TRIBUTES were today paid to former Sunderland Pc David Rathband, the officer shot and blinded by gunman Raoul Moat.
Pc Rathband, who started his career on Wearside, captured the respect of the nation after showing “outstanding bravery” following the shooting in July 2010.
He was found dead at his home in Blyth, Northumberland, last night after officers received a report of concern for his welfare.
Northumbria Police Chief Constable Sue Sim said: “I am deeply saddened and my thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.
“In July 2010 his life changed for ever when he was shot and blinded by Moat.
“David showed outstanding bravery in what was a terrifying situation.
“He was a dedicated officer who acted in the best traditions of the police service.”
The father-of-two, 44, lost his sight and was fitted with prosthetic eyes after being shot at close range in July 2010 during the manhunt for fugitive Moat.
Pc Rathband appeared determined to live a full life after the incident, setting up his own charity, the Blue Lamp Foundation, which aims to help emergency service personnel injured in the line of duty.
He released a book – Tango 190 – about his ordeal, and how he had rebuilt his life.
Last June, he completed the Sunderland 10K run and expressed delight to be back in the city which he was so fond of.
In 2010 he collected the Role Model award in the Pride of Northumberland awards, organised by the Echo’s parent company Northeast Press.
In December last year, he told how he hoped to take part in trials of a revolutionary machine which could restore his eyesight by allowing him to “see” using 400 electrodes on his tongue.
He said: “I’ve gone from a man who did things when I wanted to, to a man who has to depend on others to do things with me and for me.”
But the brave officer also faced adversity in his personal life after his blinding.
Pc Rathband announced on social media site Twitter last November that he and his wife Kath were separating permanently.
Two months earlier, just before the start of the inquest into 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”.
It said the move had nothing to do with his arrest on suspicion of assault and stressed “David and Kath are very much still a married couple who love each other”.
A Northumbria Police spokesman said officers were called to his home at about 7pm last night.
He said: “Officers attended the scene alongside the ambulance service and he was found inside. He was declared dead at the scene.
“A police investigation is under way and the coroner has been informed.”