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Fugitive gunman in showdown with police

AFTER seven days on the run in the countryside of Northumberland, the man alleged to have gunned down a policeman and killed his ex-lover’s boyfriend was cornered on a riverbank in the village of Rothbury at about 7.30pm.

Witnesses said Raoul Moat was holding a gun to his head as police negotiators try to persuade him to surrender.

Raoul Moat’s best friend, Tony Laidler, has been brought in by police to help with the negotiations.

He surfaced in Rothbury, Northumberland, following a series of reported sightings of him in the area.

Witnesses said Raoul Moat, 37, was sitting on the ground “shouting and sounding agitated” as a police negotiator, surrounded by armed police and one officer holding a Taser stun gun, spoke to him from a distance of as little as 20ft.

A police tweet confirmed: “A man who fits the description of Raoul Thomas Moat located in the riverbank area in the vicinity of Rothbury. Police currently negotiating.”

In a bizarre twist former football star Paul Gascoigne arrived on the scene in Rothbury and claimed to know the gunman. The footballer said he hoped the stand-off would end peacefully and referred to the gunman as “Moaty”.

The Northern Echo said the ex-footballer described the former nightclub bouncer, who is wanted for murder, as “a good lad“, adding: ” I just want to give him some therapy and say come on Moaty, its Gazza.”

A witness at the scene said: “There was a lot of shouting and ranting coming from Moat,” he said.

“Police were reassuring him and saying no one would hurt him.

“‘Raoul’, the police officer said, ‘There’s no one behind you’.”

Matthews said he had heard phrases such as: “Put the gun down, no one is going go hurt you.”

A witness called Paula said her mother could see Moat holding a gun to his head and said he was being watched by police snipers from nearby woods.

Paula told Sky news: “She said he’s got a gun to his head and he’s trying to move back round the corner. The police are talking to him all the time.”

She said the man was outside her mother’s home on a riverbank in Rothbury. Her mother has been told not to leave her home.

Retired taxi driver Dave Murray, 67, said Moat appeared to have been chased through the village and was heading east before being cornered.

He said: “There is nowhere for him to go, the river is on one side and this road and all the police on the other.”

Mountain biker Ben Storey had been out cycling when he stumbled across the police operation.

“There was about 10 armed officers and they all had their guns pointed at one man,’ the 19-year-old builder said.

“I couldn’t see the guy but all the cops had their guns pointed at him. And you could tell he was right down at the river.

“We got the news he had been caught so we came rushing down to see if we could see him.”

One woman told Sky News she had gone for a walk when she spotted Moat “just looking into the river”.

He was wearing a baseball cap, a black jacket and jeans, she said.

Police then arrived and ushered her into a nearby house.

Police have said that no one has yet been arrested as a result of the confrontation, contrary to earlier reports from a news agency.

Moat, 37, is wanted over a double shooting that left his ex-girlfriend seriously wounded and her new boyfriend dead as well as the shooting of a police officer.

“The belief has grown that there would be a bloody confrontation, with either Moat shooting himself or the police being forced to shoot him,” said Brunt.

Bob Herdman, 75, who lives opposite the riverbank, said on Friday night: “There is a man lying on the ground with a gun pointed to his head. There are about 12 or 15 police with their guns trained on him and they are trying to negotiate with him. He has been lying there a long time, maybe two hours. We have been told to stay in the house, to keep away from the windows. He is on the grass on the riverside.

“I was in my greenhouse when I first knew about it. I heard a lot of shouting going on at about 5.30 or 6 o’clock out on the riverside.

“It was him shouting at the police to start with. I couldn’t make out what he was saying but I think they just told him to lie on the ground and he has been lying there ever since with all those guns trained on him.”

Police were understood to have received a tip-off from a member of the public that Moat was by the river.

Mr Herdman said: “The police came in quietly. They had their sirens off but were very fast.” The spot is a stone’s throw from the police’s temporary headquarters in Rothbury, suggesting he could have been intending to carry out his threat to kill police officers.

The first indication that Moat might have been found came at 7.37pm when Ch Supt Mark Dennett, the area commander, issued an urgent warning for residents to stay indoors for their own safety.

It now appears that Moat could have been living under the noses of police in Rothbury for several days.

Two people reported seeing a man they were convinced was Moat striding down the high street of the village, where almost 200 armed police were searching for him, at about 11pm on Thursday.

There was also evidence that Moat had been stealing food from local allotments during his week on the run, and could have been sleeping in an empty house while a family were away.

Police were earlier investigating a possible sighting of Moat walking through the centre of Rothbury.


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