The British policeman who was shot and blinded by crazed gunman Raoul Moat has been found dead at his home in a suspected suicide.
The body of Pc David Rathband was discovered in Blyth, Northumberland, last night after officers received a report of concern for his welfare.
A Northumbria Police spokesman said no-one was being sought in connection with the incident.
The father-of-two, 44, lost his sight and was fitted with prosthetic eyes after being shot at close range in July 2010 during the manhunt for fugitive Moat.
Paying tribute, Chief Constable Sue Sim said she was “deeply saddened” by the death of Pc Rathband, a “dedicated officer” who showed “outstanding bravery in what was a terrifying situation”.
A force spokesman said: “At around 7pm officers received a report of concern for the welfare of Pc David Rathband at his home in Blyth.
“Officers attended the scene alongside the ambulance service and he was found inside. He was declared dead at the scene.
“A police investigation is under way and officers are in the process of notifying the family.
“The coroner has been informed.”
Former bouncer Moat was the subject of a huge manhunt as he evaded capture for a week before shooting himself dead after a stand-off with police in the market town of Rothbury, Northumberland.
On July 3 2010, he had shot and injured his former partner Samantha Stobbart, 22, and killed her new boyfriend, Chris Brown, 29.
The following day, after declaring he was now “hunting for officers”, Moat crept up on armed Pc Rathband as he sat in his marked police car at a roundabout above the A1.
Pc Rathband was shot in the face and shoulder but saved his own life by pretending to be dead.
He was rushed to Newcastle General Hospital and underwent surgery but lost the sight in both eyes and was left with more than 200 shotgun pellets lodged in his skull.
The officer, who joined Northumbria Police in 2000, later announced he was suing the force after he was left “a sitting duck” when gunman Moat declared war on police during his rampage.
After the attack, the policeman launched his own charity, the Blue Lamp Foundation, which aims to help emergency service personnel injured in the line of duty.
Pc Rathband announced on Twitter in November that he and his wife Kath were separating permanently.
Two months earlier, just before the start of the inquest into Moat’s death, he issued a statement saying he was to “live separately from his wife and family”.
But that statement stressed the move was “purely for David’s rehabilitation and so that he can ultimately continue to support his family”.
It said the move had nothing to do with his arrest on suspicion of assault and stressed “David and Kath are very much still a married couple who love each other”.
Pc Rathband was arrested in August last year after officers were called to an incident at his home in Cramlington, Northumberland. He was understood to have been released shortly after police arrived.
Karl Ness, 26, and Qhuram Awan, 23, who helped Moat during his rampage, were jailed for life in March last year.
Both were found guilty of the attempted murder of PC Rathband as well as other charges.
After they were sentenced, the officer said: “These two individuals, along with the other coward who wasn’t man enough to stay here, have taken my job from me.”
In December, he told how he hoped to take part in trials of a revolutionary machine which could restore his eyesight by allowing him to “see” using 400 electrodes on his tongue.
The BrainPort technology, which was designed in the US, can enable blind people to visualise objects and shapes.
He told the Daily Mail it gave him “a bit of hope”, adding: “I’ve gone from a man who did things when I wanted to, to a man who has to depend on others to do things with me and for me.”
Following the policeman’s death, Ms Sim said: “I am deeply saddened to have to confirm the death of Pc David Rathband and my thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.
“In July 2010 his life changed for ever when he was shot and blinded by Raoul Moat. David showed outstanding bravery in what was a terrifying situation.
“He was a dedicated officer who acted in the best traditions of the police service.”
In a statement on its website, the Blue Lamp Foundation said: “It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of David Rathband.
“Since being shot in July 2010, David struggled to come to terms with his horrific injuries and the traumatic effect they had on him and his family and friends.
“David’s legacy will live on in the form of The Blue Lamp Foundation, which bears his name.
“The foundation was started by David to help emergency services personnel injured in the line of duty as the result of a criminal act.
“It was David’s wish that those who found themselves in a similar position to him could receive the support that wasn’t available to him at the time.
“David’s family have asked that their privacy be respected at this time and they are allowed the time and space to reflect and grieve.”