Video: Policeman blinded by gunman Raoul Moat found dead at his home
DAVID Rathband, the policeman blinded by gunman Raoul Moat, has been found dead at his home in Blyth, Northumberland, in a suspected suicide.
Pc Rathband was shot twice by Moat, in the face and the shoulder, as he sat in his patrol car on the outskirts of Newcastle in July 2010.
He spent 17 days in hospital and despite several operations to restore his eyesight he was still classed as being "black blind".
Samantha Stobbart, Moat's former girlfriend, was also shot by the gunman, who killed her new boyfriend before shooting himself after a manhunt.
But despite becoming an author and setting up his own charity PC Rathband had struggled to come to terms with the shooting.
Last August he was arrested on suspicion of assault just hours after undergoing surgery to have pellets removed from his face
Police were called to his home in Blyth, Northumberland, at around 7pm yesterday.
Earlier that day he had been admitted as an outpatient for a pre-arranged operation under general anaesthetic during which he had a number of pellets removed as well as some work to repair nerve damage to his face.
Last week, Twitter users became concerned for Mr Rathband's state of mind after he posted a series of worrying messages. He had also publicly attempted to reconcile with his wife after he had announced in November that he was to divorce.
During a visit to his brother Darren in Australia, he tweeted: "Very emotional few days, but back on track. Now focusing on my trip back to the UK and the road ahead."
He later tweeted: "Thank you for your positive comments I'm trying my best I sometimes get it wrong sorry."
He then suggested he had been unable to reconcile with his wife, tweeted that "Mrs R" wished to remain friends.
In another message, PC Rathband said he had "lost my sight, my job, my wife and my marriage" before adding "Flying back on Monday and will say goodbye to my children."
Followers became further concerned when he said: "RIP PC Rathband."
His brother had been offering support through the website, urging him not to give up and saying: "Stick at it brother".
"Asking for help does not make you less of a man," he added.
Northumbria police visited his home in Blyth after becoming concerned about his welfare.
about his welfare.
A spokesman said: "Officers received a report of concern for the welfare of PC David Rathband at his home in Blyth. Officers attended alongside the ambulance service and PC Rathband was found inside.
"He was declared dead at the scene. A police investigation is underway and officers are notifying his family. The coroner has been informed."
Home Secretary Theresa May said: "I had the privilege of meeting PC David Rathband. He was a brave and fine policeman. My thoughts are with his family."
His brother is travelling back to the UK from Australia. He tweeted:
Twitter: darren rathband - On way back to the UK, to be at my brothers side. RIP Police Constable 190 David John Rathband Please support blue lamp foundation
Sue Sim, Chief Constable of Northumbria Police, said PC Rathband's life had "changed forever" when he was shot by Moat.
"David showed outstanding bravery in what was a terrifying situation," she added.
"He was a dedicated officer who acted in the best traditions of the police service."
Last March, PC Rathband said he had been left greatly distressed when Kelsey Donkin, 22, made a gun gesture at him and said the words 'bang bang' while he was attending the trial of two of Moat's accomplices.
At the time he said: "I felt sick at the thought of someone saying 'bang bang' behind my back. It is the first time I have encountered animosity or hostility towards me.
"This has caused me great distress. I'm deeply hurt by the actions of the female. I still feel sick to my stomach."
Pc Rathband was first shot through the window of his T5 Volvo while parked alone on the side of a roundabout on the outskirts of Newcastle upon Tyne.
He was unarmed and became aware of the presence of someone outside the vehicle close to the junctions of the A1 and A69 last July.
At the trial into Moat's accomplices he said: "I saw this figure appear from the edge of the concrete behind the car and he was in a crouched stance."
The man then approached pointing a gun "no more than 18 inches from the passenger window".
Moat's photograph had been circulated to all officers after he shot his former girlfriend and killed Christopher Brown, 29, her new boyfriend, the previous night.
Pc Rathband told Newcastle Crown Court: "I realised it was Raoul Moat who had approached the car and I can remember saying to myself 'Oh ----, it's him'. Pennies started to drop very quickly."
"Moat fired the gun and the shot was through the window. It felt like a circular saw which was ripping my face down to my throat open.
"As I laid in the side of the car I could then feel this fluid spraying from my face which I knew was blood."
PC Rathband set up the Blue Lamp Foundation, an organisation offering help to injured members of the emergency services, following the attack and ran the London marathon to raise money to support it.
He had previously described how he struggled to cope with the loss of his sight.
In an interview with the BBC, he said: "I have spoken to quite a few people over the last few months and everybody tells me that you have got 10 years before you realise you can deal with being blind.
"At the moment I can't even see the next 12 months."
Dragons' Den star Duncan Bannatyne, one of the patrons of the foundation, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that PC Rathband had suffered "a lot of pain" in his face from the pellets left lodges in his skull.
"David suffered a lot of pain in his face. I think if it weren't for that, I think he would have coped with his blindness.
"I thought he was coping reasonably well," he said.
A statement on the charity's website said: "It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of David Rathband.
"Since being shot in July 2010, David struggled to come to terms with his horrific injuries and the traumatic effect they had on him and his family and friends.
"David's legacy will live on in the form of The Blue Lamp Foundation, which bears his name.
"The foundation was started by David to help emergency services personnel injured in the line of duty as the result of a criminal act.
"It was David's wish that those who found themselves in a similar position to him could receive the support that wasn't available to him at the time.
"David's family have asked that their privacy be respected at this time and they are allowed the time and space to reflect and grieve."
A wellwisher who left flowers said Pc Rathband was Raoul Moat's last victim.
Entertainment company boss Paul Garner, of Walton Avenue, Blyth, completed a sponsored walk between Seaton Sluice and Blyth with the policeman at the launch of his Blue Lamp Foundation charity.
The father-of-two said Pc Rathband died wanting answers as to why he was targeted by Moat.
Placing his bouquet close to the front door of Rathband's newbuild three-bedroom semi on Heather Lea at Bebside, in Blyth, he said: "David was one of the bravest men I have ever met.
"He was full of kindness and dignity despite what had happened to him.
"He kept on keeping on as long as he could but it all became too much to take.
"Now Raoul Moat has killed him too.
"At least now he will be able to get answers, if there is such a place as heaven. He will be able to ask Moat why he did what he did to him, which he was never able to do."
A large bouquet of white daisies bound with two Blue Lamp Foundation wristbands was laid at the Pc's back gate.
A note pinned to it read: "David. You are at peace now my friend. Enjoy it. Have a fag without getting wrong. Have a game of golf. You didn't deserve this. You were only doing your job like so many of us do every day. These past 19 months have taken us all on a journey. You have been an inspiration. We will continue that journey. And we will look after Kath and the kids. Adios amigo. Peter and all at Bluelamp. xxx."
A bouquet laid by one of his neighbours read: "Rip neighbour and friend another brave hero who protected your British citizens only to be let down by the system god will guide you now."
Another note read: "What a waste of life we will remember you for all you done."
The back door to Pc Rathband's home was covered with a strip of plywood where glass had been smashed.