Friday, 2 March 2012

In memory of PC David Rathband

This morning (Thursday March 1st) the first thing I heard as I switched on the radio was the tragic news that PC David Rathband had been found dead in his home. 

Having been shot in the face at point blank range by gunman Raoul Moat in 2010, costing him the sight of both eyes, it was frankly a miracle that he survived at all. But exactly one year from that horrific incident, David was sat in a tiny hotel room in Greenwich, London, re-living the events which had left him fighting for every aspect of what he could no longer really recognise as his life. 

He described the last thing he remembered seeing, Moat's face over the top of the shot-gun, the look on his face, the flash (which he thought he may have felt more than seen) the searing pain and what he described as being the worst bit - the unbearable sound of the gun being fired into his head at close range.

What he was unfolding, had lived through in fact, has always been one of my darkest and most primal fears - to violently lose the visual world. 

Nearly as distressing were the nightmares he still regularly suffered, Moat's face swimming up through the darkness, horrible dreams of being at the bottom of an infinitely deep well, despairing of ever escaping.

The patience, modesty, and bravery that he showed during the interview and photos, made me vow to myself that I would never take another moment's eyesight for granted. 

But although his determination was extraordinary he was, unsurprisingly, a very troubled man. He spoke of how he felt abandoned, isolated, in some sense betrayed even, and despite his often cheery remarks and grim humour I was concerned at how fragile he seemed.

So it was a was with sadness but not surprise that I absorbed the news of his death this morning. As the day went on, bulletins informed us that David had been thought to have taken his own life. 

My sincerest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues and I hope that the brave way in which he fought to carry such an unbearable burden will be an inspiration if not a comfort.

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