Coronavirus, police cuts and Lewis Capaldi – EN4 News’ Owen Garner covers today’s headlines

Owen Garner covers some of today’s major newspaper headlines, as Coronavirus fears continue to plague the country, and Police Scotland face major cuts in the year ahead.

Driver arrested following discovery of 39 bodies ‘of Chinese nationals’ in lorry container

Police investigations are continuing after the discovery of 39 bodies ‘of Chinese nationals’ in a refrigerated truck in Essex.

The owner of the lorry has been identified as 25 year old Mo Robinson from Northern Ireland, and following his arrest on Wednesday, officers have raided three houses in Country Armagh, while the National Crime Agency are attempting to identify any links to organised crime that deals in human smuggling and trafficking.

Mo Robinson, Facebook

While the lorry was initially thought to have arrived in the UK from Bulgaria due to the truck being registered there, police in Essex now believe it arrived from Zeebrugge in Belgium.

Agencies in Belgium are investigating the tragic deaths.  Eric Van Duyse, a spokesman for the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office, has said that it is unknown how long the lorry remained in Belgium for and that it could be “hours or days, we just don’t know”.

One victim found in the lorry has been confirmed to be a teenager, and with the nationalities of those who died still unknown, police have confirmed that it may be a “lengthy process” to identify who they were and where they started their journey to the UK.

In an unrelated incident, police in Kent on Wednesday detained a group of nine other undocumented migrants found alive in the back of a lorry on the M20.

Conditions in refrigerated trailers such as this used for transporting food can reach temperatures down to -25C, with conditions like this easily posing fatal over long journeys, even with the appropriate clothing.  Incidents like this highlight the increasing desperation of those seeking new horizons in the UK.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has expressed his condolences, saying “this is an unimaginable tragedy and truly heartbreaking”, then saying “The Home Office will be working closely with police to establish what happened”.

‘Suspicious item’ found near mosque in Edinburgh

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Police officers have sealed off part of Annandale Street, to the east of the city centre, after a suspicious item was found near the Annandale mosque.

The alarm was raised at 11:50 this morning after the discovery of the item, with bomb disposal experts from the Royal Logistic Corps attending the scene with a robotic vehicle to examine the object.

The police have asked people to stay away from the area and have since evacuated homes in the neighbouring area, and postponed a funeral that was taking place. Witnesses have been describing the scene, with around eight to ten police vehicles in attendance.

A police spokesperson said:

“Police in Edinburgh are currently in attendance following the discovery of a suspicious item in the Annandale Street area. Officers are currently investigating the circumstances at the scene and the public are advised to avoid the area where possible.”

Update: 

The Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team carried out a controlled explosion of the device at around 2:50pm. The police reopened the road at 4:30pm.

Edinburgh cyclist hit by car is named

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Mr Bailey was hit by a car near Dechmont (Credit: Police Scotland, Google)

 

A cyclist hit by a car on Wednesday has been named by police as 37-year-old Livingston man Gwyndaf Bailey.

Bailey was cycling along the A89 road near the entrance to the Bangour Hospital near Dechmont when he was involved in the crash with a Mercedes C220. The collision occurred on Wednesday the 27th March.

The 45-year-old male driving the car was uninjured.

Police Scotland have appealed for any witnesses as their investigation is still ongoing.

Sergeant Jill Kirkpatrick from Livingston’s Road Policing Unit said: “Our deepest sympathies continue to be with Mr Bailey’s family and friends as they come to terms with their loss and we have specialist officers supporting them at this time.

“Our inquiries into what happened remain ongoing and I’d like to thank those witnesses who have assisted us so far with our investigation.

“I’d urge anyone with information who has not yet spoken to officers to contact Police Scotland.”

Man jailed for attacking pensioner with a hammer

A man who forced his way into a pensioners home after beating her round the head with a hammer has been sentenced to five and a half years.

James Hume, 26, showed up at 76 year-old Phyllis Biggar’s home at 4am on October 15th armed with a hammer before demanding she give him money.

Mrs Biggar has spinal cancer and was able to raise a disability alarm which alerted her carers before the attacker could do more harm. He repeatedly struck her on both arms and the head while she was crying for help with the intentions of robbing her house afterwards.

The police were eventually called when one of Mrs Biggar’s carers heard the assault over a loud speaker in her home. The convict fled the scene at the sound of police sirens before the victims daughter arrived at the house to find her mother on the hallway floor soaked in blood.

Mrs Biggar was then taken to hospital where she was treated for serious wounds to the head. The court heard that she will be scarred for life.

Hume was understood to be living with his aunt in a house located on the street behind Mrs Biggar’s. He pleaded guilty to the attack at the High Court in Glasgow.

Lord Arthurson told Hume:

“This was a vulnerable lady who you attacked with a hammer. Your criminal conduct must have been absolutely terrifying.”

 

 

UPDATE: Police examine new lead on body found on bypass

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Edinburgh City Bypass – Courtesy of Google

Police are looking into a new lead involving a Müller dairy van believed to be linked to a body found on the Edinburgh City Bypass during the morning of January 17’s rush hour.

