TWO men who helped Raoul Moat evade police while on the run in Rothbury have been jailed for life.
Karl Ness, 26, of Dudley, North Tyneside, will not be eligible for parole for 40 years while Qhuram Awan, 23, of Blyth, will serve a minimum of 20 years behind bars, Newcastle Crown Court heard on Tuesday.
After a five-week trial, a jury found Awan guilty of attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, and robbery. He was cleared of a further charge of possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life.
Ness was found guilty of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life and robbery.
The defendants claimed they were forced at gunpoint to help the 37-year-old ex-doorman as he shot his girlfriend Samantha Stobbart, murdered her new lover Chris Brown, 29, then declared war on the police.
When the verdicts were read out the pair, who had been standing up, collapsed in their seats while relatives of the victims in the public gallery cried ‘yes’.
PC David Rathband, the police officer Moat left blinded after shooting him, hugged his sobbing wife Kath, while Mr Brown’s mother Sally gripped the hand of her daughter Beckie Njie as they broke down in tears.
Dramatic footage was released at the conclusion of the trial showing how the police used stun grenades to arrest the men in Rothbury, where they had been in hiding with Moat.
But the killer remained at large for a further four days before he shot himself after an armed stand-off with police on the banks of the Coquet in Rothbury.
The court heard both men had spurned numerous chances to tip off the police about Moat’s whereabouts while on shopping trips, including those at Sainsbury’s, Argos and Oxfam in Alnwick.
Ness was with steroid addict Moat on the night he calmly killed Mr Brown, a karate instructor.
Awan, a part-time mechanic and doorman, helped the pair afterwards by driving a getaway car to a woodland hideout in Rothbury.
The next day Awan drove Moat in his modified black Lexus to the junction of the A1 and A69 where PC Rathband was shot.
The pair were waiting in the car while the fugitive robbed a Seaton Delaval fish-and-chip shop and helped set up his campsite in a farm field.
Moat went on his rampage after he was released from Durham Prison hell bent on revenge after finding out Miss Stobbart was seeing someone else.
Paul Sloan, defending Ness, said: “Had it not been for Moat, none of these offences would have been committed.”
Jeremy Carter-Manning, defending Awan, also referred to the killer, saying: “This trial is Hamlet without the prince.”
Awan remained “horrified” by the officer’s shooting, he added.
Judge Richard McCombe said: “Here we have a case where three men formulated a plan to murder policemen indiscriminately, and then, pursuant to the plan, attempted – to within the thinnest thread of human life – to kill one officer, with appalling consequences. The roles played by these two defendants cannot be minimised.
“While the offences may not have been committed without Moat, it is difficult to see that they could have been committed in the manner they were without Ness and Awan respectively.
“This too can be said to be a crime meriting punishment of the utmost severity, even though these defendants did not fire the gun.”
The judge ruled that Ness and Awan were a danger to the public.
“Each defendant willingly joined in a plan to commit random murders of police officers, knowing precisely what Moat had already done to Mr Brown and Miss Stobbart,” he said.
“The plan resulted in an offence that nearly achieved the aim.”
After the trial, Det Supt Jim Napier said: “We welcome these sentences which reflect the severity of the crimes Karl Ness and Qhuram Awan were involved in.
“Both men now have a long time in which to reflect on their cowardly actions which left one man dead, two people seriously injured and countless others traumatised.
“Throughout that week last July both men had numerous opportunities to stop these unfolding events and prevent people being killed and injured. However neither took any responsibility for their actions. ”