The Hunt for Raoul Moat airs on ITV
On the first anniversary of the death of Raoul Moat, a female admirer travelled all the way from Surrey to Rothbury in the northeast of England to place flowers on the spot where, in 2010, the cold-blooded killer had committed suicide. The part-time bouncer had shot dead his former girlfriend Samantha Stobbart’s new partner and seriously injured her and a police officer before going on the run for six days and sparking a huge manhunt. Asked why she had made the long journey, the woman explained: “We’re here because Raoul Moat is a hero to us.”
To most of us, the notion a thuggish killer running amok with a sawn-off shotgun might be seen as a hero is abhorrent. Yet even today, the idea persists in some circles that “Moaty” was “a legend”.
The Hunt for Raoul Moat, a riveting new drama that starts on ITV later this month, shows why he should be regarded as a heinous criminal rather than a hero.
After Moat had evaded one of the largest manhunts in British police history for almost a week during early July 2010, becoming the centre of the first story obsessively covered on 24-hour news and social media, a grotesque narrative began to develop.
Kevin Sampson, the writer of the new drama, reflects: “Not only were his actions not seen as appalling and inhumane, but there were swathes of people who were inclined to see something of the folk hero in Moat.
“The longer the process went on, the more uncomfortable it became for the police that they hadn’t been able to capture him. And so there was definitely a narrative that he was running rings round them, and that recommended him to certain people.”
British killer Raoul Moat
Kevin, who also wrote Anne, the powerful ITV drama about the tireless Hillsborough campaigner Anne Williams, played by Maxine Peake, adds: “There’s always going to be a strain in society that lionises these sorts of characters. What certainly fed it in this case was the length of the hunt. There was something voyeuristic about it.
“Some people found the idea of the police being led a merry dance amusing. They thought it was funny that the police could not find this guy who was allegedly right there under their noses.
“There is a British tendency to see the police in a certain way, and this case played into that. Other than that, some people are just unkind, aren’t they?”
The other very topical theme that emerges strongly in The Hunt for Raoul Moat is toxic masculinity – something that, in the intervening years, has become a political hot potato.
Released from Durham Prison after serving 18 weeks for assaulting his own child, Moat was beside himself with anger when he heard that Miss Stobbart had a new boyfriend.
When she refused to get back together with him, Moat, a simmering ball of barely suppressed rage, hissed menacingly: “Don’t do this to me. I won’t let you.”
The 37-year-old posted on Facebook that he had lost everything and warned: “Now just watch what happens.”
Two days after leaving jail, Moat found out where Miss Stobbart and her new partner were living and turned up at their house, livid, armed and dangerous. He shot Chris Brown dead and seriously wounded Samantha.
The next day, harbouring a burning sense of resentment towards the police, and erroneously blaming them for ruining his business, Moat blinded a random police officer, David Rathband, by firing point blank into his face.
Unable to cope with his disability, David committed suicide 18 months later.
This idea of toxic masculinity has been very much in the news recently following the detention in Romania of the online influencer Andrew Tate as a part of a human trafficking and rape investigation.
Tate is the deeply unpleasant British-American former Big Brother contestant who has boasted he is, “Absolutely a misogynist… There’s no way you can be rooted in reality and not be sexist.”
He was thrown off Twitter for claiming women should “bear responsibility” when they have been sexually assaulted. He has since been reinstated and now has 5.8 million followers. Millions of young boys and men reportedly buy into his misogynistic cult. He was released from prison to house arrest on Friday.
Controversial online influencer Andrew Tate
Kevin makes a connection between the deeply sexist attitudes of Tate and Moat – believing you can draw a line between them.
“There is a sense that their philosophy falls within certain parameters of masculine pride, which are somehow being seen as eroded or slighted,” he says. “This version of masculinity assumes certain rights for males that aren’t given to females.”
The writer thinks that, “Without toxic masculinity, there would be far less domestic violence, and perhaps this situation with Moat would not have arisen in the first place.
“There are numerous recordings available of Moat’s interactions with social services. He is an articulate and occasionally compelling narrator. But some of the phraseology that he relies upon speaks directly to that very idea of toxic masculinity.”
This rampant misogyny was also used by Moat to justify dreadful acts of domestic abuse. “He didn’t believe he was brutal with Samantha,” Kevin continues.
