Raoul Moat: Hero or Villain?

After a week-long manhunt in the wilds of Northumbria, involving the RAF, search and rescue teams, Met police firearms officers and armoured cars sent over by the PSNI, Raoul Moat is dead.

What has interested me most during this whole sorry saga of guns and testosterone is the differing attitudes of sections of the British public towards this man.

There are some who appear to see Moat as a sort of folk hero (almost in the Harry Roberts mold) because he had a grudge against the police, acted on it, and managed to evade them for so long – although if the press blackout on Moat’s communications had been lifted sooner some of this group may possibly have changed their view on that…

There are others who are sympathetic to Moat’s actions because he had “issues” and clearly needed help. Ex-footballer Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne, who has publicly battled his own demons, appears to have been one of this group, turning up in Rothbury last night with a dressing gown, a can of lager and a fishing rod in order to ‘save’ his pal ‘Moaty’.

When contacted on holiday abroad, Gazza’s manager Kenny Shepherd perfectly encapsulated most people’s bemusement at this peculiar turn of events with this astonished comment:

“He’s doing what? I am sitting having an evening meal in Majorca. I’m speechless.”

Moat needed help all right, that in itself was obvious from his behaviour over the last weeks. It is disturbing, however, that he did not get the help he needed before things got to this point – it was very clear that the violence, aggression and paranoia he was exhibiting on his release from prison had been a part of his psychological make-up for some time and that the authorities were aware of this. Many media reports stated that he had been using steroids, a drug believed to cause or exacerbate aggression in users; something that can’t have helped the situation any.

However, what those who are attempting (even subconsciously) to justify Moat’s actions don’t seem to grasp is that this whole sequence of events need not have ever happened.

Moat was no hero, he was a violent, abusive man who deserves no adulation – and the authorities deserve little praise either, because they could have stopped this happening in the first place.

As with many individuals who are abusive to their partners, the warning signs were all there in Moat’s behaviour – it’s just that no-one in a position to help chose to pick up on them. And, sadly, this is not uncommon.

For example, police were warned by the prison services that he posed a risk to his ex-girlfriend when he was released from jail at the beginning of July.

Nothing was done.

Why not?

Surely every incident of domestic violence (or threat thereof) should be a priority for the police, or am I simply naïve in thinking this?

From her statements during the manhunt, it is clear that Moat’s ex-girlfriend Samantha Stobbard had – understandably – been frightened by his violent behaviour for some time, yet she was given no official warning of his threats against her. Any threat such as this, against anybody in this sort of position (and especially when the threat comes from a man with a history of convictions for violence) should instantly be prioritized by the police.

By not doing so in this incident, two people are in hospital and two people (including Moat) are dead.

The evidence was there – it must have been for the prison service to warn the police about him in the first place. Personally, it was his much quoted Facebook status and the 49-page letter sent to police that really set alarm bells ringing for me – particularly the lines:

“I never cheated on her, I wish she hadn’t on me. She pulled the trigger by doing so just as much as me”

These words are a textbook example of an abuser’s self-justification for their behaviour – instead of taking responsibility for doing wrong, it’s easier just to blame the victim. To Moat, it was Sam’s fault she got shot, she had forced his hand.

Samantha Stoddard is by no means the only person to be assaulted (or worse) by a violent partner or ex-partner after warnings have been given to the authorities and seemingly ignored. Most of the time stories like hers do not demand any media attention, let alone the kind of high-profile, hysterical and prurient coverage given to this particular case. Domestic violence, in all its many and horrific forms, is still frighteningly common and under-reported in the UK.

All of this makes domestic violence, in the words of the information and support website of the same name, truly a ‘Hidden Hurt’. Although official and legal attitudes have changed over time and the number of excellent organisations who help survivors of domestic violence has increased, there are still too many cases of individuals not being believed or taken seriously by the authorities when they try to stop the abuse.

If a police force, as in this case, ignores evidence of threats from a man like Raoul Moat, passed on to them by the prison service (ffs), they are going to have to work bloody hard to get victims and survivors to believe they will actually be understood and assisted when they attempt to seek help from the authorities….

