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Police 'closing net' on fugitive British gunman

world Updated: Jul 06, 2010 20:42 IST

AFP
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British police said on Tuesday that they were "closing the net" on a fugitive suspected of shooting three people, after arresting two men who were initially believed to have been taken hostage by the gunman.

Raoul Thomas Moat, 37, has been on the run for four days since allegedly shooting his ex-girlfriend, her boyfriend and a police officer in northeast England at the weekend. The boyfriend died and the others were badly injured.

Police have locked down an area in Rothbury, Northumberland, where they found Moat's car and near where they picked up two men walking along a road who they believed had been held hostage since the killings.

In a dramatic twist, police announced at a press conference that the two men had been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder.

"I can confirm that both men are the people we believe were the hostages," Detective Chief Superintendent Neil Adamson told reporters, adding that police had believed the men's lives to be at "significant risk".

"Both have been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder. Both are currently in police custody.

"At this time Mr. Moat has not been located. I am confident, however, that with the support of the wider public and the continuing efforts of our staff, that we are closing the net on Moat."

Moat was released from jail on Thursday after serving a short sentence for assault and early Saturday, allegedly shot his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend.

Samantha Stobbart remains in critical condition but the boyfriend was killed.

In the early hours of Sunday, detectives believe the father-of-three also shot and critically injured a police officer in the nearby city of Newcastle.

It is thought that Moat believed his ex-girlfriend had been having an affair with a police officer, but police say she has not been romantically involved with a policeman.
Adamson reiterated appeals for Moat to turn himself in, saying: "You still have a future. Give yourself up now."

In a handwritten letter passed to The Sun newspaper, Moat "declared war" on the police, saying: "The public need not fear me, but the police should as I won't stop till I am dead."