“He said repeatedly, ‘I just gave her a bit of a slap,’ as though that’s his right; that’s one of his options to maintain discipline in his household. It was a huge part of his philosophy.”
Thirteen years on from this tragic case, domestic violence is more common than ever. “During lockdown, it took me aback to hear that incidents of domestic violence were going through the roof,” Kevin says.
“For a long time, crimes against women generally, but specifically domestic violence, have been under-emphasised and under-reported. In terms of the range of sentencing options, they have been treated as lesser offences, and all that appalled me.”
Matt Stokoe as Raoul Moat in show
Kevin continues: “To give a recent example of how unfortunately prevalent that point of view still is, I watched a police drama recently. In the opening scenes, a female victim seemingly falls from a balcony and has serious injuries. The local police force uses the phrase, ‘It was probably just a domestic’.
“It’s that qualifying phrase ‘just a domestic,’ which implies things that happen within the home are somehow to be treated less seriously than things that happen outside the home.”
Another element of The Hunt for Raoul Moat that has contemporary resonance is the concept of victim blaming. “This series is about blaming the wrong people,” asserts Gareth Bryn, the director of the drama, “and allowing Moat to have a voice and become the victim.
“It’s all nonsense, but it happened because his voice was louder than anybody else’s. It was about who controls the narrative. Hopefully, by telling this story and shifting the focus back to the real victims, then maybe we can redress some of that.”
To reiterate how timely the idea of victim blaming is, Kevin points to the shocking rape and murder in 2021 of Sarah Everard by Wayne Couzens, a serving police officer.
“All of us can remember how in the immediate 24 hours after Sarah Everard’s murder, there was a growing narrative that in some way she had contributed to her fate.”
Because of this alarming tendency to blame the victim, Kevin was eager to make the drama not about Moat, but about those who suffered at his hands.
According to the writer: “Our mission really was to give voice to the victims and to tell the story of what happened from their point of view. It very much focuses on them rather than Moat.
“There’s a version of this – that you have to completely steer clear of – where you’re fetishising a character like Moat.”
Interestingly, the day after he was released from prison, Moat went to his barber’s and asked for a haircut in the style of Robert De Niro’s anti-hero character in the Martin Scorsese film Taxi Driver.
“He set his stall out and said that he was going out ‘to kick some ass’,” Kevin adds. “But that is not a perspective I’m interested in at all.”
Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of this story is the fact that, at one point during the stand-off, the ex-England footballer Paul Gascoigne came to Rothbury, saying he was a friend of the fugitive. In an effort to persuade Moat to give himself up, Paul offered to bring him chicken, lager and – almost unbelievably – a fishing rod.
Paul Gascoigne will not be in show
“We were quite keen not to go there, not to turn it into a circus,” says Gareth.
The police forbade him from approaching Moat, but Gascoigne’s arrival added to the circus surrounding the murder and manhunt.
The producers of The Hunt for Raoul Moat decided against portraying Gascoigne.
“We hint at it. It’s there in the background, as texture, rather than anything we want to highlight, because Paul Gascoigne at the time wasn’t a very well man. To have put that sharply into focus in a TV drama would have been insensitive. It wouldn’t really have helped the message that we were trying to project.”
Kevin sums up what he trusts audiences will take away from the drama.
“I hope people who are coming to it with any sense that anything Moat did was entertaining will look at it through a fresh lens and think twice about that.
“It’s a horrific story. But in terms of public interest, it’s a gripping story. It’s a really potent platform to raise some of these issues and challenge the audience to take an honest look at what their opinion was at the time.”
The writer closes by underscoring his hope that the drama will ultimately pay tribute to the victims. “I wanted to make sure that, not only are they not forgotten, but also that they are honoured.”
The director agrees: “I just hope that we can shift the narrative. Moat’s voice was incredibly loud for a very long time. It would be good for people to see the other side of this story and also to realise that, although this might have been a few weeks of some sensational headlines and some may have found it entertaining at the time, real people were affected by this.
“Sam and her family have had to move house several times since all this ended. They continue to live in the shadow of this horrific event.”
At the end of the drama, Gareth adds: “Sam’s waking up in hospital after Moat has shot himself. Her mum turns to her and says, ‘It’s all over.’ Sam replies, ‘It’ll never be over.’ How true that is. That family is still suffering today.”