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Perth & Kinross

Perth joinery boss jailed after admitting secret second life as drug dealer

January 28 2017

A Perth joinery boss has been jailed for ten months after admitting dealing drugs from a city “party flat”. Police raided Lee Marshall’s home last year and found the 23-year-old surrounded by illegal substances. They included 20 grammes of cocaine worth almost £1,200 – already split into small street deal bags – and £900 of ecstasy tablets. Perth Sheriff Court heard Marshall had spiralled into personal drug addiction but had also been selling to others. His home had become a “party flat” for a network of friends who were similarly involved in drug use, though the coming and going is understood to have led to the police being tipped off. They arrived with a search warrant in August but required to do little searching to uncover Marshall’s role in the trade. Appearing in the dock at court, he attempted to persuade Sheriff Lindsay Foulis to spare him a prison sentence, claiming he had left drugs behind. The sheriff was unmoved, however, given the quantity of class A drugs found and the accused’s previous criminal record. In 2013, he was jailed for seven months after admitting carrying out a serious assault at The Loft nightclub in Perth. Depute fiscal Tina Dickie said: “Police officers found Mr Marshall in the living room with a number of clear bags containing white powder. “He told them that there was “more stuff in that bag”, pointing to to a Tesco carrier bag sitting on the couch. “Officers recovered 17 bags of white powder from it and also found snap bags, cards with traces of white powder and the ecstasy tablets." Officers also seized and “interrogated” his telephone but found little on it to link him to the drug trade. As a result Marshall, of Kinnoull Street, admitted being concerned in the supply of the class A drugs cocaine and ecstasy on a single day, August 12 2016. Solicitor Jamie Baxter said it had taken the involvement of the police to snap his client free of drug use. “He realised he was heading down a slippery slope but this brought him back to reality,” the agent said. "Since that day he has managed to come off the habit and is no longer part of that scene. He has also left behind that peer group. “He has been able to return to his joinery business, where he now has five people working for him.” Mr Baxter asked the court to defer sentence upon his client to consider alternatives to custody. Sheriff Foulis replied that custody was the only option, saying: "I do not need to call for reports. "This was a significant quantity of cocaine and ecstasy tablets and it is clear the drugs were there for the purpose of supply."


St John’s RC High School footballers are the history boys

April 27 2016

For almost four decades the top prize in football has eluded Tayside’s senior school teams. The wait is finally over, however, as pupils at St John’s RC High School secured the Scottish Schools’ Football Association Senior Boys Shield. In doing so, they emulated Harris Academy, whose senior boys took home the same prize 40 years ago. St John’s fifth and sixth year pupils triumphed at the home of Scottish football, Hamden Park, securing a hard-fought 1-0 win over Glasgow’s Bannerman High School. It capped a remarkable season for the team, who ended their campaign unbeaten in league and cup after a string of excellent performances. The team was lauded for its efforts at a meeting of Dundee City Council, with applause for four team members, who were invited to hoist the giant shield aloft. There was praise, in particular, from Lord Provost Bob Duncan, who hailed an historic performance – and also the importance of staff at the school to the triumph, including head teacher Fiona McLagan. He said: “I want to offer our congratulations to St John’s RC High School after their win at Hampden Park. “This is the first time the shield has come to Tayside since Harris won it 40 long years ago. “I know that the head teacher's support has also been fundamental to the team’s success. “I heard that she almost fell out of the royal box at Hamden celebrating the win!” Among the victorious players were Logan Irvine, 16, and Ben Mitchell, 17, who said it had been a great year for the team. Ben said: “We have gone through the league unbeaten, won every game this season, and now we've won the shield. “Our fourth years were fantastic last year and got to the final of their competition, but they lost 3-1. “This year the fifth and sixth years have won it.” Head teacher Fiona McLagan said: “This is the oldest schools’ football trophy in the world, first presented back in 1903.” “It was fantastic to see the boys win and St John’s become only the second school in Dundee to take home the shield.”

Angus & The Mearns

Polish moonshine blamed for Angus woman’s hospital meltdown

July 1 2016

An Angus woman has blamed "Polish moonshine" for a hospital meltdown that saw her scream  abuse at medical staff attempting to treat her for a nasty head wound. Audrey Macgregor was said to have sampled heavily of homebrewed Eastern European liquor on the evening of December 22 last year. The 47-year-old staggered almost senseless into the street before falling and cracking her skull while on a night out in Dundee. Paramedics transported her to Dundee’s Ninewells Hospital where, heavily intoxicated, she turned on medical staff. Macgregor, of Fettes Way in Montrose, directed a torrent of drunken abuse at doctors and nurses, repeatedly shouting and swearing at them, until they were forced to call the police. She was taken to Divisional Headquarters in West Bell Street, where she assaulted a police constable, by kicking her on the body. Her solicitor told Dundee Sheriff Court: “Drink was involved. She had been sampling Polish moonshine. “She fell and cracked her head and was taken to hospital and it was there that the offence occurred. “Frankly, she does not remember much of what happened.” Sheriff Tom Hughes told Macgregor: “Conduct like this is totally unacceptable.” He deferred sentence until December 28 for the preparation of reports and for Macgregor to be of good behaviour.

