England

Hunt for gunman Raoul Moat stepped up by police

Armed police have taken an associate of suspected gunman Raoul Moat around woods and farmland in Northumberland as their search for him intensified.

A flurry of activity was seen in an area near Rothbury as the man showed them areas Moat may have been hiding .

The 37-year-old is suspected of shooting three people on Tyneside.

Two men arrested in connection with the investigation have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder and possessing a firearm with intent.

The men were arrested after being found walking in the Rothbury area on Tuesday. They have been named as Karl Ness, 26, from Dudley, North Tyneside, and Qhuram Awan, 23, from Blyth, Northumberland.

Both are due to appear before magistrates in Newcastle later.

Armed police were seen escorting the associate of Moat to an area of countryside outside Rothbury on Wednesday evening.

Northumbria Police said the man, who was handcuffed and wearing a flak jacket, had not previously been involved in the case and was helping officers look at places Moat once frequented.

The BBC's Danny Savage said: "They walked him out of Rothbury, down an old railway line and out into the countryside.

"A convoy of armed response vehicles then came speeding along the road heading in that direction."

He added: "Elsewhere there is police activity in a caravan park.

"The intensity of the investigation really seems to have stepped up."

About 40 firearms officers from the Metropolitan Police have been sent to the area while the Police Service of Northern Ireland has sent 20 armoured cars.

'Gut feeling'

Moat, a former nightclub bouncer, is alleged to have shot and injured his former girlfriend Samantha Stobbart, 22, and killed her new partner Chris Brown, 29, in Birtley, Gateshead on Saturday.

Pc David Rathband, 42, was shot in his patrol car in Newcastle on Sunday.

Det Ch Supt Neil Adamson, from Northumbria Police, said he had a "gut feeling" Moat was still in Rothbury but admitted he may have "fled the area".

He said Moat had been living rough in a tent, which was recovered earlier from a secluded spot, along with other items, including a letter to Miss Stobbart.

Mr Adamson said he believed Moat could be armed with one or two weapons.

Armed robbery

He added: "I think he has access to ammunition. He is probably on his own.

"If he is living rough we don't know what equipment he has access to."

Officers also believe Moat carried out an armed robbery at a fish and chip shop in Seaton Delaval, near Blyth, on Monday night.

The robber escaped on foot after forcing staff to hand over cash.

Police confirmed that the operation remained focused in and around the Rothbury area and public safety was paramount.

A £10,000 reward for information that leads to Moat's capture has been offered.

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