Fugitive UK gunman 'has threatened public'

Fugitive gunman Raoul Moat has threatened the public as well as the police, it emerged today.

As the manhunt entered its sixth day, Northumbria Police said there was a heightened danger to the public and warned that the search of the countryside around Rothbury where Moat is believed to be hiding would take time.

Temporary chief constable Sue Sim told a press conference: "Information has now emerged that Mr Moat has made threats towards the wider public."

Her comment came as the officer leading the manhunt, detective chief superintendent Neil Adamson, revealed that two more men were arrested in the Rothbury area last night on suspicion of assisting an offender.

Two other alleged accomplices appeared before Newcastle magistrates this morning accused of being part of Moat's conspiracy to hunt down and kill policemen.

Mrs Sim said police "remain as committed today as we were at the start" to tracking Moat down.

She said that the public, as well as police, could now be at risk from him.

Mrs Sim said: "From the outset we stressed Mr Moat's threats are largely directed towards police.

"Information has now emerged that Mr Moat has made threats towards the wider public.

"I want to stress we have the resources and resilience to deal with this situation and my officers are out in large numbers to provide reassurance and protection."

Mrs Sim said her force was supported by the National Search Centre and had received advice from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) and the military.

She said armoured vehicles have been brought in from Northern Ireland because they are better suited to the rugged terrain.

Mrs Sim added that Northumbria was "extremely difficult to search" because of its varied landscape, including caves, ravines, dense woodland and deep water.

She said: "Our intention remains to apprehend Mr Moat safely and bring this to an end."

Mrs Sim added: "I spoke to many of my officers in the area yesterday. Their determination and focus to bring this to a conclusion remains unwavering."

On the wider threat, DCS Adamson said: "There is information that has come to our attention that has led us to conclude there is a wider threat to the public.

"From day one the key priority, the main priority, has been the protection of the public and that has always been the case."

The senior detective said the two new arrests of two men suspected of helping Moat were made "in the vicinity of Rothbury" early yesterday evening.

He said: "Both men are currently in custody and we are pursuing a range of inquiries in relation to this matter."

Mr Adamson added: "Based on all intelligence, information and advice we have at this time, we still believe Mr Moat is in the Rothbury vicinity.

"However, and as I said yesterday, our efforts to locate Mr Moat extend across the entire force.

"I would once again like to thank the public for their support and the information they continue to provide.

"I would ask people to keep contacting either Northumbria Police or Crimestoppers with any information they believe may be relevant. This information is shaping the inquiry."

Two other men appeared at Newcastle magistrates' court today accused of helping Moat hunt down and kill policemen.

Karl Ness and Qhuram Awan are charged with conspiracy to commit murder and possessing a firearm with intent.

Ness was allegedly with Moat when he shot his former girlfriend Samantha Stobbart and killed her new partner Chris Brown early on Saturday.

The next day Moat allegedly shot and seriously injured Pc David Rathband and declared war on Northumbria Police in a rambling letter.

Ness and Awan are accused of being with Moat when the officer was shot and of helping him look for police targets.

Ness (aged 26) from Dudley, north Tyneside, and Awan (aged 23) from Blyth in Northumberland, were remanded in custody to appear before Newcastle Crown Court on July 22.

Speaking outside court, Darren Rathband, brother of the injured officer, paid tribute to him.

He said: "My brother is an inspiration, not only to me. He should be an inspiration to everybody involved in this investigation.

"He wants to thank Northumbria officers and all the other officers from across the country who've come up here to resolve this incident."

Khashif Khan, representing Awan's family, said they believe the justice system will "exonerate their brother."

Ness and Awan were arrested by police as they walked away from Rothbury, in Northumbria, earlier this week.

The village remains at the centre of the huge manhunt for Moat as armed police search remote buildings and scour moorland.

Police released CCTV images of Moat captured at a branch of B&Q in Newcastle on Friday, hours before he shot his ex-girlfriend and killed her new lover.

Sporting a distinctive Mohican-style haircut, Moat was wearing a tight-fitting bright orange T-shirt with dark jeans and white trainers.

Senior officers said the up-to-date images show how he has lost weight and may help the public identify him.

Police believe Moat is armed with one or two weapons and has a stockpile of ammunition.

The fugitive has vowed not to stop killing "till I'm dead" in a letter to the police, who he blames for the loss of his children, girlfriend and liberty.

Mr Adamson appealed to "an individual" who rang police at 10.30pm last night with information about a motor vehicle linked to the inquiry.

He said: "I would like to hear from that person again, and I would ask them to re-contact either the police or Crimestoppers direct.

"I am not releasing the details of the vehicle for investigative reasons."

The senior detective suggested investigators believe people may still be helping Mr Moat evade police.

He warned that anyone "assisting, harbouring or helping" Moat would be arrested and prosecuted.

Mr Adamson added: "There are several lines of inquiry in relation to how and if he is communicating with other people."

He said: "There are numerous new lines of inquiry that have come to light in the past 24 hours, all of which are being progressed at a pace.

"I would once again like to express our desire to resolve this situation safely, and that the force is making every effort to do so."

Answering questions from reporters, Mr Adamson said police received a hoax call from someone pretending to be Moat.

He said: "The last thing that I want to do is deal with hoax calls. I'm confident that we received a call yesterday that would fall into that category."

Mr Adamson said there were no named individuals under threat from the rogue gunman.

He added: "I am disappointed that we haven't located Mr Moat yet and I'm sure all the public hold that view."

Referring to comments he made on Tuesday, he said: "My comments made in respect of the net closing were in respect of the wider inquiry.

"We believe the likelihood is that he is in that area (Rothbury) but we are not putting all our eggs in one basket, as it were."

"We will continue to respond, dynamically, to any information we receive."

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