Police in the UK hunting for Raoul Moat urged people to be “extra vigilant” today after warning he could now pose a threat to the wider public.
As intensive search efforts for the fugitive carried on for a seventh day around the village of Rothbury, Northumberland, residents were told to “close your doors, close your windows” and avoid unnecessary travel.
The advice came as detectives tried to unravel a network of accomplices suspected of harbouring the 37-year-old nightclub bouncer, who declared “war” on police before allegedly starting a shooting spree last weekend.
Two men arrested in Rothbury on Wednesday night on suspicion of assisting an offender were bailed last night, Northumbria Police said.
Two other alleged accomplices, Karl Ness and Qhuram Awan, appeared before magistrates yesterday accused of being part of Moat’s conspiracy to hunt down and kill policemen. They were remanded in custody.
Chief Superintendent Mark Dennett, area commander, said there was no new specific threat against any individual and Moat’s main grievance was still thought to be against the police.
But he asked for people to be extra vigilant.
“Don’t put yourself at unnecessary risk. Close your doors, close your windows, make sure you are safe in your houses,” the officer said.
“Please go about your normal business, but with some vigilance.”
Mr Dennett added: “What I am saying to people – and I appreciate there will be some people here on holiday, who perhaps have a different view – I am saying to them, ’Northumberland is a beautiful place, go out, enjoy it but be vigilant’.
“The overriding message is that if it isn’t necessary, don’t do it.”
Around 300 people packed a public meeting in Rothbury last night, in which police tried to allay fears about the search operation.
Temporary Chief Constable Sue Sim told the meeting that police would not smother Rothbury.
“You are a village community and you do not want to close your village community down,” she said.
“Be vigilant, but you have your lives to lead.”
She also agreed to station officers at schools in the Rothbury area after locals demanded increased safety.
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 before going on to declare “war” on police.
Officers said the up-to-date images, in which Moat sports a distinctive Mohican-style haircut and tight-fitting bright orange T-shirt, should help the public identify him.
Detective Chief Superintendent Neil Adamson, who is leading the inquiry, said all the “intelligence, information and advice” police have points to Moat remaining in countryside around Rothbury.
The senior detective revealed he was now believed to be a “wider threat” to the public as forensic psychologists examined letters written by the gunman to determine who is most at risk.
He warned anyone “assisting, harbouring or helping” the 37-year-old would be arrested and prosecuted as he suggested the fugitive may have access to a mobile phone.
Mr Adamson said: “There are several lines of inquiry in relation to how and if he is communicating with other people.
“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.”
Mr Adamson also appealed to “an individual” who rang police at 10.30pm on Wednesday night with information about another car that may be linked to the hunt.
He said there were no named individuals under threat from the rogue gunman and insisted the net continues to close in on Moat.
He added: “I am disappointed that we haven’t located Mr Moat yet and I’m sure all the public hold that view.”
Rothbury remains at the centre of the huge manhunt for Moat, thought to be armed with one or two weapons and a stockpile of ammunition, as armed police search remote buildings and scour moorland.
The fugitive has vowed not to stop killing “till I’m dead” in a letter to Northumbria Police, who he blames for the loss of his children, girlfriend and liberty.
Ness, 26, from Dudley, north Tyneside, and Awan, 23, from Blyth in Northumberland, appeared at Newcastle Magistrates Court accused of 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 in the Scafell area of Birtley, Gateshead, early on Saturday.
The next day Moat allegedly shot and seriously injured Pc David Rathband as he sat in his patrol car at a roundabout.
Ness and Awan are accused of being with Moat when the officer was shot and of helping him look for police targets. They were remanded in custody to appear before Newcastle Crown Court on July 22.
Khashif Khan, representing Awan’s family, said they believed the justice system would “exonerate their brother”.