Christina Patterson: Why I felt sorry for a violent, snivelling, child-abusing thug

Vulnerability, more than respect, more than admiration, and certainly more than achievement, is one of the qualities in a human being most likely to inspire affection.
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The Independent Online

Yes, of course it's revolting that the final hiding place of a vicious murderer has now been turned into a Princess Diana-type shrine.

Yes, of course it's psychotic to compare his week-long jaunt in the Northumbrian countryside with the French resistance. Yes, of course it makes the stomach turn to hear the voices calling for "the bitch" he shot to be "chased out of Newcastle". ("Ur woman," said one charming contribution to the "Samantha Stobart has blood on her hands" campaign now unleashed on David Cameron's favourite website, "shudnt of been such a dirt bird and then none of this would of happened!") And yes, of course it's stark, raving bonkers to hail a violent, woman-beating, child-assaulting, steroid-addicted cry baby as a folk hero and a legend. But I still felt sorry for Raoul Moat.

I wasn't, to be honest, that interested in the Big-Brother-meets-Bear-Grylls live spectacle of the biggest manhunt in modern British history. Obviously, it was dreadful that he'd already shot three people, and was threatening to kill more (and was equating journalists with policemen, the bastard!) and it was almost as dreadful that taxpayers' millions – and school buildings and bobbies on the beat – were, like a giant taxi meter, ticking away. But I'd already seen Inception, and that (as far as I could understand it, which wasn't much) was quite enough in the way of gangland heist adventure for one week. It was, in fact, only when I heard his last words that my ears finally pricked up. And I have to admit I cried.

"No one cares about me" is, of course, the lament of every adolescent in a sulk. In this case, it was preceded not by the near-universal prologue "I wish I'd never been born", but by the one that must surely now be almost as common: "I have not got a dad". And the truth was that the pudgy thug with the Mohican had never even known who his father was. His mother, who, according to relatives, largely left the boring business of childcare to her own mother, had long ago disowned him and told the media he'd be "better off dead". Gazza, who turned up at the manhunt with a nice chicken picnic and a can of lager, claimed to be a mate. So did various others who shared his antipathy to the police. But whatever the empirical reality, Moat clearly felt alone.

This is a man with more than a screw loose, a man who, it seems, knew he had a screw loose. "I would like," he told a social worker last year, "to have, erm, a psychiatrist, psychologist, have a word with me regularly ... to see if there's somewhere underlying like where I have a problem that I haven't seen ... A professional thing for someone to come along and say look there's area for improvement here." Well, yes, as it happens, there was a bit of "area for improvement". Like maybe conducting a relationship with a woman without splitting her head open and maybe having a conversation with a child without ending up with a prison sentence, and maybe not thinking that everything that's wrong in your life is everyone else's fault, all the time. But in that plea to the social worker, in that apparent openness, and vulnerability, not to mention those jaunty Geordie rhythms, I can see why people warmed to him.

The fact is that vulnerability, more than respect, more than admiration, and certainly more than achievement, is one of the qualities in a human being most likely to inspire affection. It was why the nation collectively lost the plot after the death of a not very bright Sloane who battled with bulimia. It was why it identified with a beautiful multi-millionnaire, who could quadruple the sales of Vogue, while she was alive. And it's why thousands across the country identify with an emotionally retarded killer. While some of them, on the "RAOUL MOAT YOU LEGEND" site that David Cameron asked Facebook to remove (and which its creator, a single mother who started it because she admired Moat for "keeping the police on their toes", now has removed, but only, she says, temporarily) seemed, as far as one could ascertain from their prose, to admire "da best soldier 2ever cum outa da north", many others thought that this was a man who "desperately needed help", a guy who wasn't "evil or bad" but who "made a huge mistake".

Raoul Moat spoke for many people in this country who find it difficult to function in the way that society demands – people who find it hard to hold down stable relationships, be a good parent, pay their bills and keep their temper, their figure and their job. They're tired of being told by people with interesting jobs that they should work harder at their boring ones. They're tired of being told by people who've never been near a job centre that they should do a job they themselves wouldn't touch with a punting pole. And they're tired of being told by people with happy marriages, and high-performing children, that all they need to do to make their own dysfunctional families functional is get married.

Life is tough. People screw up, sometimes very badly. And thanks for your input, Dave, but I'll feel sorry for whoever I like.

Meet the parents (but maybe not yet)

After what seems like months of "BP encounters new problem with cap", there's finally some good news. And, indeed, for another BP: Bristol Palin. Bristol, as we all know, had a few problems with caps (or the lack of them) of her own. The result, at the age of 17, was a great big bouncing embarrassment to a mother who believes in pre-marital abstinence and post-marital breeding like there's no tomorrow. In order to assuage it, Bristol and her teenage boyfriend were encouraged to announce their engagement. Not long after, they split. The boyfriend celebrated his freedom with a naked photo-shoot in Playgirl.

But now, in clear contrast to that spawn-of-socialist-Satan Chelsea Clinton, who discovered the virtue of tight lips at about the same time she read in a legal report about her father's overly loose trousers, Bristol has gone public with the latest twist. Eschewing the more conventional route of telling her parents her news on the phone, or even in person, she has used an all-dressed-in-virginal-white-family-reunited cover story in a magazine. No doubt remembering the Katie Couric interview in which her mother couldn't name a single magazine or paper she read, she picked one she'd see at the supermarket, and kept the message simple: "WE'RE GETTING MARRIED".

"It is," Bristol told the interviewer, and the world, "scary just to think" of what her mother's reaction would be. Well, Bristol, I'm sure this will help. We knew you had your mother's looks. You've clearly also got her judgement.

Save me the stress of the salon

The average woman, according to reports this week, has 104 hairstyles in a lifetime. God only knows how they cope with the stress. Ever since the day, aged 13, when I waved a copy of Jackie at my local hairdresser, pointed at the cover girl and came out looking like a shorn Billy Bunter, I've found getting my hair cut about as enjoyable as a cervical smear. All I ever want is for my hair to look exactly as it did the moment (probably several weeks before) when I decided it was too long. It never does, of course. I always emerge, with a fixed, polite smile, feeling like a coiffed poodle.

And that's without the mirror. It is, I find, quite hard to enthuse about your holiday while scrutinising your crow's feet and your open pores. On Monday, I thought I'd found a solution. In a panic about work, I took my laptop. The first shock was how difficult it was to write without leaping up for constant cups of tea. The second was the glimpses, when I did glance up, of a glowering gargoyle. It was Burns, I think, who thought we should pray for "some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us". Nice idea, but I'd really rather not.

c.patterson@independent.co.uk

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