Northumbria Police’s failure to act on warnings about gunman Raoul Moat was “frankly unbelievable,” according to the head of the police watchdog.
Cindy Butts, commissioner of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has hit out at the force’s failure to warn Moat’s ex-girlfriend Samantha Stobbart and her new lover Christopher Brown.
But the force’s Deputy Chief Constable Steve Ashman has strongly refuted her verdict and argued that Moat’s actions could never have been predicted by police.
Ms Butts said that two officers in Northumbria Police’s Domestic Violence Unit were “reluctant” to act upon information received from Durham Prison about Moat’s intention to harm a former girlfriend, because they didn’t know her name.
She said: “The officers finished their shift knowing that a woman may be at risk of assault.
Considering the focus of the role filled by both the officers in the Domestic Violence Unit must be to provide reassurance and protection to vulnerable people, their failure to act on the intelligence is frankly unbelievable.”
Moat’s gun rampage began during the early hours of July 3. The 37-year-old former bouncer shot his ex-partner Samantha Stobbart, then 22, and killed Christopher Brown, 29, in Birtley, Gateshead.
Then, less than 24 hours later, he crept up on PC David Rathband and shot him through the window of his patrol car with the same shotgun.
Moat from Fenham, Newcastle, had been released from Durham Prison, where he was serving a short sentence for assault, two days earlier.
Moat told a fellow inmate of his plans to get revenge on Samantha Stobbart following his release and the prisoner passed on a partial version of the conversation to prison staff. Durham Prison alerted Northumbria Police, but they did not know the name of Moat’s former partner.
However, Ms Butts said they did not do enough to identify and warn Miss Stobbart and Mr Brown.
“Raoul Moat confided in a fellow inmate that he planned to take revenge on all of those he believed had wronged him. He specifically named Samantha Stobbart on his list of targets and made reference to a new boyfriend,” she said. “The inmate provided a toned down version of events to prison authorities which suggested Moat was intent on seriously assaulting Ms Stobbart. This intelligence was correctly passed onto Northumbria Police in a telephone call and an email from staff in the prison to Northumbria Police’s Domestic Violence Unit.
“It was the responsibility of two officers within the unit to act on that intelligence. However due to police records not identifying Ms Stobbart as Moat’s partner there appeared to be a reluctance to act.While further information was requested from the prison to confirm Ms Stobbart’s identity and checks were made on the force system, no further steps were taken to disseminate what details they had any further than the Domestic Violence Unit.
“I appreciate the intelligence received was not a specific threat to life, but it was a threat to cause harm. This should have elicited a far more proactive response.
“While the actions of the two officers did not meet a threshold for misconduct, it was evident their performance was unsatisfactory.”
At the conclusion of an inquest into Mr Brown’s death last month Gateshead coroner Terence Carney ruled that Mr Brown had been unlawfully killed at the hands of Moat, and said although there had been some failings by the Prison Service and Northumbria Police, these did not directly contribute to his death.
DCC Ashman has accused the IPCC Commissioner of being “grossly unfair” for making emotive contradictions to the coroner’s findings.
“The person responsible for Christopher’s murder was Raoul Moat. Moat decided to murder and to threaten the lives of the public and police officers. There was nothing known to the police to predict his extreme actions,” he said.
Inquest opens into death of PC David Rathband
Northumbria Police has defended the care it provided to tragic traffic cop PC David Rathband in the aftermath of Raoul Moat’s gun rampage.
The Rathband family has repeatedly claimed that the officer was let down by his employers after he was shot in the face and blinded by the fugitive gunman.
But as an inquest into the father-of-two’s death begins today, the force’s Deputy Chief Constable said everything possible was done to help the blinded officer live with his horrific injuries.
DCC Steve Ashman said: “David was a valued officer and colleague and his loss was felt by everyone in the force. However, we strongly rebut any allegation that we failed to support David or that the support we provided was inadequate. We provided the highest level of financial, welfare and rehabilitation support to David, far in excess of any legal duty.
“At all times, we treated David with compassion. We are confident that we did everything we could in these exceptional circumstances to support David financially, medically and in every other way possible. He was a valued and skilled officer.”
Moat crept up on PC Rathband as he sat in his marked police car by the roundabout between the A1 and A69 in Newcastle, and shot him twice. Moments earlier the murderer had telephoned the Northumbria Police control room declaring war on the force and its officers.
The attack, during the early hours of July 4, 2010 left PC Rathband blind.
As he battled back to health, PC Rathband launched his own charity, the Blue Lamp Foundation, which aimed to help emergency services workers injured while on duty and their families.
But during the final months of his life he struggled to cope with his injuries and the effects they had on his life.
He separated from his wife Kath and left the family home he had shared with their children.
The 42-year-old was found dead at his home in Blyth on the evening of February 29, 2012.