.

The clear danger posed by Moat was emphasised by a seething 49-page letter he’d given a friend to pass onto the police. ‘The public need not fear me,’ Moat wrote, ‘but the police should as I won't stop till I am dead.’ He also compared himself to the Incredible Hulk, driven by pure and irrepressible anger.

The whole saga finally came to an end in the early hours of 10th July. Cornered by a riverbank, Moat engaged in a tense standoff before shooting himself dead.

Was Paul Gascoigne a friend of Raoul Moat?

Amid the tragedy and tension of the Raoul Moat manhunt, there was a surreal cameo appearance by footballing legend Paul Gascoigne. He arrived at the scene in Rothbury with lager, a box of chicken and tiger bread for the fugitive, saying that they were ‘good friends’ and claiming he could persuade Moat to give himself up.

Paul’s appearance shocked everyone, from the press and police officers to his agent, who was on holiday at the time. Of course, the footballer wasn’t allowed to penetrate the police perimeter, and it later transpired that he and ‘Moaty’ didn’t actually know each other at all. According to Paul himself, he’d dreamt up the friendship after drinking alcohol and taking cocaine.

Was anyone arrested in connection with the case?

Several arrests were made in relation to Raoul Moat, and two accomplices were given very lengthy jail sentences. One was 26-year-old Karl Ness, who’d been with Moat on the night he shot Samantha and Chris. Despite not pulling the trigger himself, Ness was convicted of murder, among other offences, and handed 40 years.

The other was 23-year-old Qhuram Awan, who acted as a driver for Moat and was present when he shot PC Rathband. Awan was given 20 years for attempted murder and other offences.

What happened to David Rathband?

PC David Rathband, who was senselessly blinded by Raoul Moat, became a well-known figure following his ordeal. A very active charity campaigner, he founded the Blue Lamp Foundation, which aims to provide financial aid for members of the emergency services who are injured in the line of duty.

However, the trauma of what happened continued to haunt him. Matters were made worse when his wife left him following the revelation of an affair. David Rathband tragically took his own life in February 2012, with the coroner citing the breakdown of his marriage and the unimaginable attack by Raoul Moat as the major reasons for his suicide.