'One chance' to capture Raoul Moat alive
Published 07/09/2011 | 16:06
The officer in charge of the police operation to capture Moat said the use of experimental Taser weapons gave the 'one chance' to bring him in alive.
The officer in charge of the police operation to capture Raoul Moat said the use of experimental Taser weapons gave the "one chance" to bring him in alive.
Police feared the gunman intended to end his rampage of violence by attacking police marksmen and committing "suicide by cop".
North Police Assistant Chief Constable Steve Ashman was offered the use of the non-lethal X-Rep Taser shotguns on the day detectives discovered Moat intended to kill innocent members of the public for every "lie" printed about in the press.
The pump action shotgun style weapons would enable officers to shoot Moat from a greater distance than standard police issue X-26 Taser pistols.
They also delivered an electric charge for longer than the X-26, the inquest at Newcastle Crown Court heard.
Mr Ashman said he'd had to balance breaking the Association of Chief Police Officers code of conduct, which forbade the use of non approved weapons, with Moat's right to life under Article 2 of the Human Rights Act.
He said the decision to use the guns meant "the buck stopped with him".
The weapons were used during the stand-off on the riverbank in Rothbury, Northumberland, when Moat shot himself using a sawn off shotgun.
Mr Ashman, who led Operation Bulwark, the mission to find and capture the fugitive, said he wanted to bring in Moat alive to face justice.
He said: "We had reached the stage where there did not appear to be many alternatives.
"I was constantly having to reassess and re-evaluate my position; to stop us from sliding into a plan which had only one outcome.
"Moat had to face justice for what he had done but I also had a duty to protect his life.
"An opportunity had been presented to me, one I had not thought of but one which I was duty bound to examine because it gave us possibly the only chance, possibly one chance and one chance only, a single chance to apprehend him without using lethal force, without shooting and killing him."
X-Rep Tasers fire a cartridge for 30 metres, where standard police tasers have a range of just seven metres.
Mr Ashman said anyone going within seven metres of a killer armed with a loaded shotgun would be "foolish".
But he said that as well as being a breach of the ACPO code, he knew the use of the X-rep carried a risk, one of which was that he had "no idea" of what the physiological impact would be.
He said: "This was a situation that was in extremis, at the far end of the scale in terms of the threat that he presented and with that I was duty bound to consider all the options available to me to achieve the objective.
"There was nothing else."
Mr Ashman said he was desperate not to be forced by Moat into a "death by cop" or "suicide by cop" situation in which they would have no option but to shoot him.
He said: "There was almost an inevitability to his intentions.
"One way of committing suicide is to point a gun at an armed police officer. You are pretty much guaranteed that the officer is going to shoot you.
"More often than not he will hit you and he will aim for the central body mass, the central nervous system, and the inevitable outcome of that is you will die."
He said when armed officers first arrived in the village they came within 100 yards of the killer, but were diverted by Moat's accomplices, who were nearby.
After one sighting of the killer near a primary school in the village, armed officers were ordered to stand between the killer and members of the public should he appear and "stand their ground".
The officer kept a typed and written log during the hunt, detailing the decision making process behind his strategy.
The inquest heard yesterday how Moat had vowed to "take the shootout" rather than go back to jail.
Cross-examining for the Moat family, Andrew Straw asked whether Mr Ashman was aware Pro-Tect, the company which supplied the X-12 shotgun Tasers and X-rep Taser cartridges, was in breach of its Home Office licence.
He replied: "No."
Mr Straw said: "Shooting someone (with the X-rep) could have had catastrophic consequences. If you do not know the risk, is it not like hitting someone with a plank of wood?"
Mr Ashman replied: "I thought, let's try it, because if we don't right now there's only two outcomes; he kills himself or we kill him."
The inquest continues.