Shooting ends British fugitive siege

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One of Britain's biggest-ever manhunts ended Saturday when the fugitive gunman apparently shot himself in a tense armed stand-off with police.

After gradually closing the net on Raul Moat, who had been on the run in the countryside for a week after a deadly shooting spree, armed police surrounded him in the country village at the very epicentre of the massive manhunt.

They cornered the 37-year-old bouncer by a riverbank late Friday and had been been negotiating into the night in pouring rain before the siege concluded in dramatic circumstances.

In a search that brought in police officers from across the kingdom, Moat was finally captured in Rothbury, north of Newcastle in northeast England.

He is wanted for shooting dead his ex-girlfriend's new partner, and seriously injuring her plus a policeman in the Newcastle area shortly after being released from prison.

Police said they found a man fitting the father-of-three's description in Rothbury at around 7:00 pm (1800 GMT) Friday.

"Raoul Thomas Moat was discovered by police in the vicinity of the riverbank and he was armed," Northumbria Police said in a statement.

"Expert negotiators were brought in to speak to him and spoke to him extensively for several hours.

"At around 1:15 am (0015 GMT), from information available at the moment, it appears the suspect shot himself. No shots were fired by police officers.

"He is currently in hospital receiving treatment for his injuries.

"No officers have been injured."

The search for Moat closed in quickly on Friday.

It had focused on the wild terrain around Rothbury after a car linked to him was found abandoned there.

Detectives arrested two people accused of helping him, 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.

They said they had "recovered valuable information".

Armed police had imposed a lockdown around Rothbury for days and within hours threw an exclusion zone around part of the village as the siege began, with those stuck inside ordered to stay inside their homes.

The case was dominating domestic television news channels and Britain's tabloid newspapers.

BBC television showed a grainy, night-vision footage of the moment the stand-off ended, which featured shouting and dogs barking in the pouring rain.

Sky News screened footage of an ambulance under police escort leaving the scene.

At Newcastle General Hospital, Moat was seen being carried in on a stretcher, with a blanket covering his head.

Saturday's newspapers were filled with headlines about the siege.

"Got Him", said The Sun and the Daily Express's front pages, while the Daily Mail said "Cornered".

The search for Moat included officers from 15 forces including specialist snipers, and armoured all-terrain cars from Northern Ireland. A Royal Air Force plane with imaging equipment also joined the search.

Moat had been serving an 18-week sentence for assault.

In letters left for detectives he claimed to be a "killer and a maniac", declared "war" on the police and said in a letter to them he would not stop killing "till I'm dead".

© 2010 AFP

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