POLICE contacted blinded PC David Rathband in the days before his death amid fears for his welfare, it has emerged.
Officers were concerned about the father-of-two but he reassured them he was fine, Chief Constable Sue Sim said during a press conference yesterday. Ms Sim also said it was planned that PC Rathband would return to work in April, when he would take on a road safety role.
In the days before he returned from seeing his twin in Australia, disturbing tweets were sent from his account.
Ms Sim said: “On Friday we were made aware of concerns from members of the public about what was being placed on Twitter, allegedly by David.
“David’s welfare officers immediately got in touch with him. He reassured them. He actually said it was not him that had been placing it on Twitter.
“He said he was all right, he said he was coming back to the force area, back home to Northumbria, and my officers met him off the plane on Monday and took him home and had been working with them since. He told them he was OK.”
The body of the former traffic officer was discovered in Blyth, Northumberland, on Wednesday night after officers received a report of concern for his welfare.
The 44-year-old lost his sight and was fitted with prosthetic eyes after being shot at close range in July 2010 during the manhunt for fugitive killer Raoul Moat.
Last night police stood guard outside the house, where floral tributes had been laid.
One card and bouquet, from a colleague at the Blue Lamp Foundation, the charity PC Rathband set up to help other emergency service workers injured in the line of duty, read: “David, you are at peace now my friend. Enjoy it. You were only doing your job like so many of us do every day.”
Paul Garner, of Walton Avenue, Blyth, completed a sponsored walk with the policeman.
Placing a bouquet close to the front door of Rathband’s new-build three-bedroom semi-detached house on Heather Lea at Bebside, he said: “David was one of the bravest men I have ever met.
“He was full of kindness and dignity despite what had happened to him. He kept on keeping on as long as he could, but it all became too much to take. Now Raoul Moat has killed him too.”
Neighbours also spoke of their shock at PC Rathband’s death.
Diane Hall, 54, of Heather Lea, said: “I heard car doors slamming last night and looked out of the window and saw lots of police. I didn’t know him at all but when I heard what had happened, I was shocked. It’s very sad.”
Bodybuilder Moat sparked a huge manhunt when he went on the run for a week before shooting himself dead after a stand-off with police in Rothbury, Northumberland.
On July 3, 2010, he shot and injured his former partner, Samantha Stobbart, 22, and killed her boyfriend, Chris Brown, 29, in Birtley.
The following day, after declaring he was now “hunting for officers”, Moat crept up on PC Rathband as he sat in his marked police car at a roundabout above the A1.