CRIME commissioner Vera Baird has backed the force in charge of the Raoul Moat inquiry after it was criticised by the police watchdog.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said key decisions made by Northumbria Police in its investigation had been “frankly unbelievable”.

IPCC Commissioner Cindy Butts also said it was “unsatisfactory” that Northumbria police officers had failed to act on intelligence that Moat was a danger to the public before he shot his former lover Samantha Stobbart, 22, her new partner Chris Brown and PC David Rathband, who was blinded when the killer fired twice at his patrol car, near Newcastle.

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Ms Butts said that Moat, who was released from Durham Prison in July 2010 before carrying out his shooting spree, had specifically named Ms Stobbart on his list of targets and made reference to a new boyfriend.

Deputy Chief Constable Steve Ashman, of Northumbria Police, said the IPCC conclusions were “grossly unfair” and inconsistent with the official findings of coroner Terence Carney, who oversaw the inquest into the death of 29-year-old Mr Brown.

Former MP Vera Baird, who now oversees policing in Northumbria, said the watchdog’s findings were valueless next to the coroner who heard weeks and weeks of evidence.

She said: “The force is right and the IPCC are wrong.”

Moat shot himself after being surrounded by armed police in Rothbury, Northumberland. Meanwhile, PC Rathband later hanged himself at his home in February 2012, having claimed he had been abandoned by Northumbria police.

An inquest is due to begin this week which will examine the circumstances of the policeman’s death.

It has been claimed PC Rathband did not get to see a counsellor until September 2011, a month after he had already tried to take his own life.

The father-of-two had also not been warned that an armed killer was on the loose.

DCC Steve Ashman, of Northumbria police, said the force had provided the highest level of financial, welfare and rehabilitation support to PC Rathband.

He said: “We strongly rebut any allegation that we failed to support David or that the support we provided was inadequate since he received life changing injuries following the shooting.”

DCC Ashman said Mr Carney acknowledged that the actions of police officers involved did not in any way cause or contribute to the death of Christopher Brown.

He also said information the force received following his release from jail did not indicate any real or immediate threat to the life of anyone, nor that he had access to firearms.