PC David Rathband inquest: Police did not believe colleagues life was at risk

The inquest into the death of PC David Rathband heard how a senior Northumbria Police officer did not believe his life was at risk

Supt Jim Napier of Northumbria Police
Supt Jim Napier of Northumbria Police

A top police officer on duty the night David Rathband died did not believe his life was at risk, an inquest has heard.

Police had ‘extreme concerns’ for the Northumbria Police traffic constable in the hours before his death, but did not believe he was in immediate danger.

During the second day of an inquest into PC Rathband’s death, South Northumberland coroner Eric Armstrong heard how officers were alerted to the fact that PC Rathband had made suicide threats to his wife on the evening of Wednesday, February 29, 2012.

And in one remark he said he would hang himself and let his wife watch on the mobile phone app Face Time.

However, Supt Jim Napier, who was the commanding officer in charge of Northumbria Police that night, told the hearing he decided the police response should be ‘proportionate’ and did not need to be immediate.

He said: “There was a risk that David was going to take his own life, but there was also mitigating information. For me there was no immediacy around this situation. This was a welfare check.”

Supt Jim Napier received a call from an off-duty colleague, Det Chief Insp Nicola Musgrove, at just after 8pm that night.

DCI Musgrove, who had worked with Supt Napier on the Raoul Moat shooting investigation, told him she had been contacted by Det Cons Alison Brown, who was also off-duty and had been the Rathband family’s liasion officer after he was shot.

Owen Humphreys/PA Wire DC Alison Brown who today gave evidence at the David Rathband inquiry
DC Alison Brown who today gave evidence at the David Rathband inquiry

DC Brown said she had got a Facebook message off Mrs Essery, in Stafford, saying she was worried about him.

Supt Napier was also told DC Brown had spoken to Mrs Rathband who said her husband threatened to kill himself that night. But Mrs Rathband said she did not take the this seriously and didn’t want police to go round as she thought this would make David angry, the inquest heard.

“I was aware he (PC Rathband) could be difficult to deal with,” said Supt Napier. “I made the decision not to despatch a police patrol car, the officers would not have been sufficiently trained to deal with the situation.

“My view was the operations inspector, Insp Dave Guthrie was the correct officer. Insp Guthrie was the senior officer on duty from David Rathband’s own team. He’s a trained crisis negotiator and had the skills to negotiate with people threatening suicide.

“I expected him to find him not only in an emotional state, but in an argumentative one.” He said: “It is my experience that those that want to take there own lives will do so,”

Supt Napier said he also believed that if Mrs Essery had genuine concerns her brother would kill herself, she would not have reported these via a Facebook message to an off-duty officer.

He added: “This was an unusual way for a family member to report welfare concerns, and it is an unreliable one.”

Earlier, DCI Musgrove agreed. She said: “If David’s family believed his life was at risk they should have rung 999.”

At just after 8.30pm Insp Guthrie who was in a partrol car in Newcastle with Sgt Philip Patterson, were instructed to travel to PC Rathband’s Blyth home.

They arrived at just after 9pm and after getting no response at the door officers forced their way in.

PC Rathband, who was shot and blinded by Raoul Moat in July 2011, was found hanging on his landing.

Paramedics, who had been on standby, could not revive him, and he was pronounced dead at around 9.50pm. The inquest continues.


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