In the end, the Northumbria Constabulary, aided by officers from other forces and high technology up to and including an RAF fighter jet, got their man.

Raoul Moat, the violent fugitive who had seriously wounded two people and killed another last weekend, was cornered by a river in Rothbury on Friday evening.

Then, in the early hours of yesterday, as a searchlight and the muzzles of police guns were trained on him, he shot himself in circumstances which will now be investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Its inquiries, to be added to the ones already under way into the Northumbria force's handling of the early stages of the saga, will centre on precisely when, and why, officers twice fired a Taser at Moat after negotiating with him for hours.

The implication of police statements was that the Tasers - packing up to 50,000 volts - were fired before Moat pulled the trigger of a shotgun jammed against his own throat.

A police press conference early today - peppered with the expressions of thanks to this community and that now deemed obligatory - failed to take questions on this, or any other matter.

But these - and the more serious questions such as why Moat's former partner was not protected after a warning from Durham Prison authorities, and the lack of surveillance at the homes of known Moat associates - carry less importance now that the hue and cry has ended without the shedding of further innocent blood.

It has also ended, mercifully, before the rolling news channels' on-screen consultations with experts in outdoor survival skills could get any more bizarre.

It may be helpful, with 24 hours to fill, to busk away the day with musings on how to feed and water yourself in the inhospitable countryside just north of Newcastle, but it struck an odd note when Moat's victims were still on the critical list.

It was around 7pm on Friday evening that Moat was seen by the river, less than 100 yards from the centre of Rothbury. He was surrounded in moments, and ambulance vans and all the paraphernalia of a major stand-off began to arrive. Moat lay on the grass, armed with a sawn-off shotgun. It was pointed at himself. Soon a trained negotiator was in place, talking to him, and, later, arranging for food and water to be brought him.

People living in the immediate vicinity were confined to their homes, but, behind police cordons in Rothbury (and on the screens of those watching the live television coverage), the stand-off had become a spectacle. Some residents hung from their windows, and the village pubs were packed with people speculating on what would happen next as they stared, transfixed, at rolling news reports.

Among the journalists and local people wanting to get into the town, a group of teenagers waited at the police cordon for more than an hour, updating their Facebook profiles and hoping, in vain, to see or hear something exciting.

Another, who was on her way to visit friends in Rothbury, admitted: "I know this could go on for hours but I cat tear myself away. Something might happen."

They didn't try to hide their contempt for the police and support for Moat. One, a 19-year-old boy who would not be named described him as "mint", adding: "Raoul Moat is a proper legend." One of the two girls with him, Keeley, 17. said: "I thought he'd be out of here by now. The police wouldn't be putting all this effort in if he hadn't shot one of them." Her friend, Tamsin, also 17, said: "I thought they'd just shoot him. He'll be dead popular in prison."

And then, into all this, wandered (blundered, some might say), the figure of Paul Gascoigne, Geordie laddo, football and nightclub legend, and recovering alcoholic.

He told a local radio station he had brought Moat "a can of lager, some chicken, a mobile phone and something to keep warm". He added: "I have come all the way from Newcastle to Rothbury to find him, have a chat with him. I guarantee Moaty won't shoot me. I am good friends with him." Police did not let him through.

The indelible image throughout the hunt was the steroid-enhanced shoulders of Moat supporting a head which glowered out of screen and page. Whether Moat's history of quick temper and ready violence can be linked to steroids is a relevant but unanswerable question.

Use of the drug - a derivative of testosterone which is not illegal to possess but is to supply - has increased, especially among vain young men eager to build up their bodies but break no sweat. Several high-profile murder cases have featured the substance, but no one has been able to say with any certainty if steroids inspire or magnify violence, or whether those innately violent tend to steroid use.

Moat was emphatic about his various motives. A man arrested 12 times but convicted only once (of assaulting a child), he already felt persecuted by police as he served his brief jail sentence in Durham. Then Samantha Stobbart, his younger partner (she is 22, he 37), informed him that their relationship was over.

Fearful of a man who had always sought to settle matters with the threat of his fists or worse, she told him that her new lover was a policeman in the hope that this would keep Moat at bay. But it acted, instead, like a red rag to the bull-like Moat.

Almost his first act on release from prison on 1 July was to post on his Facebook page: "I've lost everything, my business, my property and to top it all off my lass of six years has gone off with the copper that sent me down." Anger, resentment, self-pity and a feeling that there was nothing worth living for - a potent cocktail.

When he was stewing during his last days in jail, he made it sufficiently clear that revenge was in his mind for the prison to send, on Friday July 2, a warning to Northumbria police that Moat may attempt to harm his former partner. No action was taken by the force, and, in the early hours of the following morning, Moat shot dead Chris Brown, Ms Stobbart's partner of just one week, and, through the window of her Gateshead home, shot her. She survived, but was seriously wounded. Last night, Newcastle General Hospital said her condition was "stable".

Nearly 24 hours later, Moat rang 999 and threatened to shoot a police officer. Some 12 minutes after that, he approached PC David Rathband, a married father of two, as he sat in his patrol car, and shot him. He was critically wounded.

Shortly afterwards, Moat visited a friend called Andy Mcallister and handed him a rambling 49-page letter. The significance of this was not so much its self-centred content as the timing and place to which it was delivered. Police knew that Moat had visited Mcallister on Saturday night and, as a result, had spent a great deal of Sunday interviewing him.

Had they kept his house under observation after they left, they might have been able to capture Moat when he called on Mcallister in the early hours of Monday morning.

But they didn't. Instead, they were left searching for a violent criminal who had vowed, in the lengthy letter, to "keep killing police until I'm dead", had already murdered, and had extensive connections in Newcastle's gangland. The ex-con who walked out of Durham jail with a grudge the previous Thursday was now the subject of what would become one of Britain's biggest manhunts.

Their quarry was unlikely to walk into a Northumbria police station and give himself up. He knew the area north of Newcastle, had often camped out there, had some survival skills, was strong, and, it became clear, was receiving help. (Det Ch Supt Neil Adamson was later to say: "The information, intelligence and advice available to me always led me to believe that Moat was in the Rothbury area, constantly on the move. My inquiries were frustrated by a number of significant challenges including apparent assistance for Moat from third parties.")

Despite all the resources (at one time one in 10 of all Britain's firearms officers were in on the operation), Moat was not captured. Then, a breakthrough. A black Lexus V322 HKX which police believed to be linked to Moat was found on Tuesday in the village of Rothbury, 26 miles north of Newcastle.

Two men, initially thought to be Moat's hostages, were found walking nearby and were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder. By 11.15am that Tuesday, Rothbury was locked down, with a two-mile ground exclusion zone, and a five-mile one in its air space.

Armed officers and equipment were poured into the area, and residents warned to stay indoors.

The next day, as the search went on, police said that a letter was found in a tent where Moat was believed to have camped. Later, a £10,000 reward was offered for Moat's capture, and two further men were arrested on suspicion of assisting him.

Mobile phones used by Moat were found, and police asked for a blackout on the reporting of the fugitive's private life. In one of his messages, he had apparently said that he would kill a member of the public for every instance of misreporting of his life. He did not specify what, if any, errors had been made.

As Thursday became Friday, armchair chief constables all over the country were wondering why police were still combing the Rothbury area, speculating that Moat had, perhaps with underworld help, long since spirited himself many miles away.

But police were right to concentrate on this village. Early on Friday evening, he was spotted. officers rushed in considerable force to the scene, and soon had Moat at bay by the River Coquet.

Less than seven hours later, police Tasers and Moatis sawn-off shotgun were fired. He was pronounced dead at hospital before dawn.

There are now the usual aftermaths of such events: the gathering of the remaining forensic evidence, the inquiries, the reports from television journalists amazed that Rothbury should start to get back to normal, and, hopefully, the recovery of Samantha Stobbart and David Rathband.

But there was another, unsettling coda to this violent chain of events.

Outside Raoul Moat's home were beginning to accumulate candles, cards, flowers and messages. "Dear Raoul Thomas Moat, may you rest in peace. Our thoughts are with you and your close friends. We were on your side even though we didn't know you that well," read one, and another: "To Raoul, Always a good friend. Always happy to help a mate. Hope now you've found some peace. Gone but never forgotten."

He killed a man he didn't know, seriously wounded a woman and a police officer, and assaulted a little girl. But well-wishers felt they had to mark his end with the sentimentalising gestures normally reserved for the victims of crime and accidents.

However minority it may be, Raoul Moat had, it seems, a constituency.

- INDEPENDENT