Joan Smith: In the face of narcissism, the police should stick to policing

Related Topics

Since I was neither in Northumberland last week nor planning to visit the area, I'm not sure why I needed minute-by-minute updates on the hunt for Raoul Moat. In the week between his first shootings and the moment he killed himself in the early hours of yesterday morning, Moat gave every appearance of revelling in the huge manhunt he'd sparked off. For several days, ever-more dramatic pictures emerged from Rothbury, the village in Northumberland where the former nightclub bouncer was last seen, as armed police in helmets patrolled the streets and helicopters circled above the surrounding district.

The authorities have to respond to threats to the public, especially after Derrick Bird's rampage in Cumbria last month, but the response of Northumbria police was puzzling from the outset. Why did they apparently fail to act on a warning from Durham Prison, from which Moat was released 10 days ago, that he might pose a danger to his ex-girlfriend, Samantha Stobbart? What ended in a six-hour stand-off and Moat's suicide in fields outside Rothbury began as a classic incident of domestic violence, in which an angry man first made threats to an ex-partner and then carried them out: Ms Stobbart was shot and wounded in Gateshead and her new boyfriend, Chris Brown, was shot dead.

The police's handling of the warning is being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, but the following day Moat shot a traffic policeman, PC David Rathband, in Newcastle. As the manhunt got under way, Northumbria Police issued a curious statement, assuring the public that Moat posed a danger mainly to police officers. This seems to have been based on a rambling letter from Moat, who said he was declaring war on the police and boasted about kidnapping two men after the first shootings in Gateshead. Why the police placed so much faith in a suspect's boastful claims is another question that needs to be addressed, especially as the two "kidnapped" men were later arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder. And why didn't officers monitor his associates more closely, including a friend he returned to see after earlier using him to deliver a letter?

By Thursday, Moat was being treated, rightly, as a danger to the public. But suspects who bombard the authorities with messages generally have attention-seeking personalities, and it's not hard to imagine the effect on such people of endless press statements and mawkish public appeals. 'Do not leave your children with distressing memories of their father. You still have a future', Detective Chief Superintendent Neil Adamson declared in one of his appeals to Moat. I'm afraid you wouldn't have had to be the most cerebral of fugitives to work out that that future was likely to involve a long stretch at Her Majesty's pleasure, but worse was to come.

In a horribly misplaced attempt at empathy, Northumbria police circulated a note among Moat's friends which contained the following gem: 'You told us how angry you were and you also told us that you were sorry that Sam had been so seriously hurt. We understand how personal and important these things are to you'. Are Northumbria police moonlighting as counsellors? Would they like suspects to come in and 'work on their issues'? By the end of last week, what had begun as tragedy – one person dead, two wounded - had descended into gruesome farce. And a weak but narcissistic criminal had been afforded the brief satisfaction of spending his final days as public enemy number one.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate Web Developer

£18000 - £28000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Excellent opportun...

Graduate Database Developer (SQL)

£18000 - £28000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Excellent opportun...

Community / Stakeholder Manager - Solar PV

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Senior Marketing Executive (B2B/B2C) - London

£32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Day In a Page

Read Next
lowers, candles and other tributes in front of the Netherlands Embassy in memory of the victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17  

To punish Putin for the MH17 disaster we must boycott Russia 2018

Jack Gilbert

The daily catch-up: Joe on Vlad, banks of the Jordan and Blair's radicalism

John Rentoul
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor