Pc blinded by gunman Raoul Moat found dead
PC David Rathband always insisted he never hated Raoul Moat for blinding him.
He was too busy, he said, to think of the former nightclub bouncer who shot him twice at point blank range two years ago destroying his eyes, ending his career and ultimately claiming his life.
The discovery of the 44-year-old former traffic officer dead at a flat in Blyth, Northumberland on Wednesday night where he had been living since separating from his wife Kath last year is being treated as suicide by police.
Despite his protestations Pc Rathband had spoken frequently and candidly in public about his difficulties coping with sudden disability and the impact it had on his family, particularly his two young children.
Those close to him however hoped his energetic charity campaigning and natural determination would see him through the physical and mental anguish that endured.
But the state of his mind was revealed in a series of disturbing tweets made in the days leading up to his death.
He had just returned from Australia where he was staying with his twin brother Darren, also a policeman, and where he had undergone surgery to remove some of the 200 pellets still lodged in his skull.
As he set off for the long flight home messages appeared on his Twitter account saying: “lost my sight, my job and my marriage… flying back on Monday and will say goodbye to my children” before signing ominously “RIP PC Rathband”.
They were later deleted and he denied sending them when contacted by Northumbria Police which had been alerted by a concerned member of the public. Officers met him at the airport.
By this time he had added: “Very emotional few days, but back on track. Now focusing on my trip back to the UK and the road ahead.”
The future had always been a difficult place to the former plumber.
In a BBC interview last year he described his insecurity.
“I feel as if the majority of people I have worked with or by have forgotten what happened to me, why it happened and what I tried to do,” he said. “At the moment I can't even see the next 12 months. But I am taking each day as it comes. I am trying my best and it is tough”
Prime Minister David Cameron led the many tributes describing Pc Rathband, who joined the ranks in 2000 after serving as a special constable, as an “extraordinarily brave man”.
Northumbria Chief Constable Sue Sim, who led the operation to find Moat in July 2010, said he was a dedicated officer.
Celebrities, including Carol Vorderman and Duncan Bannatyne, both patrons of his charity the Blue Lamp Foundation which raises money for injured emergency service personnel, spoke of their shock and distress.
Former Home Secretary David Blunkett, who knew him well, said he had never come to terms with losing his sight and remained angry at his loss.
Neighbours meanwhile laid flowers and messages of sympathy at his home while fellow officers described their sadness at his apparent suicide.
Police Federation chairman Paul McKeever said: “He exemplified the very best of British policing.”
But although he had been garlanded with awards and plaudits since he was injured, Pc Rathband believed he had been badly let down by his employers doing the job he loved. He had been due to return to duty in April in the road safety unit.
He had threatened legal action against Northumbria Police who he claimed had allowed him to be a “sitting duck” in his marked patrol car on a roundabout on the A1 despite knowing of Moat’s determination to kill a police officer.
The bouncer had already shot and injured his former partner Samantha Stobbart, 22, and killed her new boyfriend, Chris Brown, 29 before sparking one of the biggest man hunts Britain has ever seen.
Moat eventually shot himself after a standoff with armed police at the Northumberland village of Rothbury where he had been hiding out for several days.
Two accomplices, - Karl Ness, 26, and Qhuram Awan, 23 - were jailed for life in March last year after being found guilty of Pc Rathband’s attempted murder.
The officer’s sister Debbie Essery, spent two weeks with her brother before he went to Australia. “In my heart of hearts I can never, never forgive Raoul Moat for what he did to my brother. But what he did is just one of a number of contributing factors that have led to this,” she said.
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