Non-fiction – paperback; Scribe; 224 pages; 2016.
Back in the summer of 2010, Northumbria Police launched one of the biggest man hunts in British history to find Raoul Moat, a former body builder with a grudge against the police, who had gone on the run, taking two “hostages” with him (who later turned out to be his friends and accomplices).
Over the space of two days he shot three people with a sawn-off shotgun. The first victim was his ex-girlfriend’s new partner Chris Brown, whom he shot dead. His ex, Samantha Stobbart, was also shot, but survived. A third victim, police constable David Rathband, was shot the next day while parked on the side of a busy motorway whilst on traffic duty. He survived but was permanently blinded.
The ensuing manhunt, which lasted seven days, ended after a six-hour stand-off in which Moat shot himself in the head. He died in hospital a short time later.
In his own words
You Could Do Something Amazing with Your Life [You Are Raoul Moat] by Andrew Hankinson tells Moat’s version of events from his point of view and is written in his own words thanks to the vast archive of material he left behind. This included audio recordings and a 49-page confession, both of which he made on the run, as well as correspondence, suicide notes he left in his house and various recordings of phone calls he made while he was in Durham prison, where he served a short sentence for assaulting a child.
The material was edited for legal and editorial reasons, then rearranged and reassembled for the sake of comprehension and coherence, sticking where possible to Raoul Moat’s phrasing and vocabulary, and trying to emphasise the subjects that Moat emphasised.
The resulting narrative is a masterpiece of journalistic research, curation and editing. It reads as a seamless whole and provides a rare glimpse inside a killer’s head.
It’s written in the second person in the present tense, which gives the story a page-turning immediacy, and is broken into seven short chapters, one for each day that Moat was on the run.
What soon becomes clear is that Moat was a deeply troubled man — but he knew it and tried to seek help on numerous occasions. But after initial psychiatric and medical consultations, he would never bother to attend follow-up appointments.
There’s a paranoid streak running through most of his commentary — he believes the police have it in for him and mistakenly thinks Samantha’s new boyfriend is a policeman (he’s not), hence the decision to shoot him dead.
I wish I could have been a better bloke for Sam. I’m an intelligent kid. I could have done so many amazing things with my life. I could have made her life so much better.
You Could Do Something Amazing with Your Life [You Are Raoul Moat] is not your average true crime book. Its experimental nature makes it an original read and shows us in a very effective way the ordinary face of a troubled man who committed a horrendous crime. There’s no authorial distance and no expert interpretation — the reader is simply left to make their own judgements.
I came away from it believing that Moat wasn’t evil; he was just unbalanced, angry, confused and unable to readjust to life without his girlfriend when she left him for another man. That doesn’t excuse him of his abhorrent behaviour, but helps explain why he did what he did. That so many people were harmed or had their lives irrevocably changed by his behaviour just makes it all the more tragic…