Gun attack on policeman linked to double shooting

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The Independent Online

Detectives today linked an "unprovoked" gun attack on a police officer to a double shooting which claimed the life of a man and left his partner critically injured.

Police yesterday launched a manhunt for Raoul Thomas Moat, who was released from prison on Thursday and is understood to be the former partner of the injured woman, named locally as Samantha Stobbart.

Detectives yesterday suggested the first attack was motivated by a grudge against the couple, but now believe it is with the police.

The pair, who have not been officially named, were targeted in the early hours of yesterday morning, at around 2.40am, when the gunman fired a shot through Miss Stobbart's living room window.

Moments later her partner left the house, only to be struck down around 50 metres from the front door.

Less than 24 hours later, a man detectives identified as Moat was linked to another shooting in which a policeman was seriously injured.

The uniformed motor patrol officer was blasted as he was carrying out a "static patrol" on a roundabout joining the A1 and A69 in East Denton, Newcastle, at around 12.45am.

He is currently being treated in Newcastle General Hospital where his condition is described as "serious" but is not thought to be life-threatening.

Temporary Chief Constable Sue Sim said: "This was an unprovoked attack on a Northumbria police officer as he carried out his duty.

"My thoughts are with his family and colleagues at this time. We strongly believe that this was carried out by the same man who shot two people in Gateshead early yesterday morning.

"Raoul Thomas Moat is a wanted man. He is very dangerous and should not be approached by members of the public.

"We know that Moat held a grudge against the people he targeted in Gateshead yesterday.

"It is now believed that his grudge at the moment is with the police."

Detectives said they were pursuing several lines of inquiry and all available resources and tactics were being used.

Moat, 37, from Newcastle, had just been released from Durham prison after serving a sentence for assault. He is believed to be a former nightclub bouncer.

Meanwhile Miss Stobbart's half-sister Kelly Stobbart told the News of the World that family members were warned she may not survive.

"We don't think she'll make it," the 27-year-old said. "She's been shot in the chest and stomach, her body's been ripped apart.

"She is on a life-support machine and is critical. The hospital have told us to expect the worst."

Her relatives told The Sunday Telegraph the 22-year-old had been in an on-off relationship with Moat for six years.

They said the trainee hairdresser, who has a three-year-old daughter Chanel, was shot twice.

She is now in a critical condition in hospital where she was said to be under armed police guard.

Yesterday, one eye-witness told how she watched the gunman open fire.

Mary Hall, 63, a neighbour living close to the scene, said: "The man shot through the window and shot the girl. I saw a figure of a man with a handgun."

She told the Northern Echo: "It's all very shocking as there are a lot of old age pensioners around here and you don't expect this to happen."

Mrs Hall said a woman in the house was screaming, apparently on the phone to the police. She believed this was the woman's mother.

Another local resident, who did not wish to be named, said: "I didn't see it happen but I heard a few loud bangs that must have been gun shots.

"There was a police helicopter hovering around for a long time.

"It's a really quiet area, it's residential you know, so it's a total shock."

Emergency services called to property discovered the man, understood to be Miss Stobbart's current partner, lying on a grassy area opposite the house in Scafell, Birtley, near Gateshead.

He is believed to have been in his late 20s or early 30s. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Det Supt Steve Howes, who is leading the investigation, said of yesterday's shootings: "I would like to stress that this is not a random attack and that the people involved are all known to each other."

A large number of officers, including specialist firearms officers, were working on the case.

The man's precise cause of death has yet to be established but police said the couple suffered injuries "believed to be consistent with a gunshot wound".

A post-mortem examination on the dead man was taking place.