ONE year ago this week, the picturesque village of Rothbury was in the middle of one of the country’s biggest manhunts as killer Raoul Moat hid out in Coquetdale.
Twelve months later and the village wants to continue with normal life and forget the chaotic events of last July, which saw armed police roaming the streets and a huge media circus unfold.
Rothbury was forced into the spotlight on Tuesday, July 5, when a Lexus car was discovered. It was believed to be the vehicle which gunman Moat used as a getaway vehicle after shooting ex-girlfriend Samantha Stobbart and killing her partner Chris Brown in Birtley two days earlier.
A two-mile land and five-mile, 5,000ft air exclusion zone was put around Rothbury as it went into lockdown.
And for the next week, the sleepy village became the focus of the world’s media as hundreds of police from forces across the country, as well as specialist units from Northern Ireland, were drafted in to look for the killer.
Schools were surrounded by armed officers and it became the norm to see police roaming the streets.
Media crews set up where they thought the freshest information was coming from and Rothbury’s Jubilee Hall was turned into a press conference room.
Even the National Trust’s Cragside property was closed down as sightings from its extensive grounds were reported.
But despite the chaos, villagers remained adamant that they wouldn’t let it get to them.
The manhunt came to a bloody end when Moat was surrounded by police on the banks of the River Coquet on July 9. After a seven-hour stand-off, he shot himself dead.
Although residents are trying to forget that it happened and move on, flowers continue to be left at the scene and visitors still come to see where it all took place.
Chief Constable of Northumbria Police, Sue Sim, found herself thrust directly into the spotlight.
She said: “The community of Rothbury has always received me as an honorary resident and I’m very grateful to be thought of in that way. The people are wonderful and the local communities have been incredibly supportive of all my officers.
“The support the local people have given the local police is magnificent.
“Life for the people of Rothbury is going on as it was before all this happened and it will carry on in exactly the same way.
“I’m very grateful for that because it’s a tremendous community and I would urge anyone to come here because it’s a wonderful place.”
David Phillips, owner of Phillips’ Newsagents on Townfoot, said: “When it all happened it was quite a traumatic time for everyone in the village. Business did suffer. On the day it started in Rothbury we were closed for nearly seven hours, so it was really traumatic.
“But now going on from that, most people have just got on with their everyday lives and they have hopefully realised that it was just a one-off, part of the cycle of life in the village.
“We have had people come in to the shop, who said they saw what happened and that it was horrendous, but the area looks lovely and people have come here on holiday.
“So, in a strange way, we have had one or two advantages from it.
“But it hasn’t stopped people coming here, people have seen it on the television, realised what a nice area we live in and have come to see it.”
Rothbury county councillor Steven Bridgett said: “It is hard to believe that a year has passed since the chaotic events of last July, but it is clear to see that it did nothing to this community other than make us stronger.
“We will continue to move on with our lives and put those memories behind us.
“Northumberland County Council will be working with Northumbria Police to ensure the anniversary passes without event and has no impact on the village and we can look forward to our music festival coming up later this month.”