POLICE contacted blinded PC David Rathband in the days before his death amid fears for his welfare, it has emerged.
Officers were concerned about the father-of-two but he reassured them he was fine, Chief Constable Sue Sim said during a press conference yesterday. Ms Sim also said it was planned that PC Rathband would return to work in April, when he would take on a road safety role.
In the days before he returned from seeing his twin in Australia, disturbing tweets were sent from his account.
Ms Sim said: “On Friday we were made aware of concerns from members of the public about what was being placed on Twitter, allegedly by David.
“David’s welfare officers immediately got in touch with him. He reassured them. He actually said it was not him that had been placing it on Twitter.
“He said he was all right, he said he was coming back to the force area, back home to Northumbria, and my officers met him off the plane on Monday and took him home and had been working with them since. He told them he was OK.”
The body of the former traffic officer was discovered in Blyth, Northumberland, on Wednesday night after officers received a report of concern for his welfare.
The 44-year-old lost his sight and was fitted with prosthetic eyes after being shot at close range in July 2010 during the manhunt for fugitive killer Raoul Moat.
Last night police stood guard outside the house, where floral tributes had been laid.
One card and bouquet, from a colleague at the Blue Lamp Foundation, the charity PC Rathband set up to help other emergency service workers injured in the line of duty, read: “David, you are at peace now my friend. Enjoy it. You were only doing your job like so many of us do every day.”
Paul Garner, of Walton Avenue, Blyth, completed a sponsored walk with the policeman.
Placing a bouquet close to the front door of Rathband’s new-build three-bedroom semi-detached house on Heather Lea at Bebside, he said: “David was one of the bravest men I have ever met.
“He was full of kindness and dignity despite what had happened to him. He kept on keeping on as long as he could, but it all became too much to take. Now Raoul Moat has killed him too.”
Neighbours also spoke of their shock at PC Rathband’s death.
Diane Hall, 54, of Heather Lea, said: “I heard car doors slamming last night and looked out of the window and saw lots of police. I didn’t know him at all but when I heard what had happened, I was shocked. It’s very sad.”
Bodybuilder Moat sparked a huge manhunt when he went on the run for a week before shooting himself dead after a stand-off with police in Rothbury, Northumberland.
On July 3, 2010, he shot and injured his former partner, Samantha Stobbart, 22, and killed her boyfriend, Chris Brown, 29, in Birtley.
The following day, after declaring he was now “hunting for officers”, Moat crept up on PC Rathband as he sat in his marked police car at a roundabout above the A1.
PC Rathband was shot in the face and shoulder, but saved his own life by pretending to be dead.
He was rushed to Newcastle General Hospital and underwent surgery, but lost the sight in both eyes and was left with more than 200 shotgun pellets lodged in his skull.
In November, PC Rathband announced on Twitter that he and his wife Kath were separating permanently. Two months earlier, just before the start of the inquest into Moat’s death, he issued a statement saying he was to “live separately from his wife and family”. But that statement stressed the move was “purely for David’s rehabilitation and so that he can ultimately continue to support his family”.
It said the move had nothing to do with his arrest on suspicion of assault and stressed “David and Kath are very much still a married couple who love each other”.
PC Rathband was arrested in August last year after officers were called to an incident at his family home in Cramlington, Northumberland. He was understood to have been released shortly after police arrived.
Karl Ness, 26, and Qhuram Awan, 23, who helped Moat during his rampage, were jailed for life in March last year. Both were found guilty of the attempted murder of PC Rathband as well as other charges.
TWEETS TELL OF PC’S DESPAIR
FATHER-of-two PC Rathband sent a worrying tweet about his own death just days before he was found, and was struggling to cope with his blindness after being shot in the face at close range in July 2010.
He had flown back to the UK at the weekend after a four-week trip to Australia where he had surgery to remove pieces of shrapnel from his face. He had spent time with his twin brother Darren, who lives in the country.
Just hours before he was due to fly home he revealed on Twitter that final efforts to rescue his marriage had failed.
In one, he revealed that ‘Mrs R’ just wanted to be friends. He also tweeted that he had “lost my sight, my job, my wife and my marriage”, and wrote “Flying back on Monday and will say goodbye to my children”.
In another tweet he said: “RIP PC Rathband”.
PC Rathband later deleted the tweet but other messages on his Twitter page reveal the level of strain he was under.
On Saturday he tweeted: “Very emotional few days, but back on track.
“Now focusing on my trip back to the UK and the road ahead”.
He also told his followers: “Thank you for your positive comments I’m trying my best I sometimes get it wrong. Sorry”.