Raoul Moat henchmen handed life sentences

Two men who helped crazed gunman Raoul Moat during his shotgun rampage which left a man dead and a police officer blinded were jailed for life today.

Karl Ness will serve at least 40 years before he can apply for parole, while Qhuram Awan must stay behind bars for a minimum of 20 years.

The two henchmen were convicted at Newcastle Crown Court after a five-week trial on a string of serious charges relating to the murderous rampage led by Moat.

The jealous and obsessive former doorman shot his ex-girlfriend Samantha Stobbart, 22, and killed her new boyfriend Chris Brown, 29, in Birtley, Tyneside, last July.

The next day he shot and blinded traffic officer Pc David Rathband, 43, leaving him for dead on a roundabout above the A1.

Pc Rathband, who wept as details of the case were outlined, said afterwards: "We are extremely pleased with the sentences set out for these two evil individuals."

Ness, 26, from Dudley, North Tyneside, helped source a gun while Moat was in prison, spied on Ms Stobbart for him and helped research the identity of her new lover on the internet.

He was convicted of murdering Mr Brown despite not pulling the trigger.

Awan, 23, from Blyth, Northumberland, and Ness were convicted of conspiracy to murder police officers and the attempted murder of Pc Rathband.

Awan was driving on the night Moat declared war on police, before he crept up on the unsuspecting officer, while Ness was in the car too.

They were also there when Moat held up a chip shop in Seaton Delaval, Northumberland, the next day. Both men were convicted of robbery.

The men helped the fugitive set up a secret camp in a field outside Rothbury, Northumberland.

They went shopping for supplies without Moat and never raised the alarm. The men claimed they were being held hostage and were too scared to tip off police.

They were arrested by officers who disorientated them with a stun grenade.

Moat gave officers the slip before shooting himself three days later in a stand-off with police.

While he remained at large police mounted a huge operation to find him, drafting in firearms specialists from across the UK.

Armed officers were stationed outside Rothbury schools, and specialist searchers scoured hundreds of acres of wild scenery.

The search for Moat and subsequent investigation of Ness and Awan has cost Northumbria Police more than £1.4 million.

Mr Justice McCombe, sentencing Ness and Awan to life, said both men were a danger to the public.

"Here we have a case where three men formulated a plan to murder policemen indiscriminately, and then, pursuant to the plan, attempted (to within the thinnest thread of human life) to kill one officer, with appalling consequences," he said.

"The roles played by these two defendants cannot be minimised.

"While the offences may not have been committed without Moat, it is difficult to see that they could have been committed in the manner they were without Ness and Awan respectively.

"This too can be said to be a crime meriting punishment of the utmost severity, even though these defendants did not fire the gun.

"Each defendant willingly joined in a plan to commit random murders of police officers, knowing precisely what Moat had already done to Mr Brown and Miss Stobbart.

"The plan resulted in an offence that nearly achieved the aim."

Pc Rathband added: "Both Ness and Awan will be very old people before they are released or considered for release and long may they stay there.

"These two individuals, along with the other coward who wasn't man enough to stay here, have taken my job from me.

"I am now blind for the rest of my life.

"It will be me who decides when I will leave, not these three individuals. I will continue as long as I possibly can in the job I love."

The judge said he hoped Pc Rathband could continue his career.

Mr Brown's brother Jason said: "I hope every day of his 40 years he (Ness) thinks about what he has done."

Detective Superintendent Jim Napier said: "Throughout that week last July, both men had numerous opportunities to stop these unfolding events and prevent people being killed and injured. However neither took any responsibility for their actions."