You Could Do Something Amazing With Your Life [You Are Raoul Moat]: An Extract
An ITV drama has thrust Moat back into the spotlight. A 2016 book presented the view inside his mind, breaking apart the very idea of unknowable evil in the process
This week, The Hunt for Raoul Moat, a drama about one of the biggest manhunts the country’s ever seen (and the violent events that led to it), plays across three nights on ITV1. The show has been praised for giving voice to the former bouncer’s victims, but back in 2016, journalist Andrew Hankinson (himself from the North East) took an entirely different approach in his bold, original book, You Could Do Something Amazing With Your Life [You Are Raoul Moat].
Using the words of Moat himself - left behind in the form of audio recordings and written testimony - Hankinson takes us inside Moat’s mind during and after the brutal shootings of his ex Samantha Stobbart, her new boyfriend Christopher Brown and PC David Rathband.
Unbelievably (but also, you know, not), there are some (men) who glorify Moat, seeing him as a kind of anti-hero of twisted masculinity. But word by precise word, Hankinson pulls down that perch. Moat’s self-pitying is laid bare; his misogyny; the flashes of self-awareness that never bloom into acceptance of blame. But perhaps the book’s greatest achievement is in eviscerating the idea that his violence was the result of an unknowable evil. It’s entirely knowable and, in a country where on average two women a week are killed by their partner or ex-partner, everyday.
It can be uncomfortable to sit slap bang inside the thoughts of a murderer. To hear his justifications (however absurd). To realise how warped his world-view was. To watch different paths being swerved. To bear witness to his delusions. To ask questions about deprivation and masculinity (and receive few answers). To squat in the mundane details of his life. But why shouldn’t we be uncomfortable? Why should we be granted the comfort of distance? The comfort in believing men like Moat are pure evil, almost inhuman. That their minds are impenetrable. Making Moat into a person, cracking his mind wide open, isn’t to make him sympathetic, but to acknowledge his ordinariness. To make him, in the end, just a man. Like the men who came before him, and those who will, we know, come after.
You Could Do Something Amazing With Your Life [You Are Raoul Moat]: An Extract
At least you don’t need to die worrying about her.
She’ll have a good life now.
You were setting her up for life.
Making sure she got compensation.
There’s no going back with her now.
Going back isn’t an option.
It’s just a case of doing your thing.
They did this to you.
They bullied you.
Wherever you went, wherever you worked, they were spoiling it, every good woman chased away under advisement by some police officer doing a PNC check in front of her with their radio turned up full, your kids in tears, you and Sam hounded, negative comments, and it would have been fair enough years ago, but not now, uplifting your vehicles, arrests for violence you didn’t do, yet the stuff you did do you didn’t get arrested for. It’s been a sorry state of affairs. And like with all bullying, it affects your frame of mind. It affected how you behaved with Sam. Not violence, but losing your spark for fun living. You miss her, you really fucking miss her and you’re never going to see her again. It fucking hurts. You wish you could turn the clock back. Because you never wanted this. You and her used to be like Siamese twins. You could have lived a normal life with Sam, you really do believe that. She would have loved it round here, though not the spiders and stuff because Sam’s all hair and nails and spider, eek. Like, if you ever wanted to get some peace you’d go in the shed because spiders were guaranteed in there. She’d have liked living in the sticks though. You and her talked about getting a place out here, either buying a place or going privately rented, which is what you would have done probably, on the lease. You saw this one house which had a bit of farmland, and it would have been ideal. Because you’re a bit of a farmer type. People probably realise that. It comes from the French side of your family. They’ve been into farming for years. The truth is, you never got used to the city, not at all, even after twenty years, with all the hustle and bustle and traffic jams, but when the family moved to England they went straight to Fenham, so you’ve spent the best part of your life there. Well you moved around a bit, up and down the country [you’ve lived in Fenham all your life, but you told people otherwise, including a psychiatrist and social workers]. You ended up back in Fenham because of the good schools for the kids, but you knew you needed your space, so you and Sam were looking for a place out here, because she could have had her horses, and you’d have land for your animals, dogs and rabbits and stuff, which you’ve always liked the idea of, having your animals. Maybe that’s something you got from your gran. She got you into all that. She had a pond with koi carp in it, a couple of ducks too, though the ducks didn’t last long. The council probably told her to get rid of them. But you used to feed the fish and put frogspawn in the pond, and you and Tony [Tony Laidler, who lived down the street and is still a good friend] would catch tadpoles in the Pond of Life and put them in Gran’s pond, and the two of you would go on adventures all over Newcastle, hunting for little beasties. You’d catch wasps [and put them in jars, and make them fight or drown them]. You’d catch spiders and put them in the road to see whose got squashed first. It was just kids’ stuff. Or you’d get all the eggs from different nests and put them in one nest, or take them home and tell your gran the nest had been abandoned, and she’d try to incubate them, and sometimes you went up to the golf course to find baby shrews around the edge of the golf course to take home [but one night you put them in your bed and forgot about them and when you fell asleep you squashed them]. You used to go all over the place exploring and fishing. You were an outdoors kid, really. You used to come up here, to the river at Rothbury, catching minnows, literally a stone’s throw from here, staying at a caravan. That’s a great holiday for a kid to go on, because you make loads of friends on a holiday like that, and sometimes you’d skip school to come up here. The thing of it is, your schoolwork probably did suffer, though anyone will say you’re a clever kid. You had a cat for a bit. It was called Kitty, a ginger female, which is unusual, because usually they get torn to pieces by the male for being a freak, but that cat died when you moved into your mum’s house [when you were about ten], and you got another cat after that, but it died as well. And you had a bullfrog. You can remember because when you and Angus argued over whether it was South American or North American, Uncle Charlie asked whether it was wearing a Stetson or a sombrero. Ha. And you wanted hamsters, but Mum and Brian said no [so you got some anyway and hid them in the garage, but when Brian found them he came upstairs and you ended up crying and you couldn’t keep them].
You get up off the ground. You’ve got a gun. You stay under the trees. You walk to the crags. You hide.
Taken from You Could Do Something Amazing With Your Life [You Are Raoul Moat] by Andrew Hankinson (Scribe Publications)
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The one and only time I've bought copies of a book to make sure others read it. It's " In Cold Blood" for the modern age.
I LOVED book so much & was baffled it didn’t get better reviews/recognition. ‘About a Son’ which has been lavished with praise recently is in this style, and I enjoyed reading it, but Hankinson is the greater master of the form I think.