The police officer injured by Raoul Moat has described how the gunman stared coldly into his eyes moments before he shot him in the face - leaving him blind.
Pc David Rathband spoke of his ordeal after an inquest into 37-year-old Moat's death heard that armed police fired two Tasers at the steroid-addicted former nightclub doorman to stop him taking his own life.
It was unclear if officers fired before or after the father-of-three shot himself in the head, an IPCC investigator told an inquest at Newcastle Civic Centre.
Pc Rathband, who was told yesterday that he had lost the sight in both eyes, recalled the moment he was shot through the window of his marked car at a roundabout in East Denton, Newcastle, in the early hours of July 4.
The 42-year-old said: "I looked into his eyes and I saw nothing - no emotion.
"Then I felt the pain full-on in my face. I knew my right eye socket had just exploded and my eye had gone," he told The Sun.
Bleeding heavily, the officer "played dead", fearing that Moat was still close by.
"I was trying to not make a noise even though there was blood everywhere in my nose and throat," he said.
But he managed to whisper into his radio for help as he lay slumped in the footwell.
He said he was convinced he was going to die as he was rushed to hospital by ambulance.
Pc Rathband said he asked a medic to deliver a final message to his wife and two children.
"I said to the guy in the ambulance 'Will you please tell my wife and children that I love them - I'm going to die'."
Moat went on the run after killing his ex-girlfriend Samantha Stobbart's new lover, Chris Brown, 29, and seriously injuring her.
The next day he blasted Pc Rathband and fled. A huge manhunt was launched, leading to Moat's last stand in Rothbury, Northumberland, in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Steve Reynolds, of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), told the inquest that at 7.25pm on Friday a member of the public saw Moat at the Riverside park area and called police.
"Armed police contained Mr Moat and negotiators were deployed, hoping to achieve a peaceful outcome," he said.
"He was in possession of a sawn-off shotgun which he had pointed at his head.
"At 1.12am on July 10 Mr Moat's shotgun discharged, resulting in him receiving fatal injuries.
"At some point around the time of the fatal shot, two West Yorkshire Police firearms officers armed with XRep Tasers discharged their weapons at Mr Moat.
"This is understood to have been in an effort to prevent Mr Moat taking his own life.
"At this stage the precise sequence of events regarding the discharge of the Tasers has not been established and is under investigation."
Mr Reynolds said the matter was referred to the IPCC by Northumbria Police.
He would be focusing his investigation on the final hours of Moat's life - from when he was first spotted at 7.25pm until he was formally declared dead in hospital at 2.22am the following day - and looking at the tactics the police used, including the use of Tasers.
The XRep Taser, which is fired from a 12-gauge shotgun, is currently being tested by the Home Office before being approved for use by police forces in England and Wales.
But the Home Office stressed that police could use any weapon they saw fit as long as its use was "lawful, reasonable and proportionate".
Mr Reynolds said he would also be investigating how police handled intelligence from Durham Prison warning that Moat would harm his Miss Stobbart.
"The IPCC investigation will also investigate the command strategy and tactics employed by the police and review all records in order to ascertain what steps were taken to resolve the incident," he said.
Newcastle Coroner David Mitford said the preliminary cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head.
No family members were in court yesterday as the coroner opened and adjourned the hearing until a later date.
As the inquest opened three men were arrested for allegedly assisting the fugitive.
The men were held during raids in Newcastle and Gateshead.
Yesterday's arrests bring the total to 10 made so far in the investigation, police confirmed.
Northumbria Police also defended their investigation yesterday, claiming searches of the storm drain running under Rothbury had not found evidence that Moat had been there.
There were suggestions that Moat avoided detection during his week on the run by hiding in the drain.
- More about:
- Independent Police Complaints Commission
- London Ambulance Service
- Newcastle Upon Tyne
- Northumbria Police