British police warn public in hunt for on-the-run 'gunman'

9th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

British police hunting a suspected gunman thought to have gone to ground in wild countryside after being on the run for nearly a week warned the public Friday to be extra-vigilant.

Raoul Moat is accused of seriously injuring his ex-girlfriend and a policeman and killing her new partner in Newcastle, northeast England, before apparently fleeing to the nearby Northumbria National Park and setting up camp.

Now officers are warning residents of the quiet village of Rothbury, on the edge of the rugged area, to take extra care in case Moat, a 37-year-old nightclub bouncer and bodybuilder, strikes again.

Police are even being stationed at Rothbury's three schools after residents put in a request at a public meeting attended by around 300 people Thursday.

"Don't put yourself at unnecessary risk. Close your doors, close your windows, make sure you are safe in your houses," said Chief Superintendent Mark Dennett. "Please go about your normal business, but with some vigilance."

Moat's main grievance is thought to be against the police, but Dennett has warned that recent information suggests he "may now pose a threat to the wider public".

Officers are using a helicopter equipped with thermal imaging equipment to try and track Moat, while specialist search teams and firearms officers have also been deployed.

They say it is "highly probable" he is still in the Rothbury area, adding one of the reasons why it was proving so hard to find him was the "challenging terrain" of the region, which was "full of hills, ravines, caves, dense woodland and deep water".

The national park, which covers over 1,030 square kilometres, is open for business as usual despite the manhunt.

The shootings happened on Saturday, two days after Moat was released from jail.

He has declared "war" on police and said in a letter to them he would not stop killing "till I'm dead".

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.

Police have released closed-circuit television pictures of Moat in a do-it-yourself store hours before the shootings, showing him with a distinctive new mohican haircut and in a tight-fitting bright orange T-shirt.

© 2010 AFP

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