Raoul Moat ended his life on the banks of the River Coquet in the town of Rothbury in Northumberland on July 10th, 2010. His murderous gun rampage had tied up numerous police forces and outside resources. There was nothing sophisticated about Moat. As it transpired, the Northumberland police force alone would have been more than a match for him. In his time on the run Moat established an admiring fan base. In the eyes of a tardy group of social misfits he became a brave hero who stood up to the establishment. He was nothing of the sort.
Moat had been released from Durham prison on the 1st July 2010 after serving an 18 week sentence for assaulting a nine year old relative. His partner Samantha Stobbard had finally ended their relationship after years of abuse and violence. She had informed him that she was in a new relationship with a policeman. Her new partner, Chris Brown was actually a karate instructor, but she had lied to Moat in a desperate attempt to keep him away. Moat’s anger, frustrations and self pity narrowed towards a murderous endgame. Immediately on release two friends had a procured him a 12 bore sawn off, double barrelled, (over & under), shotgun and ammunition.
Poorly educated this under achiever grew up and struggled within a broken family. He fostered an anger and a sense of resentment from an early age. Aided with steroids he built himself into a muscle-bound alpha male. He had a malevolent and mean temper he was intimidating, and he would resort to violent outbursts towards men women and children. He was desperate to be in control of the people closest to him.
His physical stature, height and demeanour was memorable, and he drew attention to himself. He complained that he was victimised by the establishment and harassed by the police. He was a regular sight “on the doors” of Newcastle night clubs which brought him into the company of both honest and dubious revellers. As well as being a club bouncer he had tried to set up simple enterprises, but lack of business acumen, planning and raw intelligence meant he was almost continually short of funds and resorting to petty illegalities and misdemeanours just to get by. It was just that that brought him into a connection with PC Dave Rathband who in June 2008 stopped him quite routinely and legitimately for driving a badly loaded pickup. This was when he was trying to establish a landscape gardening venture.
Moat had never received any formal and legal training with firearms and certainly never had a licence but he had acquired a sufficient working knowledge and had obviously mixed with people who had shown him how to adapt shotgun cartridges. His rambling written statements and telephone threats made it clear he was out for revenge. He set out to kill Sam Stobbard’s new partner, Chris Brown who he believed was a Police Officer. He intended to wound Sam Stobbard as punishment and then kill further Police Officer’s until he himself was killed.
Moat had found Sam Stobbard and Chris Brown with friends at a house in Birtley in the early hours of the 3rd July. He crouched outside the property in the darkness waiting for an opportunity. When the couple stepped outside, he shot Chris Brown 3 times and killed him. Sam Stobbard ran back inside the house where her young daughter was sleeping. Moat shot her through the front window and she was badly injured. Moat escaped. In the early hours of the 4th July Moat and his accomplices spotted a single crewed, Northumbria Police Volvo T5 Traffic car parked on the East Denton A69/A1 roundabout. They circumnavigated the route back on the A1 and stopped on the slip road to the left of the car. Moat got out and shot PC David Rathband twice through the front passenger side window. David Rathband was seriously wounded, Moat was unsure if he was dead.
Moat had set out to customise some of the shotgun ammunition that he had acquired. My aim here is to explain this in detail because in most instances this part of the story has always been vague badly explained or just ignored. It provides a deeper insight into the mindset of this killer.
A shotgun is primarily designed to shoot small game. The most common shotgun gauge is 12 bore. This old fashioned measurement denotes the weight of a round cast ball which is a twelve of an imperial pound of lead. If you cast this amount of lead into a round ball it would be around 18 mm across. A 20 bore therefore would be smaller, and an 8 bore larger. This is a very old form of bore or gauge description. Today the readily available shotgun gauges are .401, (37 bore), 28, 20, 12 and 10. The most common is 12. Gauge or bore means the same. Gauge is an Americanism.
A factory produced standard shotgun cartridge contains smokeless propellant, (the gunpowder), fibre or plastic wads, (discs or cups of material that separate the propellant from the charge and act like a piston in an internal combustion engine), and the shot charge itself. This comprises steel or lead pellets. The pellet size varies but a typical load of no 6 shot would total 220 pellets. When a shotgun is fired the spread of shot, (the pattern), gets steadily larger. When it exists the muzzle, the charge is the same diameter as the barrel. At 20 metres the pattern is about 30 inches across. This is both efficient, effective, and safe. Efficient in the chance and sense of hitting a moving target, effective by way of killing the prey without completely destroying it and safe by way of the eventual dissipation and rapid slowing of the pellets. A shotgun load would only carry about 400 metres. The first 10-40 metres are the most effective against game. The energy of the charge dissipates very quickly beyond that range. Whilst a standard shotgun load is not designed to be used against large animals or human form at very short range it is extremely devastating. The concentrated load of just over one ounce up to 10 metres is deadly, causing deep traumatic and tearing wounds.
Shotgun cartridges can also be factory loaded with slugs, essentially a single bullet. These are subjected to additional legal requirements and their sporting use is limited.
Sawn off shotguns are often misunderstood. Granted they are intimidating but they are inefficient firearms with limited performance. Such weapons have the advantage of concealment and manoeuvrability in confined spaces. They don’t super spread a shot load like you see in the movies, they are difficult to aim and control and administer a heavy recoil through reduced weight and a removed stock. For the likes of Raoul Moat a sawn off shot gun was a symbol of his manhood, an avenging Rambo. The weapon’s limitations didn’t of course prevent him from being able to kill and maim defenceless unarmed victims at close range in the most cowardly fashion.
Moat’s preparations involved “customising” some of his ammunition. He had acquired “bullet” fishing weights from a sporting goods shop in Newcastle on the very day he was released from prison, he clearly knew exactly where to go.
