Pc David Rathband was found hanged, hears inquest

 

Pc David Rathband - the police officer shot and blinded by Raoul Moat - was found hanged, a coroner heard today.

The father of two's body was discovered hanging in the stairwell of his three-storey semi-detached home on Heather Lea, in Bebside, Blyth, Northumberland, on Wednesday evening.

Officers broke into the 44-year-old's home through a back patio door after fears were raised for his wellbeing.

Pc Rathband was reported to have posted a series of messages on Twitter in the days immediately before his death.

The traffic officer, who had returned on Monday from a holiday in Australia, was reported to have tweeted "RIP PC Rathband" and that he had "lost my sight, my job, my wife and my marriage" and would "say goodbye to my children".

South Northumberland coroner Eric Armstrong heard that one of the officers who broke into Pc Rathband's house saw "a dark shape" hanging in the stairwell.

Opening the inquest to the Pc's death, he said: "Inspector David Guthrie was on duty on the evening of February 29 when he received a radio message that concerns had been expressed for the welfare of Pc Rathband.

"He attended the home address, where other police officers were also in attendance.

"They attempted to attract the attention of the occupant, then entry was forced through a patio door.

Retired Northumbria Police traffic officer Keith Lamb told the inquest opening in Blyth that he identified Pc Rathband's body at Wansbeck District Hospital.

Mr Lamb, now deputy coroner's officer, was Pc Rathband's former colleague at motor patrols in Newcastle.

Home Office pathologist Dr Nigel Cooper said the cause of death was pressure on the neck due to hanging.

Mr Armstrong said: "That is all the information we have. I am going to adjourn the inquest at this stage pending further information.

"This is a sad occasion for the family of Pc Rathband and for all his former colleagues and those who knew him."

Mr Armstrong said he met Pc Rathband once, in the Pc's role as a family liaison officer for Northumbria Police.

Pc Rathband, who was father to teenage children Ashley and Mia, was due to return to work with the Northumbria force next month, Northumbria chief constable Sue Sim said.

The traffic officer, who was originally from Stoke-on-Trent, announced on Twitter in November that he and his wife Kath, a nurse, had separated.

He spoke about the difficulty of adjusting to life as a blind man after being attacked by Moat on July 4 2010.

His death was greeted by mourning and tributes paid by people including the Prime Minister, praising his determination and courage.

His twin Darren, also a police officer, is travelling from Australia to be with the family.

Moat evaded capture for a week after declaring war on Northumbria Police, saying he was "hunting for officers".

He shot himself dead following an armed stand-off on a riverbank in Rothbury, Northumberland.

On July 3 2010, he shot and injured his former partner Samantha Stobbart, 22, and killed her new boyfriend, Chris Brown, 29.

The following day, he crept up Pc Rathband as he sat in his marked police car at a roundabout above the A1, and shot him twice.

Pc Rathband saved his own life by pretending to be dead.

He was taken to Newcastle General Hospital for emergency surgery but lost the sight in both eyes and was left with more than 200 shotgun pellets lodged in his skull.

PA

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