Tributes to ex-officer David Rathband

Tributes were paid to former Staffordshire police officer David Rathband today, after he was found dead at his home.

Tributes to ex-officer David Rathband

Tributes were paid to former Staffordshire police officer David Rathband today, after he was found dead at his home.

Mr Rathband won widespread praise for the way he handled tragic events after being shot in the face by killer Raoul Moat and losing the sight in both his eyes 18 months ago.

He was hailed a hero when he came home to Stafford to switch on the Christmas Lights in December 2010 where crowds flocked to the Market Square to celebrate and praise the officer.

He also started his own charity, the Blue Lamp Foundation, to help emergency service workers who were injured in the line of duty as a result of a criminal act.

Thousands of pounds have been raised for the charity since it was set up.

But privately Pc Rathband was struggling to come to terms with his injuries and the events put a strain on his marriage.

He was arrested in August on suspicion of assaulting his wife Kath, aged 41, after police were called to his home in Cramlington, Northumberland.

He announced on website Twitter in November that he and his wife Kath were separating permanently.

Two months earlier, just before the start of the inquest into Raoul Moat's death, he issued a statement saying he was to "live separately from his wife and family".

But that statement stressed the move was "purely for David's rehabilitation and so that he can ultimately continue to support his family".

His brother Darren Cooper, who lives in Australia, said on Twitter last night that he was flying back to the UK saying: "RIP Police Constable 190 David John Rathband, please support Blue Lamp Foundation."

Days before Darren urged his brother "not to give up" and also told him: "You are only a flight away.

"Asking for help doesn't make you less of a man."

Stuart Blackley, landlord of The Shropshire Inn in Haughton, near Stafford was good friends with Mr Rathband after meeting him almost 30 years ago on a refereeing course.

Mr Blackley, aged 56, said: "I am absolutely devastated by this news. I just can't believe it.

"I spoke to him and kept in touch with him. David had been out in Australia with his brother and had only just returned yesterday or the day before. My wife and I are still good friends with his wife Kath even though they split up.

"He has done a lot of charity work.

He added: "David was a referee and I met him when he was 16 – I used to be his mentor as a referee. I just took him under my wing really. He was just a joker and a good character. Even with what happened he was an inspiration. I remember one charity event I did – he went round thanking everyone for what they did. That was the kind of person he was. It's just so sad."

A statement on the Blue Lamp Foundation website said today: "Since being shot in July 2010, David struggled to come to terms with his horrific injuries and the traumatic effect they had on him and his family and friends.

"David's legacy will live on in the form of The Blue Lamp Foundation, which bears his name. It was David's wish that those who found themselves in a similar position to him could receive the support that wasn't available to him at the time.

"David's family have asked that their privacy be respected at this time and they are allowed the time and space to reflect and grieve." Former bouncer Moat was the subject of a huge manhunt when he evaded capture for a week before shooting himself dead after a stand-off with police in the market town of Rothbury, Northumberland.

On July 3, 2010, he shot and injured his former partner Samantha Stobbart, aged 22, and killed her new boyfriend, Chris Brown, aged 29.

The following day, Moat shot Pc Rathband in the face and shoulder but the officer saved his own life by pretending to be dead. He was rushed to Newcastle General Hospital and underwent surgery but lost the sight in both eyes.

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