Hunt continues for Britain's most wanted man

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The Independent Online

Police sharp shooters and a fleet of armoured off-road cars were tonight drafted into the hunt for Britain's most wanted man.

As Raoul Moat continued to evade capture, police offered a £10,000 reward for help in tracking down the former nightclub bouncer.

Detectives revealed they had found Moat's moorland hide-out, along with a letter written to his ex-girlfriend, near to Rothbury, Northumbria.

Her father, Paul Stobbart, pleaded with Moat to turn himself in, saying: "Raoul, son, please this has to stop, we don't want anyone else hurt."

Moat went on the run after karate instructor Chris Brown, 29, was gunned down in the Scafell area of Birtley, Gateshead, in the early hours of Saturday.

The fatal shooting, in which 22-year-old Miss Stobbart suffered critical injuries, sparked a huge manhunt as Moat declared war on police.

Pc David Rathband, 42, was shot early on Sunday in an "unprovoked attack" while sitting in a patrol car in East Denton, Newcastle.

At a press conference today, Detective Chief Superintendent Neil Adamson made another direct appeal to Moat, saying: "I've said it before and I will say it again, we want to apprehend you safely. Please give yourself up."

Mr Adamson said he had a "gut feeling" that 37-year-old Moat remains on the run near Rothbury armed with one or two weapons and ammunition.

He said the £10,000 reward is on offer for information leading to Moat's arrest as police investigate hundreds of tip-offs from the public.

Scotland Yard said it is sending 40 specialist firearms officers, armed with Heckler and Koch G36 assault rifles, to help the search, while the Police Service of Northern Ireland delivered 20 armoured cars.

They will join specialist firearms officers, including snipers armed with high velocity weapons with telescopic sights.

Mr Adamson said investigators believe others have helped Moat evade police "indirectly or otherwise" as the gunman travelled around Northumbria.

He added that two men - named in reports as 26-year-old Karl Ness and Qhuram Awan, 23, - arrested yesterday on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder had helped police with inquiries.

It also emerged today that detectives believe Moat was responsible for a robbery at a chip shop in Blyth on Monday night.

Mr Adamson said: "We believe Mr Moat to be a measured individual who appears to carefully plan his actions and is comfortable in an outdoor environment.

"While the search is now focusing on the Rothbury area, I am mindful of the potential for Mr Moat to have fled the area.

"We are therefore continuing a wide variety of intensive operational and investigative activity across the entire force area."

The police manhunt continues to focus on countryside around Rothbury, which one former girlfriend said was Moat's "favourite place in the whole world".

Police are investigating several potential sightings of Moat and released new details today of his appearance and clothing.

They recovered a tent and other items, including the latest letter, from a "secluded spot" on the outskirts of Rothbury.

Mr Adamson said the content of the letter is "very much personal between the two" but police have not yet given it to Miss Stobbart.

He said: "In it, Mr Moat reasserts his belief that Samantha's partner was a police officer. I repeat this is not the case."

Senior officers are desperate to capture Moat without further injury or loss of life but he has threatened to kill police.

Moat used his first letter, handed to the press, to warn: "The public need not fear me but the police should as I won't stop till I'm dead."

Although police believe Moat remains in or around Rothbury, plans are in place to intercept him anywhere in Northumbria.

"In a wider sense, the net is closing. In terms of the overall investigation, we are making steady and significant progress," said Mr Adamson.

"I am concerned, as I'm sure everyone in the country is, that we apprehend Mr Moat very soon."

Moat, who has blue eyes and is of heavy build, is believed to be wearing a grey or light blue hoodie, a red T-shirt, dark-coloured jeans and white trainers.

Investigators emphasised his imposing size and appearance, saying he is 6ft 3in tall and approximately 17-and-a-half stone with cropped blond hair.

Temporary Chief Constable Sue Sim said the arrest of the two men yesterday was a "key breakthrough".

She said Moat is a "dangerous individual" but this is directed towards police and the armed response was "proportionate" to the threat.

Anyone with information about Moat is asked to call 03456 043043 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.