British police in talks with fugitive 'gunman'
British police chasing a suspected gunman at the epicentre of a massive manhunt after allegedly shooting three people said Friday they were negotiating with a man they believe is the fugitive.
Television reports said armed police had surrounded 37-year-old Raoul Moat, who was holding a gun to his neck.
Moat is accused of shooting dead his ex-girlfriend's new partner, and seriously injuring her and a policeman in and around Newcastle, northeast England, shortly after being released from prison.
He has been on the run for a week since and police have slowly been closing the net in a huge operation around the country village of Rothbury, north of Newcastle.
"A man who fits the description of Raoul Thomas Moat has been located in the riverbank area in the vicinity of Rothbury. Police are currently negotiating," a Northumbria Police spokeswoman said.
"There has been no arrest made at present."
Armed police have imposed a lockdown around Rothbury for days and have now thrown an exclusion zone around part of the village, with those stuck inside ordered to stay inside their homes.
Earlier Friday detectives arrested two people accused of helping Moat, found three of his mobile phones and released photographs of camping equipment including a tent and sleeping bag which he and accomplices are thought to have used.
"I am certain that these phones were all used by Mr. Moat," said Detective Chief Superintendent Neil Adamson.
"We have recovered valuable information from them and are pursuing numerous leads in connection with this information."
The case is dominating domestic television news channels and Britain's tabloid newspapers.
Soon after announcing they were negotiating with their suspect, Northumbria Police said media activity was "compromising our operation" in Rothbury, imposing an air exclusion zone and asking media on the ground to stay away.
Officers earlier said it was "highly probable" that Moat, a nightclub bouncer and bodybuilder, was still in the Rothbury area.
But they say one of the reasons why it had proved so hard to find him was the "challenging terrain" which is "full of hills, ravines, caves, dense woodland and deep water".
Moat is thought to have a major grievance against the police but they have warned that recent information suggests he "may now pose a threat to the wider public".
Two men appeared in court Thursday in connection with the case, one accused of being with Moat when he allegedly shot his ex-girlfriend and her partner and another of supplying him with a gun.
A total of six people have now been arrested.
Moat had been serving an 18-week sentence for assault.
He has declared "war" on police and said in a letter to them he would not stop killing "till I'm dead".
© 2010 AFP