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10 comments

  1. Richard Turpin

    Apparently his last words before he ‘shot himself’ (or involuntarily discharged a shotgun into his head after being spasmed by 100,000 volts) were ‘I ain’t got no dad no one cares about me’ his own mentally ill mother who abandoned him as a child was tracked down for a quote ‘he is better off dead’ which apparently Moat saw in the media, and referred to in his recorded ramblings – which ran to 4 hours and were largely incomprehensible ‘can’t sleep more than an hour a night, feel like I am on ecstacy, nothing is real its like a film, can’t be the medication that stopped at the prison’ (reported today)

    Nobody comes out of this well, but least of all the grinning goon of a Police Chief Constable, laughing at him being called a nutter, in a card written by a child inexplicably read out to the press, while he hid 50 yards from her meeting place.

    • trickygirl

      Thanks for your comment, Richard.

      What surprised me was that Moat is said to have killed himself – this is a complete assumption on my part, but he seemed to me to be aiming for ‘suicide by cop’ instead. I don’t expect the IPCC report will actually explain anything or help matters at all.

      I think you are right when you point out that nobody has come out of this well. It shouldn’t have come to this point in the first place, and, if more attention had been paid to the warnings, then perhaps it wouldn’t have.

  2. Kid In The Front Row

    Thanks for writing this. Very interesting. I am trying my very best to comprehend the public’s sympathy for him, but I can’t relate to it at all, or really understand it. I don’t want to completely dismiss it, or judge it; all I can say is, I’m really confused by it.

    • trickygirl

      Thank you for your comment. You’re not the only one who is confused by it all, I feel the same way. Moat obviously had mental health issues (something we need to understand more in this society), but he did some terrible, awful, unforgivable things – the true motivation for which will probably never be understood. It’s very difficult to get your head round such a paradoxical situation.

  3. failingmoat?

    He clearly is a twisted bastard,but in this day and age what man isn’t?There is an abundance of porn on the internet,which trumped up american reasearchers say is perfectly normal?There is nothing normal about the violence in even mainstream pornography!Every guy on the planet has a computer and acess to the most graphic violent capture rape and murder videos is everywhere!!There are very few it guys i know who don’t dabble..there is censorship on tv but no censorship on the internet,there is no internation coherent law even!

    I think we live in a SICK world and that is half the problem,people like moet are evil anyway,but there is so much evil in society,everything is about tv or internet,there is no communication,it is all peer pressure,most boys grow up,(being a guy myself i know this),seperating from the mother,girls are icky etc..and seeking manhood via porn,even some of the porn i watched now,as a recovering sex addict i know was wrong and dangerous..i am somewhat reformed but i will never be the same man,and there are millions upon billions of us out there..not seeking help..

    • trickygirl

      Thank you for your comment. I think you make a good point about the sexualisation of society – I certainly think that has become a major issue within my lifetime.

      I also agree that lack of communication is a problem in society – in fact, I think that it played a central part in the whole Moat situation, particularly in that the police appear to have ignored the warning about Moat’s state of mind that the prison service (who were in a position to know about it) sent to them when he was released.

      I’m not sure he was evil though. Sick, yes – he was very clearly mentally unwell. You make a good point about peer pressure; that can have a major impact on an individual, particularly one who is troubled already.

      Whether Moat had sought help or not (or even sought help and not received it) I don’t know, but it is clear to me that his troubles played a central role in the fact that this situation occurred in the first place.

  4. Officer confused

    I don’t understand as to how people can treat this person as a hero. He has hurt many, shot people, killed a man, and people treat him as a hero?!

    I guess we can’t blame him, but the the fact that he was mentally ill, or on the verge of it, They should of seen this coming. why did they release him the the first place? or put his ex girlfriend under protection?

    The people who treat him like a modern day robin hood are completely insane.Little sympathy should be given to him, and ONLY to his family.

    That’s my opinion, of course. If we’re talking about a completely different topic on Raoul Moat here, I apologies, as I really needed to say this.

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