Gunman Raoul Moat prepares for last stand

FUGITIVE gunman Raoul Moat was believed to be hiding in remote countryside last night, awaiting his final stand with armed police.

• Moat's black Lexus car, centre, abandoned at an industrial estate, as armed police patrol the area. Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA

Officers and sniffer dogs scoured fields, woods and outhouses for the former nightclub bouncer near where he abandoned his car in Rothbury, Northumberland.

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An ex-girlfriend revealed that he knew the rugged landscape around the village "like the back of his hand" and said he could live rough there for days.

Waitress Yvette Foreman, 35, said: "I told police as soon as I heard he was on the loose he'd be heading for here and they did nothing."

Yesterday, Northumbria Police set up a two-mile exclusion zone around Rothbury and ordered children to be kept in school as they announced the net was closing on the alleged killer.

Moat, 37, used a rambling letter to the force to declare war on the police, whom he blames for taking away his children, freedom and former girlfriend.

In a chilling warning, he wrote: "The public need not fear me but the police should as I won't stop till I'm dead."

The focus of the massive manhunt dramatically shifted to Rothbury yesterday after Moat's black Lexus saloon was found parked on an industrial estate beside the River Coquet.

Local residents alerted officers after detectives made an appeal for information about the vehicle late on Monday night.

Police imposed a media blackout on reporting that the gunman was holding two men hostage, but it was lifted yesterday when the pair were found near Rothbury.

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They were then arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder and taken into custody.

Moat boasted of kidnapping the two men from the Gateshead area in a series of taunts through phonecalls and in his 49-page handwritten letter to police.

Detective Chief Superintendent Neil Adamson, who is leading the hunt, appealed once again to the gunman to give himself up.

He said: "Mr Moat, I have a further message for you. I have made a number of requests to you to contact police and hand yourself in. That opportunity still exists.

"Please remember what I have said to you before. Do not leave your children with distressing memories of their father. You still have a future.