‘Moat wanted to kill a policeman – now he has’
Tuesday 06 March 2012
The tragic news of PC David Rathband’s suicide shocked the nation last week.
Since being senselessly shot by rampaging gunman Raoul Moat in July 2010, the father-of- two’s life had unravelled – as well as losing his sight, he’d split from his wife and lost his job and home.
PC Rathband was the victim of Moat’s hatred for the police – he blamed them for the break- up of his relationship with his ex, Samantha Stobbart, after she dumped him while he was serving time for beating a child.
Just 48 hours after he was released from jail, he shot Samantha, 22, in the stomach and killed her new boyfriend Chris Brown, 29.
Hours later, Moat approached PC Rathband in his patrol car on the outskirts of Newcastle, brandishing a sawn-off shotgun. He shot him twice in the face, blinding him and leaving him for dead. After a week-long manhunt, Moat eventually killed himself during a stand-off with police marksmen.
Samantha Stobbart’s sister Kelly Stobbart, 29, from Gateshead, was on a hit-list drawn up by Moat and says that, like David, she is still haunted by the killer and understands why he found it difficult to move on.
Kelly tells Closer: “Samantha has gone into hiding since it happened, she only really has contact with our mum, Lesley.
“But, in a way, she’s lucky. Her injuries didn’t affect her life the way PC Rathband’s did. He was very brave and seemed to be coping so well. I know I couldn’t have. Moat wanted to kill a policeman – and now he has.”
She adds: “I still have nightmares about that day. I was in bed when the police came round and dragged me and my kids out of the house. I was told that not only had Samantha been shot, but I was on Moat’s hit list too. I was petrified, but was lucky enough not to be hurt by him. I can’t imagine what PC Rathband went through.”
Since that terrifying night, David Rathband – who was married to Kath, 42, and dad to Ashley, 19, and Mia, 13 – seemed to be coping with the terrible tragedy. Branded a hero, he always appeared smiling in public and even set up a charity. But, despite having several operations to restore his eyesight and remove more than 200 pellets from his face, he was still classed as being “black blind.”
In December 2010, he told Closer: “I feel lucky to be alive. It’d be easy to sit on the sofa withering, but I won’t. I’m going to return to the police force and I’d like to work with young people – to stop them ending up like Moat.”
He even talked about the moment he came round in hospital after the shooting and realised he was still alive.
“Hearing Kath’s voice, I knew I was still here – it was beautiful,” he remembered. “Being blind didn’t matter.”
But, over time, David started struggling to come to terms with his blindness. In an interview last September, he said: “I’ve spoken to quite a few people over the last few months and everybody tells me that you’ve got 10 years before you realise you can deal with being blind. At the moment, I can’t even imagine the next 12 months.”
And the emotional burden took its toll on his 18-year marriage to Kath. David admitted he’d become “a man who relies on my kids and wife” and said it was “degrading” and he hated “being a burden.”
Last August, he was arrested after allegedly assaulting Kath during a row. No charges were brought but, in November, the couple announced they’d split.
In a previous interview, David had heartbreakingly spoken about how although Moat’s face was clear to him, he couldn’t remember how his family looked.
He said: “I may be blind, but I can still see Moat’s face. It’s more of a melted face now – like evil Voldemort from the Harry Potter films. The strange thing is that, while I can see Moat in my mind, I have no recollection of how my wife or children look whatsoever. They are as featureless as an orange to me, and that’s what hurts the most.”
David visited his twin brother, Darren, in Australia, in February and was pictured sunbathing during the break. But before the end of his trip, he posted a string of disturbing messages on Twitter, suggesting he was considering suicide.
Concerned, Darren replied, telling his brother to remain strong, saying: “David, chin up, at least you know family will support you. Stick at it brother.”
Two days before he was found dead at his home in Blyth, Northumberland, he left his twin a poignant message on the social networking site, saying: “Lost my sight, my job, my wife and my marriage.” He also wrote: “RIP PC Rathband.”
David’s body was discovered by police on 29 February, after they received reports of concern for his welfare. And while officers wouldn’t comment on the cause of death, friends and relatives were shocked by the news.
“He kept on keeping on as long as he could, but it all became too much to take,” said his friend Paul Garner. “David was one of the bravest men I have ever met. He was full of kindness and dignity, despite what had happened to him. Now, Raoul Moat has killed him too.”
Dozens of floral tributes lined the outside of the police officer’s home last week. One card and bouquet from a colleague at The Blue Lamp Foundation, the charity started by PC Rathband to help emergency services personnel injured in the line of duty, read: “David, you are at peace now my friend. Enjoy it. Have a game of golf. You didn’t deserve this. You were only doing your job like so many of us do every day.”
Meanwhile, PC Rathband’s family are struggling to come to terms with the tragic news.
By Nilufer Atik
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