Newly released from jail with a gun in his hand and grudges on his mind

He may be on the loose, but Raoul Moat has provided a running commentary on his state of mind
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The Independent Online

When Raoul Moat stepped out of the Victorian confines of Durham jail early on Thursday morning he was already plotting his revenge on society. This was the 37-year-old bodybuilder's first time in prison, but not the first time he had been in trouble with the law. Though he liked to claim his work as a doorman in the Newcastle's Bigg Market had taught him to control his temper, long-term use of steroids – which had given him his trademark beefed-up appearance – had left him prone to violent mood swings. Moat had been arrested 12 times for violent offences down the years, including possession of a steel knuckleduster and a 5ft samurai sword, yet every time he escaped conviction.

Frequent run-ins with the police and social services had left him feeling persecuted, though those on the receiving end of his fiery temper could bear ready witness to the powers of intimidation of a man who styled himself "The Hulk". Yet despite his boastful bravado, friends said he had struggled to cope with prison and was only too glad to be released early from the 18-week sentence for assault.

On Thursday morning Moat presented an outwardly normal appearance for a man freshly released from jail. He returned briefly to his run-down red brick semi in Newcastle's West End, had his head shaved at his regular barbers – where he discussed Staffordshire bull terriers as usual – before setting out into the city. At some point he telephoned his former partner Samantha Stobbart, 22, and had a furious telephone conversation, demanding to know where she was.

She had told him their relationship was over and she was now seeing a Northumbria police officer. It was a lie which, over the next 48 hours, was to prove fatal for her new partner, karate instructor Chris Brown, 29, and nearly lead to the death of patrol officer Pc David Rathband.

Miss Stobbart claimed she had lied to protect her and the 19-month-old daughter she had had with Moat. But for him it was the final straw. Later that day he posted a Facebook message which said: "Just got out of jail, I've lost everything, my business, my property and to top it all off my lass of six years has gone off with the copper that sent me down. I'm not 21 and I can't rebuild my life. Watch and see what happens."

Yet those that had dealt with Moat during his prison sentence had become increasingly concerned at his boasts of revenge and prison officers prepared a Security Information Report detailing his claims. It was passed to Northumbria police late on Friday night, though by now Moat – who was not being supervised by probation services because he had served too short a sentence – was plotting his next move.

In the early hours of Saturday morning he was to be found crouching under the window of a property in Birtley, Gateshead where Miss Stobbart and Mr Brown were staying. In the 49-page rambling letter, grandly entitled "Raoul Moat Murder Statement", which he was later to hand to a friend, he described how he sat listening to the couple inside "mocking" him through an open window.

"If I was ever going to back down, listening to them stopped that," he wrote in child-like capitals. By his own admission his state of mind was fragile. He described how he had slept for just an hour a night for the last three weeks and was "chomping" his jaw as if he had taken the drug Ecstasy, having recently come off prescription medication.

Around 2.30am the couple emerged from the house and Moat opened fire with his shotgun, chasing and killing Mr Brown. He then shot Miss Stobbart through a window, leaving her battling for her life.

"I looked around for anyone else to shoot, there was no one, looked back at Sam, went to shoot myself, then changed my mind," he wrote. When news of the double shooting broke that morning police sought to reassure the public that these were not random attacks of the kind recently witnessed in West Cumbria. They named Moat and warned that he should not be approached.

Later developments, however, forced detectives to dramatically reappraise their tactics when it emerged that two men – one white, one Asian – were with him, possibly being held as hostages.

Moat was to resurface once again under the cover of darkness at 11.30pm on Saturday, just a few miles north of his home in Kenton, Newcastle, when he arrived at the door of his friend Andy Mcallister.

Dressed in jeans, a cream T-shirt and a tan military-style hat, he explained how he had not intended to kill his former girlfriend, but leave her scarred "so that she would never be able to wear a bikini again".

An hour after leaving the house Moat rang 999. The conversation lasted six minutes, but came too late to be passed to detectives. A few minutes later Moat opened fire on Pc Rathband as he sat in his patrol car at a roundabout in Newcastle, blasting him twice in the face. Yet even as paramedics worked on the seriously injured father of two and he relayed a detailed description of the gunman, Moat was back on the phone to the emergency operator, accusing Northumbria police of failing to take him seriously. Within hours he was again taunting them of Facebook. "Ha, Ha! You can come but you can't catch me!" he wrote.

By Sunday the complexity of the police operation was apparent. Detectives were dealing with a serial gunman, most likely with hostages, who had nearly succeeded in killing a fellow officer. These suspicions were confirmed when Moat arrived back at the home of Mr Mcallister in the early hours of Monday. Police had spent much of the day at the address questioning him over his earlier encounter. Now he was to take possession of the "letter" from Moat which he asked him to pass to the police and the media. The document revealed a chilling combination of vaunting ego and melodramatic self importance. He wrote: "Last night I declared war on Northumbria Police ... I guess I've finally lost it. I'm not on the run, I will keep killing police until I am dead. They've hunted me for years now it is my turn." He insisted he was innocent of assaulting his child and threatened medical staff with retribution if they failed to save the life of his former partner. But he also sought sympathy, describing how he was overcome with "Hulk"-like rages and how he had tried to fill the void in his life left by his estrangement from his family "with beautiful women".

By day three Tyneside was preparing to return to work and police had to act decisively to reassure the public. More than 100 armed officers were drafted in from five neighbouring forces. Children were walked to school past police brandishing automatic weapons, while frightened residents stayed in their homes. At the daily press conference, Northumbria's acting Chief Constable Sue Sim revealed that police had been warned by prison officers about Moat and voluntarily referred her force's handling of the investigation to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Det Chief Sup Neil Adamson, who was leading the manhunt, was basing his carefully-worded public statements on the advice of a psychologist. He continued his policy of appealing directly to Moat, urging him to consider his children and assuring him he had "a future". This time he read a statement from Miss Stobbart, who was by now recovering from her wounds, urging him to give himself up. The appeals were to have little affect and a nervy day in which police made a series of armed swoops and arrests ended with a media blackout, after it emerged details of the letter and the potential threat to the two men who were with Moat had been leaked to the media.

But by now the constant rounds of appeals and public statements were starting to reap rewards. Officers had remained convinced that Moat, perhaps assisted by contacts in the Newcastle underworld, had remained in the North East and on Tuesday morning, amid more raids across Tyneside, detectives received a report that a black modified Lexus car – believed to have been driven by Moat – had been found in the Northumberland market town of Rothbury on the edge of the National Park.

A local woman discovered that a farm building had been broken into and showed signs of human habitation. As the dramatic developments continued to unfold, police revealed they had arrested the two men, originally thought to have been Moat's hostages and that they were being questioned on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder.

Seventeen hundred local people were ordered to stay indoors and police imposed exclusion zones both on the ground and in the air.

But after a day of intensifying searches by hundreds of officers, it appeared Moat had once again gone to ground.