The company confirmed one of their vans had been involved in an incident on the bypass.

The van driver believed he had hit a deer between the hours of 12AM and 2AM on Thursday, January 17, which was police believe to be around the same time the man was hit.

Police have taken the van from the Müller’s depot to investigate further.

Police closed the bypass for around eight hours, causing traffic mayhem, as police investigated the body’s discovery in the area between the Sheriffhall roundabout and the Gilmerton junction.

Detective Inspector Keith Mackay said: “This is a tragic incident and our thoughts are with the family and friends of the man.”

MacKay is appealing for anyone with dash-cam footage around midnight to 2AM on Thursday, January 17.

UPDATE: The victim has been named as 37-year-old Craig Bruce from Bilston.

Police Scotland watchdog feared for staff over Phil Gormley case

The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) raised concerns over whether former Chief Constable Phil Gormley should return to work, according to documents obtained via a Freedom of Information request by EN4 News.

An email sent by Katie Frame to the Acting Convener of the Public Audit and Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee (PAPLSC) Jackie Baillie shows the PIRC were worried that, if Mr Gormley came back from suspension, the staff’s careers could be at risk.  

On the 4th of January this year, Ms Frame wrote: “Due to the position of power and influence attaching to the Chief Constable’s post, there was a significant concern that those witnesses would not feel free to speak up if the Chief Constable remained in post.” 

She went on to say: “Had my views been sought at the outset of these investigations, I confirm that I had real and significant concerns that the PIRC investigations may have been prejudiced.”

Documents obtained by EN4 News show Katie Frame’s concern for Police Scotland staff. 

Chief Constable Phil Gormley tendered his resignation on the 7th of February this year after seven misconduct allegations were made against him. Mr Gormley said that “events since November 2017” would make it “impossible for me to resume my duties in a meaningful way”.

The SPA, which oversees Police Scotland, said Phil Gormley would be paid his annual leave entitlement and a three month notice fee. However, he will not get a severance package. The position of Chief Constable of Police Scotland remains vacant.

 

 

Police appeal for witnesses after cars vandalised

Police Scotland are appealing for witnesses after two vehicles were seen being vandalised in Dunbar, East Lothian.

The incident is believed to have taken place around 8.30pm ,Tuesday 13th March on Belhaven Road.

Belhaven Road, East Lothian Image Credit: Mark Anderson

 

The suspect is possibly in possession of a knife which was used to slash the tyres of a Volkswagen Up and Vauxhall Corsa.

The man has been described as white, 5ft 8ins tall with a slim build and wearing a grey hooded top and tracksuit bottoms.

The police are asking anyone with information to come forward and assist with ongoing inquiries into the incident.

Constable Chris Hutchison from Haddington Police Station said:

“These have been mindless acts of vandalism that will leave the vehicle owners out of pocket.

“Anyone who saw any suspicious activity in Belhaven Road on Tuesday evening, or who can help us identify the male responsible is urged to contact police immediately.”

Those with information can contact Haddington Police Station via 101 and quote incident number 3787 of the 13th March.


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Bomb squad investigate suspicious package in Edinburgh

Police were called to Newhaven Road last night following reports of a suspicious item found in a bus shelter.

The Explosive Ordnance Team were sent to the scene, cordoning off part of the street while they investigated. Witnesses posted pictures and videos on social media of the EOT’s robot travelling along the road.

 

The incident comes just months after the bomb squad were forced to carry out a controlled explosion after a device was found near Edinburgh Castle.

Police later confirmed it was not a hoax, stating the suspicious package had ‘potential to cause injury.

They urged the public to remain ‘alert but not alarmed’ and to report anything suspect to police.

Chief Constable Phil Gormley resigns

Phil Gormley has quit as Police Scotland Chief Constable with immediate effect amidst multiple misconduct/bullying probes into his time as Chief Constable.

He has been on special leave since last September.

Chief Constable Resigns | Image Credit: PA Images

Gormley said in a statement today:

“The events since November 2017 have led me to the conclusion that it is impossible for me to resume my duties in a meaningful way prior to the end of my contract.”

He now wishes to “prioritise the health and wellbeing” of his family. Mr Gormley has always denied any wrongdoing.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has faced questioning over his role in the Scottish Police Authority reversing its decision to allow Mr Gormley to return to work last November – Image Credit: Flickr

The SPA, which oversees the country’s single national force, said he would not be required to work his contractual notice period.

It said he would receive a payment in respect of his salary for a three month notice period, and for his outstanding annual leave pay.

But Mr Gormley will receive no other settlement or severance payment from the SPA.

The chairwoman of the SPA, Susan Deacon, said Mr Gormley had made a “significant contribution to policing in Scotland”.

She added: “I would like to thank him for this contribution and wish him well for the future. This has been a challenging period for all concerned, and in the interest of policing in Scotland we now need to move on”.

Taking questions from MSPs this afternoon, the Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said he has spoken with Susan Deacon who will undertake the appointment of a new chief constable. Mr Matheson said he is encouraged by Ms Deacon’s commitment.

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