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'Net closing' on shooting suspect

Armed police have been scouring miles of countryside as the net closed in on suspected killer Raoul Moat.

Investigators believe the former bouncer may have fled on foot after abandoning his car in Rothbury, Northumberland, along with two men held as possible accomplices.

Marksmen from several forces were searching abandoned buildings, forests and grassland on the edge of the Northumberland National Park. Senior police officers set up a two-mile exclusion zone around the village as they announced the net was closing in on the gunman.

In a letter, Moat declared war on the police, who he blames for taking away his children, freedom and former girlfriend.

He said: "The public need not fear me but the police should as I won't stop till I'm dead."

The focus of the massive operation swept to Rothbury after Moat's black Lexus saloon was found parked in an industrial car park beside the River Coquet.

Detective Chief Superintendent Neil Adamson, who is leading the manhunt, said the two men were arrested as they walked beside a road near Rothbury. He revealed they were being questioned on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder, but declined to go into further details.

Moat became Britain's most wanted man after he shot his ex-partner and killed her new lover in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The steroid-abusing father-of-three targeted Samantha Stobbart, 22, hours after he was released from Durham Prison where he served a short sentence for assault.

Miss Stobbart was left in a critical condition and karate instructor Chris Brown, 29, was killed in the shooting in the Scafell area of Birtley, Gateshead. Almost 24 hours later, married father-of-two Pc David Rathband, 42, was shot in his patrol car at a roundabout in East Denton, Newcastle.

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