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

Share
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: the paraphernalia of a practised burglar – screwdrivers, gloves, children

Guy Keleny
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits  

So who, really, is David Cameron, our re-elected ‘one nation’ Prime Minister?

Andrew Grice
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?