SURVIVAL expert Ray Mears has broken a two-year silence to reveal exclusively to the Echo his role in the manhunt for killer Raoul Moat.
The 49-year-old presenter used his tracking skills to lead Northumbria Police officers towards the armed and dangerous fugitive who was hiding out in woodland near the village of Rothbury in Northumberland.
At one point Mears, who brings his theatre show to Cheltenham Town Hall on October 25, was within 20ft of the gunman after eight hours of moving stealthily through the dense forest.
Moat had been on the run for a week after shooting his former partner, Samantha Stobbart, killing her new boyfriend, Chris Brown, and blinding PC David Rathband by shooting him in the face.
Mears felt the need to step in and offer his skills in the search. He made a phone call to a police search adviser with whom he’d kept in touch after giving a lecture on tracking and its capabilities as a means of search six years previously.
Several days later on July 8, 2011, he took a call from the same adviser, asking him to make the trip to the North East.
Mears described the scene when he arrived in Rothbury like something “out of a Hollywood film set” with bright lights, specialist police snipers, helicopters circling overhead and an RAF Tornado GR4 jet undertaking reconnaissance sorties.
“It was all a bit surreal,” he told the Echo.
“This is the first time I’ve talked about it and it’s because I feel there has been sufficient water under the bridge.
Mears said he had not wanted his involvement in the hunt to be picked up by the press and it is only now, with his autobiography set to be released on September 12, that he feels he can speak about it.
“My concern was that people would think it was a publicity stunt,” he said.
“It was such a unique set of circumstances.
“A lot of people claimed for some reason to have been there but I know, because I was there, that they were not.
“I have experience of tracking for 40 years. I can’t imagine there would be that many people in the country who would have been in a position to help the police find someone who had gone into hiding who needed to be found.
“It was a real-life hunt; within my skill set but outside of my comfort zone.”
Moat was declared dead on July 10 after firing a single shot to his head following a six-hour stand-off with armed officers on the edge of a grass bank.
Mears was told by officers that Moat’s emergence from hiding was a direct result of his presence with armed officers in the area minutes previously.