Police demanded Moat news blackout after 'rules changed'

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The Independent Online

Police were so concerned about Raoul Moat's state of mind and the potential danger to the public that they demanded a news blackout about his private life, it can be reported today.

Northumbria Police warned on Thursday that Moat's threats, which were previously aimed at the police, had widened and the public might now be in danger.

Reporters were told that Moat threatened to kill a member of the public for every piece of inaccurate information published about him.

The threat was made during a four-hour message on a voice recorder found in the tent which Moat had been using in a secluded area of land at Wagtail Farm, on the outskirts of Rothbury.

During the message Moat said he was not going to be like Cumbrian gunman Derrick Bird and shoot "old ladies".

Journalists were thought to be among the potential targets.

Concerned that reports could anger Moat and trigger further violence, Northumbria Police requested a news blackout relating to his private life.

During a press briefing, officers said they had taken advice from psychologists who believed Moat's "rules have changed" and any reporting of his private life could endanger the public.

The written request from Temporary Chief Constable Sue Sim for a voluntary news blackout said: "Any publicity regarding Mr Moat's private life, including information from family, friends and associates, could increase that threat.

"We have no alternative but to request that a news blackout be implemented under the voluntary agreement between the Association of Chief Police Officers and the media."

Police also asked for stories already published about Moat's personal life to be removed from news websites.

Comments made by Moat's mother Josephine Healey, who had little contact with Moat during the past 18 years, that her son "would be better off dead" are thought to have been among the remarks which had upset him.

Northumbria Police was yesterday forced to apologise after an officer read out a card from two children which described Moat as "a nutter".

Neighbourhood inspector Sue Peart read the card during a police briefing shown live on television.

She had tried to use the message to demonstrate to her fellow officers that the public appreciated their efforts to catch Moat.

Northumbria Police requested a news blackout earlier in the investigation to prevent the press reporting that Moat had boasted in a letter that he had taken hostages.

The blackout was lifted on Tuesday morning after the two men thought to be Moat's hostages were found safe.

Karl Ness, 26, from Dudley in North Tyneside, and Qhuram Awan, 23, from Blyth in Northumberland, were later charged with conspiracy to commit murder and possessing a firearm with intent and were remanded in custody at a court hearing on Thursday.