Pc hopes to be able to see again

The policeman shot and blinded by gunman Raoul Moat is hoping to be able to take part in trials of a revolutionary machine which could enable him to see again.

The experimental device would enable Pc David Rathband to regain a semblance of vision using 400 electrodes on his tongue.

The 43-year-old, of Cramlington, has already been offered a conditional place by researchers but must now raise the £16,000 needed to take part.

The so-called BrainPort technology, developed in the US, uses sunglasses equipped with an inch-long camera to send images to a hand-held controller.

Those images are converted into low-resolution black-and-white pictures on a postage stamp-sized grid of electrodes, according to the light level in each area of the picture.

Users learn to interpret shapes and movement on the tongue, interpreting the sensations as visual images.

“I’d love to be able to see some shadows or a bit of light,” said the father of two. “Anything is better than nothing.

“It keeps me going as a bit of hope, but I’m careful not to put all my eggs in that basket.

“I’ve gone from a man who did things when I wanted to to a man who has to depend on others to do things with me and for me.”

Pc Rathband was left blinded for life after being shot in the face at point-blank range by Moat as he sat in a police car in Newcastle in July last year.

He still has more than 200 shotgun pellets lodged in his skull.

His family is helping him raise funds so he can take part in the BrainPort trial. His son, Ashley, 19, has set up a web campaign for donations, and it has raised more than £1,800 already.

To donate, go to www.davidrathband.co.uk/brainport.html