These are the last days of Raoul Moat.
Moat was the fugitive Geordie bodybuilder-mechanic who became notorious one hot July week when, after killing his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend, shooting her in the stomach, and blinding a policeman, he disappeared into the woods of Northumberland, evading discovery for seven days even after TV tracker Ray Mears was employed by the police to find him. Eventually, cornered by the police, Moat shot himself.
Andrew Hankinson, a journalist from Newcastle, re-tells Moat’s story using Moat’s words, and those of the state services which engaged with him, bringing the reader disarmingly close at all times to the mind of Moat. It is a reading experience unrelieved by authorial distance or expert interpretation. The narrative Hankinson has woven is entirely compelling, even if Moat’s weaknesses are never far from sight, requiring the reader to work out where they should stand.
This book is unremitting, showing a tremendous, unsparing and unsentimental compassion for Moat. It does not shy away from the inconsistencies, the contradictions and the fragility of his mental state in the days before his death. I remember the slightly comedic-tragic nature of it, but Hankinson shows ta man who collapsed under the weight of his own delusions. Lives destroyed and others scarred, motivated by misplaced pride, a pathological sense of his own persecution and a cast iron ability to present a version of events that rarely ran in parallel with the truth.
There’s something both tragic and pathetic about Moat. The book had me sickened at his actions, his justifications for it but also oddly understanding of the mental gymnastics, the misplaced devotions, the fragility of his masculine identity and all of it delivered in a seamless narrative culled from Moat’s own words and carefully distilled from testimonies, records and the bureaucracy that provides us with an official record after a tragedy like this. It’s bleak and unstinting, a poetic record of the damage of self deception, the way that a mind can tumble into a place where a man feels that he has nothing left to offer the world but death and pain, all the while believing himself to be the good guy done wrong.
This was a spare and unstinting book. I’ve not read anything like it since ‘Happy Like Murderers’ by Gordon Burn. It is true crime here, but not in the salacious finger wagging grief tourist sense but in the the way that it is important for us to contemplate. It is brilliant but deeply uncomfortable.