By Tom Walker
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Raoul Moat: sick in a sick society

This article is over 11 years, 5 months old
The death of Raoul Moat raises awkward questions some don't want to discuss, argues Tom Walker
Issue 2211

“I would like to have, erm, a psychiatrist, psychologist, have a word with me regularly, on a regular basis… Why don’t we just have a psychiatrist sit me down and say: ‘Right, OK, I want to see you regularly, then we can move towards where your areas of fault are’.”

These are the words of Raoul Moat – recorded speaking to a social worker a year before he became the “crazed gunman” of tabloid sensation.

It was a clear cry for help from a man who ended up shooting three people in Rothbury, Northumberland, sparking a week-long manhunt that ended in a fatal standoff with the police.

“I’m quite emotionally unstable you know, I get myself over-the-top happy sometimes you know,” he says in the same recording.

“The more you block things out the more numb you become in the heart you know, you get to a point where happiness to you is just like, you know, neither here nor there.”

In the wake of his death, there was a small but real outpouring of sympathy, and questions about the police operation and the use of tasers as he died.

David Cameron flew into a rage about the idea that anyone could feel sorry for Moat.

Cameron said, “I cannot understand how there can be any public sympathy for him. Raoul Moat was a callous murderer. Full stop.”

This is a bit rich coming from the man responsible for the continuing Afghan and British deaths thanks to the war in Afghanistan.

Cameron’s comments, and the Daily Mail panic that followed them, saw a Facebook group titled “RIP Raoul Moat you legend” grow by 10,000 members a day.

There was a clear anti-authority streak to many of the comments in the group. In a note left early on, Moat had said, “The public need not fear me but the police should as I won’t stop till I’m dead.” Targeting the police in this way was undoubtedly popular.

But of course, Moat’s target was as much his partner Samantha as the police.


Most of those who idolise Moat for his rampage are little more than misogynists and wannabe Rambos, like the one who wrote on Facebook, “If my mrs ever does to me what she did to Raoul i hope im brave enough to do a Moaty.”

But the people who left flowers where Moat was shot were not some kind of “killer’s fan club”. Many of them were Moat’s personal friends, shocked that he could do such a thing – yet they were condemned as “sick” for their grief.

Moat’s brother Angus, a tax worker, said, “I accept what he did was wrong. But to die on that bank, suicidal and lonely – it broke my heart.”

The police did not allow Angus anywhere near Raoul Moat until he was dead, even though Angus asked to speak to him. Angus describes his brother’s end as a “public execution”.

If we’re looking for real bloodlust in this story, we might look in the police’s direction.

After all, there were hundreds of them running around Northumberland with guns that week.

There is no shortage of reports of how excited the police were to get tasers to use on Moat. Egged on by the media, they confronted him in front of cameras in a standoff that led to his death.

Yet while condemning Moat, Cameron defended the police to the hilt – even though they have murdered more people than Moat or any serial killer in history.

The truth is that Moat was neither a monster nor a martyr. He was a man suffering from deep alienation and mental illness.

Killers are made, not born. Moat asked for help over and over again – to his social workers, prison guards, anyone who would listen. But society left him to suffer.

One message attached to a bouquet of flowers read, “You were not helped and failed by the system massively.” It was right.

It is the easiest thing in the world to condemn an individual with a “full stop”.

But it is far more useful to understand how such individuals are created by the world we live in – and how we can change it.

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