Raoul Moat 'legend' Facebook page removed

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The Independent Online

A controversial webpage dedicated to gunman Raoul Moat on Facebook has been removed.

The 'RIP Raoul Moat you Legend' page on the popular social networking site had attracted over 30,000 supporters since it was set up.

The page had been condemned by Prime Minister David Cameron, who said that he could not understand the sympathy being expressed for Moat, whom he branded a "callous murderer".

But after a No 10 official telephoned the social networking site to raise Mr Cameron's concerns, Facebook put out a statement last night making clear it had no intention of removing the webpage.

A Facebook spokeswoman said: "Facebook did not remove the 'RIP Raoul Moat you Legend' page.

"Facebook will remove content that violates our terms when reported to us."

The spokeswoman confirmed there are only two ways of removing a page - either it is taken down by Facebook or by the user themselves.

Police arrested a further two men today on suspicion of assisting Moat.

The men, aged 28 and 36, were arrested in the Newcastle area and were later released on police bail.

The creator of the Facebook page, Siobhan O'Dowd, confirmed she had taken the page down but did not rule out putting it back up.

Asked why she removed the page, she said: "I don't know really. A few of us came to a decision but it's going to be up again running.

"We don't condone what he did, as what he did was wrong. I feel sorry for the families but he was still a human being at the end of the day.

"He had problems and needed help and he didn't get any help."

Asked about the furore over the Facebook group, she said: "To be honest, I didn't think this would be the kind of reaction I would get.

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Even Facebook said that and that's why they wouldn't shut it down."

Ms O'Dowd said she had not been threatened since creating the page.

"I cannot get threatened for having an opinion, surely?"

In a radio interview with Talksport's Ian Collins, broadcast last night, Ms O'Dowd was unapologetic over the sympathy page she started, saying that "everyone's entitled to their own opinion".

When the presenter asked her directly why Raoul Moat was a legend, Ms O'Dowd replied: "Legends get talked about - and he is getting talked about."

Mr Collins pointed out that legends have usually done something to make them a legend, to which Ms O'Dowd replied: "You lot all think he's a bad person because of what you've read in the papers."

Mr Collins retorted: "No, I think he's a bad person because he's killed one, nearly killed another and blinded a policeman."

Ms O'Dowd explained that she does not agree with the shootings, saying that "they were a bit harsh" but Moat was a legend because he "hid from police for a week... that were funny. I think he's a legend for keeping the police on their toes".

Earlier today, Downing Street sought to play down an apparent row between Facebook and the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman insisted that a call to Facebook was not intended to get the webpage taken down.

"We were not trying to instruct them to do anything," the spokesman said. "The purpose was to draw their attention to the Prime Minister's comments."

Moat, 37, shot himself last week following a massive police manhunt after he killed Chris Brown, 29, the new partner of his former girlfriend Sam Stobbart, 22, wounding her, and blinding Pc David Rathbone, 42, with a shotgun blast to the face.

Giving evidence today to the Commons Home Affairs Committee, Home Secretary Theresa May echoed Mr Cameron's views that Moat was undeserving of public sympathy.

"There does appear to be rather a lot of focus on that individual rather than on the victims of his crime," she said.

"Our thoughts and our concerns should be about the victims of the crime and I think we should be absolutely clear about the nature of the individual."