Crazed gunman Raoul Moat blasted himself in the head with a sawn-off shotgun early this morning to bring to an end a dramatic siege in the Northumberland village of Rothbury.
The father-of-three, who went on the run a week ago after blasting his ex-girlfriend and killing her new lover, had said earlier he would rather die at the hands of armed police then give himself up.
The drama began at around 7.20pm yesterday evening when police responded to reports Moat was on the riverside.
Officers had warned people to stay indoors for their own safety as they surrounded the fugitive who witnesses said was lying on the ground with a sawn-off shotgun pointed at his head.
As the siege wore on, Moat apparently relaxed and allowed police to bring him food and water and police negotiators tried to persuade him to give himself up. But at about 1.15am, the 17-stone steroid addict shot himself.
Chief Superintendent Mark Dennett of Northumbria Police said: "Police discovered a man fitting the description of Raoul Thomas Moat at around 7pm near the riverbank in the vicinity of Rothbury.
"When he was discovered he was armed. Expert negotiators were brought in to speak to him and spoke to him extensively for several hours."
The hunt for Moat began a week ago after he blasted his ex-girlfriend Samantha Stobbart and killed her new lover, karate instructor Chris Brown (29).
The shooting, in which 22-year-old Miss Stobbart received critical injuries, sparked a manhunt as Moat declared "war" on police.
The next day Pc David Rathband (42), was shot in an "unprovoked attack" while sitting in a patrol car in East Denton, Newcastle.
In chilling letters left for officers he claimed to be a "killer and a maniac" and pledged to keep shooting police until he died.
Initially it was believed Moat posed a serious risk only to his former girlfriend and police officers. He holds a series of grudges against the police and was only released from a short spell in prison on July 1.
But last Thursday police warned that Moat had made threats against the wider public.
Police asked media to stop reporting aspects of Moat's private life that he may find offensive after he made contact to say that every time there was an inaccurate report he would kill a member of the public.
During the search for the killer, a picture emerged of a man who would rather "go out in a blaze of glory".
Those who know Moat (37), said he would commit "suicide by cop" and be known infamously as someone who died trying to kill police officers.
It quickly became clear that he was a paranoid individual who was no stranger to violence. He explained how his own rages took over in one of the letters, writing: "It's like The Hulk, it takes over and it's more than anger and it happens only when I'm hurt, and this time I was really hurt."
Relatives of his former partner Samantha Stobbart described him as a thug prone to aggressive outbursts and erratic behaviour -- but also vain. They said the thick-set hulk was quite prepared to wield a gun to throw his weight around. Kelly Stobbart, Samantha's half-sister, said: "He wants a stand-off with the police, so they'll either have to shoot him in the knees or kill him.
"He wants to be known as a guy who went to prison because he shot a load of coppers or who died trying. He's a nutter and he's definitely not going to give himself up."
She said the burly ex-nightclub doorman had a jealous personality that led to frequent rows with his former partner.
"He always said that if he could not have her, no-one else would," Miss Stobbart said.
And she claimed Moat was addicted to steroids and prone to "unpredictable" outbursts.
The sisters' grandmother, Agnes Hornsby (69) said he arrived armed at her house in Gateshead one evening last year.
He was consumed by rage because he believed Miss Stobbart was with another man, she said. "He threatened us with a gun when she was here, all because she'd put on her Facebook that she was going out with a friend," she said.
Despite having links to the Tyneside underworld, Moat's first conviction came only this year when he was jailed for 18 weeks for assaulting a child. He secured early release only on Thursday of last week.
But while the image invoked by Miss Stobbart's relatives is that of a callous bully, Moat's friends paint a different picture.
Some appear shocked by the recent events. One described a dedicated father who was driven over the edge by the fear of losing his three children. Lana Potts wrote on Facebook that she predicted he would "take is own life b4 they get im".