Moat had never had a shotgun or firearm licence, but he had spent time somewhere experimenting with guns. Reloading 12 bore shotgun cartridges with slugs is not something you just do, it comes from acquired knowledge, study and it is a practise you have completed before. In his book Tango 190 David Rathbane suggested that Moat might have been instructed on how to do this in prison. That might have been the case, but I suspect he was already fully aware and was sufficiently experienced at it.
The illegal experimenting with varied shotgun ammunition is commonplace in the UK, both factory produced and home adapted and there are plenty of examples for all to see. The first structure below is in Surrey. It has been hit by a standard shotgun pellet load and penetrated by .223 rifle bullets and a 12 bore shotgun slug. The location of the second structure is clear. This has been penetrated by two SG shotgun cartridges. These are loaded with 9 lead balls, (8.1mm / .32 calibre) and are designed for larger game. In the USA this type of ammunition is refered to as 0 Buck and is also used for personal defence.
Moat had also claimed to doctor cartridges to lessen their lethality by removing a proportion of propellant. This is quite a task because it involves completely dismantling a cartridge. His claim to have done this with a view to just wounding his ex-lover Samantha Stobbard with such a cartridge was bizarre. It is perhaps more likely that he reduced the shot loads which would have been simpler and have the same effect. This is perhaps an example of his actions being misunderstood by people who have no idea how to accurately describe the process. Perhaps this narrative has got mixed up by investigators trying to explain what they thought he meant.
Chris Brown was shot three times, in the chest, back and head apparently with a mixture of solid shot and standard shot. Moat declared that he had intended to shoot his ex partner with a reduced load standard shot cartridge to punish her. He did a very poor job of minimising the effect on Sam Stobbard because the shot he fired at her through a window was extremely devastating and could have killed her. It was probably the window, range and luck that saved her from a fatal wound. When you consider the injuries that Sam Stobbard received they didn’t suggest a reduced load cartridge at all. In the darkness he could have simply got the cartridge cases mixed up and ended up firing a standard load at her.
PC David Rathband was shot by Raoul Moat through the closed side window of his police car with two standard shot gun loads. The range was less than two metres. Moat held the weapon muzzle against the window as you can see from the images. Notice the size of the holes. The wounds inflicted were catastrophic and Dave Rathband could easily have been killed. He was completely blinded and suffered horrific injuries to his face, head and right shoulder.
The police discharged two XREP Taser projectiles at Moat but they failed. Moat then shot himself with one of his solid slug loads. His uncle, Charles Alexander a retired Royal Artillery Warrant Officer went to identify Moat’s body. He remarked later that the wound inflicted was not from what he recognised as a shotgun wound. This served to stir the conspiracy theory that Moat was murdered by the police. Quite why we should consider that comments about firearms made by a Royal Artillery WO, (Warrant Officer) in this very specific instance should be knowledgeable and authoritative is intriguing. One would expect him to recognise the effects of artillery and military small-arms but it is an example of how the media suppose that anybody officially linked with weaponry, however remote from the case would have enough knowledge to comment. As an Army Warrant Officer, he would not have the need to have any experience with shotguns.
He described his nephew’s face and head as being unmarked except for bandages that covered a single entry wound to the right side of his head and an exit wound on the left side. Not consistent with shotgun injuries which in his view would have destroyed his head. Interesting analysis. Moat had shot himself with one of his adapted slug cartridges, he had used a single bullet. Secondly even if he’d used a standard shotgun cartridge the compressed weight of lead pellets at such range, (The shotgun muzzle was against his temple), would have acted like a single bullet anyway. Nevertheless this “expert” conjecture fuels the conspiracy even to the point that Alexander suggested that perhaps one of the Police officers present, fired his weapon at Moat and that was what actually killed him.
Books and articles have set out to describe the adapted ammunition that Raoul Moat used to kill and wound his victims. Whilst the authors in every case undoubtedly tried their best, they fail to accurately describe what Moat did. That is not their fault it is simply an example of the lack of understanding most writers authors and presenters have of firearms and ammunition. One described his over and under sawn off shotgun as a shotgun with one barrel on top of the other. That’s akin to a non-driver describing a manual car as having a springy pedal called a clutch.
Raoul Moat’s murderous rampage didn’t end with his sordid demise. David Rathband committed suicide in February 2012. His life changing injuries and circumstances combined with fractured personal relationships tragically drew him to this chosen end. Another casualty rarely mentioned was a most unlikely victim. Peter Boatman, a 57 year old retired Northamptonshire Police Inspector was the Director of Operations for Pro-Tect Systems. This company produced and supplied Tasers and stun-guns to Police Forces.
The company was marketing a wireless XREP, (extended range electronic projectile), Taser system that was discharged from a shotgun, the X-12. In an attempt to assist Northumbria Police in their role to contain Moat Peter Boatman supplied them with four of these untried systems that to date had no UK approval. After the whole debacle, the Home Office revoked Pro-Tect’s licence to trade because of a breach of terms and the unofficial supply of non-authorised systems. The shame and furore were too much for Peter Boatman and he took his own life on the 1st October 2010 just three days after the licence was revoked.
Raoul Moat is as much remembered by his grotesque caricature and recorded verbal assaults on the police as his cowardly acts of killing and injuring his victims. His crude and chaotic time on the run in the period he was supposedly “fooling” the authorities turned out to be almost pathetic. Sleeping out in a recreational tent and robbing fish and chip shops was like a cartoon caper. It was a long way from the rigours, endurance and sacrifice of historical persuit examples like the 1885 “Geronimo Campaign” which lasted for months. That was a true Manhunt.