Shot police officer ‘had affair with 7/7 survivor’

Lisa French said Mr Rathbone had talked of suicide. Picture: PA
Lisa French said Mr Rathbone had talked of suicide. Picture: PA
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The policeman blinded by gunman Raoul Moat was found dead at his home after an affair with a survivor of the 7/7 bombing effectively ended his marriage, an inquest has heard.

David Rathband, 44, who won widespread admiration for the way he tackled his blindness, created the Blue Lamp Foundation to help emergency workers injured at work.

But after attending the trial of two of Moat’s accomplices in the spring of 2011, Mr Rathband lost motivation and had failed to adjust to losing his sight, his widow, Kath, told the inquest at Newcastle’s Moot Hall.

In February 2012, he was found hanging at the house in Blyth, Northumberland, that he had moved into following a domestic incident with his wife.

Mrs Rathband, mother of Ash, 21, and Mia, 15, said her husband had had several affairs with women, but his last, with Lisa French, a survivor of the 2005 London bombing, ended their marriage. “By this point, it was my opinion our marriage was over, due to David’s level of deceit,” she told the inquest.

She said she had always forgiven him for his previous affairs. “This was the one and only occasion I felt me and the kids had had enough,” she said.

Mrs Rathband found out that the friendship with Ms French, which started on Twitter, had become more serious just days before her husband flew to Australia to visit his twin, Darren.

She told the inquest he could not understand why she would not take him back, and would call her up to 100 times a day.

It became so bad she enlisted the support of the domestic violence unit, she told the inquest.

Mr Rathband would send abusive messages, and would sometimes threaten to self-harm. But his wife said the pattern was for him to send unpleasant messages to her but to be calm and rational when she spoke directly to him.

From Australia, Mr Rathband called her pretending to be a police officer announcing his death, and then said “You will see a fluorescent jacket at the door” – a reference to how the news would be broken to her by the emergency services.

Mrs Rathband said one abusive message she received when he was in Australia read: “I will swing before you receive a penny.”

She visited him for the last time on the evening he died. He looked “awful”, was not eating, and was still in his pyjamas, she told the coroner.

He was upset, telling her he loved her and apologised.

Mrs Rathband realised he needed support, but felt she was not the right person to be with him and contacted his sister, Debbie Essery, in Staffordshire and his welfare officer, Inspector John Heckles.

After she left him, he rang to tell her that “I wouldn’t see him again”, Mrs Rathband said.

He also told her: “Don’t bother sending anyone round. If you do, they won’t get in and I will say I am fine.”

Mrs Rathband said: “I told him ‘Don’t be stupid, don’t say things like that’.” She said she heard the “devastating news David had taken his own life” later that evening. Officers, including Insp Heckles, broke into his home and found him hanging in the darkness, with music playing from his phone.

The inquest heard that the previous August, there had been a domestic incident at their home after she found out he was leaving her. Mr Rathband got “mad” when he heard her talking to a friend about it and their son called the police.

It was after the incident, which was attended by police, that Mr Rathband moved out of the family home but she insisted they remained “very much” a couple until she found out about his new lover.

Ms French told the hearing he had expressed suicidal thoughts to her, but that he did not want to go through with it. “He fought bravely and courageously for the whole six months that I knew him,” she said.

She had been worried about his welfare and had recommended he needed very specialist support to get over the trauma, she said.

Before firing at Mr Rathbone, Moat shot and injured his ex-girlfriend and killed her boyfriend. Moat shot himself in Rothbury, Northumberland, during a standoff with police after a week-long manhunt.

The inquest continues.