Force gave ‘highest’ support to shot officer, says chief

A police chief has rejected criticism of her force from the family of PC David Rathband who took hanged himself 20 months after being shot and blinded by gun maniac Raoul Moat.

Some relatives of the 44-year-old traffic officer, who was found hanging at his home in Blyth, Northumberland in February 2012, have said more should have been done to save him from the despair he felt.

On the third day of an inquest in Newcastle, coroner Eric Armstrong ruled he took his own life, adding that being shot by Moat was the “first step” in the series of events that led to his death.

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After the hearing, Northumbria Police chief constable Sue Sim said she had promised Mr Rathband he could return to work as a police officer.

A role with the Roads Safety Unit had been found and he was due to start within weeks of his death, she said.

“There have been criticisms levelled at Northumbria Police during the inquest by some of David’s family,” she said.

“We fully understand the family’s grief but we must refute any suggestion that we failed to support David or that the support we provided was inadequate.

“Such allegations are totally without justification. We provided the highest level of financial, welfare and rehabilitation support, far in excess of any legal duty.”

The chief said Mr Rathband had been kept on full pay and received personal support throughout, and his welfare officer, inspector John Heckles, had tried to see him in the days before he died.

The police chief said the force organised help from a psychologist, trauma counsellor, rehabilitation experts, specialist equipment and offered private treatment for pain.

She said: “It was entirely David’s decision whether or not to accept it. He was often very busy with other commitments such that he failed to attend scheduled appointments.

“We are confident that we did everything we could in these exceptional circumstances to support David financially, medically and in every other way possible.”

After he was shot, Mr Rathband set up his Blue Lamp Foundation to help injured 999 staff.

But after attending the trial of two of Moat’s accomplices he lost focus.

Late in 2011 his wife Katherine discovered he was having an affair with the 7/7 survivor Lisa French, which ended the marriage. Mr Rathband would phone his wife up to 50 times a day and begged her to forgive him.

She visited him for the last time on the night he died and was concerned for his well-being. He was found hanging by police officers.

Before the inquest, Mr Rathband’s father Keith said his son had been “let down” and his sister Debbie Essery said her family did not accept that the police had no case to answer. Mrs Essery and Mr Rathband’s identical twin Darren are suing Northumbria Police for the benefit of his children, she said.