Moat's henchmen convicted of conspiracy to murder

Shotgun killer Raoul Moat's two henchmen were facing long jail sentences tonight for their roles in his murderous rampage.

Karl Ness and Qhuram Awan were convicted of conspiring with Moat before, during and after he shot three people, killing one and seriously injuring the others.

After witnessing their convictions, Pc David Rathband, who lost his eyesight when he was shot in the face by Moat, said: "I have a lifetime to live and they have a lifetime to reflect.

"I am sure I am in a better place than them."

The defendants claimed they were forced at gunpoint to help the 37-year-old ex-doorman who shot his girlfriend Samantha Stobbart, murdered her new lover Chris Brown, 29, then declared war on the police.

They said they were held hostage by Moat, but the jury at Newcastle Crown Court unanimously convicted Ness of murdering Mr Brown and a firearms offence. Both men were convicted of conspiracy to murder, attempted murder and robbery.

The defendants, who had been stood up, collapsed in their seats while relatives of the victims in the public gallery cried "Yes" when the verdicts were returned.

Pc Rathband hugged his sobbing wife Kath, while Mr Brown's mother Sally gripped the hand of her daughter Beckie Njie as they broke down.

Dramatic footage was released at the conclusion of the five-week trial showing how the police arrested the men in Rothbury, Northumberland, where they had been in hiding with Moat.

Armed officers threw stun grenades and piled onto the men, but Moat remained at large for a further four days before he killed himself after being cornered.

Both men had spurned the chance, while on shopping trips, to tip-off the police about Moat's whereabouts.

Ness, 26, from Dudley, North Tyneside, was with steroid addict Moat on the night he calmly killed Mr Brown, a karate instructor.

He had helped Moat find out information about Mr Brown using the internet.

While serving a prison term for assaulting a child, Moat had ordered Ness to spy on Miss Stobbart to catch her with a new man.

Part-time mechanic and doorman Awan, 23, of Blyth, Northumberland, helped the pair afterwards by driving a getaway car to a woodland hideout.

The next day self-confessed "petrol-head" Awan drove Moat in his modified black Lexus to the junction of the A1 and A69 where Pc Rathband was shot.

The pair were there when the fugitive robbed a Northumberland chip shop and helped set up his campsite in a farmer's field.

Burly 6ft 4in Moat went on his rampage after he was released from Durham Prison.

He was obsessed by the fact that Miss Stobbart was seeing someone new and was hell-bent on revenge.

Miss Stobbart, a trainee hairdresser from Birtley, Gateshead, had told Moat her new boyfriend, Mr Brown, was a policeman.

But instead of scaring Moat off, the lie made him even more furious.

He rang police before shooting Pc Rathband to say: "Youse have hassled us, harassed us, youse just won't leave us alone."

He added: "Youse wanted me to kill myself but I'm gonna give youse a chance cos I'm hunting for officers now, right?"

Kingsley Hyland, a senior CPS lawyer, said outside court: "It was the Crown's case that Karl Ness and Qhuram Awan, at different times, willingly engaged with Moat in full knowledge of what his intentions were.

"The jury have accepted that. Ness and Awan will now have a considerable time to reflect upon the consequences of allying themselves to Moat and his murderous intentions."

Outside court, Mr Brown's sister Ms Njie said: "He is missed hugely by all who knew him.

"We have been left devastated by this loss. Our lives have changed for ever.

"Today's guilty verdict has come as a great relief to us."

Detective Superintendent Jim Napier said: "Both Ness and Awan have, in my view, acted in a cowardly manner.

"They had opportunities to alert others to their plight if they had been held against their will - which clearly they were not."

Mr Justice McCombe, who will sentence on Tuesday, said: "A lot of people have been seriously affected by this case."

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