WHY DO I feel a sense of sadness at the death of Raoul Moat? He killed an innocent man, attempted to kill his ex-girlfriend, wounding her critically, and shot a policeman at point-blank range as he sat in his patrol car on the outskirts of Newcastle. I’m fully aware that f I was mourning, or sitting at the bedside of, one of Moat’s victims, I’d no doubt be delighted with the outcome of the stand-off in Rothbury. The sadness is not so much for the man, as the sickness it exposes in society: and not just of those who’ve offered support, without even knowing him, but who’ve enjoyed the drama of it all.
I’m equally sure that a lot of people will be thinking good riddance: at least this way we don’t have to foot the bill for a trial, or his lifelong imprisonment, from our taxes. I heard a psychologist who knows about these things (apparently) talking about Raoul Moat: how clever he had been at manipulating the public to gain maximum sympathy. How people had posted supportive messages on his Facebook site, on the lines of ‘Good on you, Raoul. She got what she deserved.” How this was ‘typical’ of many young males’ attitudes to women: if they cheat on you, they deserve everything they get. It is, I agree, a sick and twisted mind that thinks like that and there are a lot of them about.
Moat was, said the expert, a wife-beater and a child-beater, presenting himself to the world as a victim: no wonder I was taken in, I thought. What a rotter. What a nasty, evil, selfish man.
I had followed the case with a macabre interest. Earlier in the day I’d tuned in to Sky News, fascinated by the murky green, night-time images of the moment the stand-off had ended. There was, in reality, not much to see, just a lot of shouting and wailing and a distant shot, and the pounding of the rain on what sounded like canvas. It was eerie and terrible, and I realise now that I was at that moment nothing more than a voyeur – actually enjoying the horror and the drama, safe at my computer screen in my nice warm kitchen.
Then tonight I watched a BBC video clip of an interview with Raoul Moat’s older brother, Angus. On the BBC website there was a sepia-tinted picture of them both: two tiny boys, smart, happy, smiling and looking as innocent and endearing as – well, my own or Ian’s children at that age. It has no doubt stood on a proud parent’s or grandparent’s sideboard for 30 years or more, carrying no hint of the horror that would one day engulf the family.
Angus said he didn’t condone for a minute the terrible things his brother had done. “He was a mentally ill man under a lot of stress who cracked, and it was just the final straw.His actions, although I appreciate were absolutely horrendous, and although I wish he hadn’t gone ahead and done what he did, were a cry of anguish. It was a cry of pain. The media have been bigging him up as a kind of Rambo type character. It’s crazy.”
Raoul Moat had said during the final stand-off with the police that nobody cared about him nobody loved him. Another fine piece of manipulation to gain sympathy? Or the cry of anguish his brother had referred to?
Who knows? But it does paint another picture of the man I, surely among many, had seen as nothing more than beast, whose deadly rampage and eventual cornering provided fodder for the media machine which can only operate because we crave the drama it brings into our living rooms.