Perth & Kinross

Perthshire estate on sale for £10.9 million

July 7 2017

A 3,790-acre estate in Highland Perthshire has been placed on the market with a price tag of offers over £10.9 million. Bolfracks Estate, near Aberfeldy, is described by selling agents Strutt and Parker and John Clegg and Co as “a superb residential, farming, sporting and forestry estate in a majestic Perthshire setting”. The sale includes a stunning nine-bedroom principal house built in the 17th Century and enlarged in the 19th Century, together with renowned gardens and a separate contemporary five-bedroom house. It also comes with a residential property portfolio of 10 houses and cottages, an organic livestock farm carrying approximately 940 ewes and 85 cows, 2,674 acres of commercial forestry plantations and a hydro-electricity scheme that earns an average net annual income of £90,000. There are also leisure and tourism opportunities and a diverse range of traditional field sports. Strutt and Parker partner Robert McCulloch said: “Highland Perthshire is amongst the most attractive and sought after parts of the UK and Bolfracks is one of the best estates in the county. “With a diverse selection of lots appealing to buyers right across the rural property spectrum, we expect a busy few months promoting the sale.” The forestry element of the estate - Bolfracks Forest - combines vigorous, high yield-class conifer crops with mixed native woodland and native Caledonian woodland. John Lambert from John Clegg and Co, which specialises in forestry sales, said the forest was available as a separate lot for offers over £3.75million. He said:  “Bolfracks Forest is unusual in that the forestry operations are managed in-hand, with all forestry equipment owned by the estate. “It will produce a significant tax-free income for the years to come and is served by a comprehensive network of forest roads The estate is offered for sale as a whole or in 16 lots.

Perth & Kinross

First exploration of ancient seat of Celtic power begins

September 12 2017

The possibility of discovering evidence a Celtic chieftain once ruled from on high above Dunkeld is a tantalising one. A few feet of earth above the site known as King’s Seat may be all that separates archaeology teams from an array of artefacts. No excavation has ever been undertaken at the Fort of the Caledonians – which gave the town its name – and it had been overgrown for decades. Experts and the first of a number of teams of volunteers of all ages have begun the task of exploring the hill fort. An initial two-week dig – led by Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust in partnership with Dunkeld and Birnam Historical Society – is part of a wider three-year project. It aims to increase knowledge of what the trust calls “a mysterious and unstudied site” while also gaining a greater understanding of the impact vegetation has had. The site has long been seen as one of Perthshire’s great unexplored fortifications, making the dig an exciting prospect for all involved. An examination was made of the site by the respected archaeologist RW Feachan, who wrote extensively on the Iron Age hill forts of northern Britain. Though his own efforts were cursory, he was moved to describe it as “a most promising site likely to produce artefacts”. It is the second major dig undertaken in recent years, with an excavation of another ancient seat of power, at Moredun Top on Moncrieffe Hill, providing ample evidence of its importance. Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust’s Sarah Malone said: “The hill fort of King’s Seat is situated on a prominent hill on a major bend in the River Tay. “With such a dominating position, it is not just a dramatic geographical feature in the landscape but a fascinating location for human activity in the past. “We’re hoping to help reveal more about the intangible heritage of the hillfort and its surrounding environs.” The team has already been busy with place name research, further vegetation clearance and a topographic survey, with a huge number of volunteers taking part. More have signed-up to take part in the dig and local schools are also getting involved in the project, which forms part of the Perth and Kinross Archaeology Year 2017. Outreach officer Gavin Lindsay said: “The King’s Seat Community Archaeology Project is a fantastic way to encourage younger generations to take and active interest in the past and learn more about their incredible local heritage. “Archaeology isn’t part of the national curriculum so it is really important to get the message across, not just through visiting schools and telling them about archaeology but by teaching them new transferrable skills and getting them out of the classroom and into trenches to discover their past at the trowel’s edge.” The project will run for three years. Visit the project webpage at www.pkht.org.uk for more information.


Notorious Dundee murderer prepares to go back on trial

February 3 2018

Celebrated television historian Dan Snow believes Saturday’s recreation of the murder trial of notorious killer William Bury will be “absolutely fascinating”. He and his crew will film the proceedings at Dundee Sheriff Court for a documentary that will be screened later in the year. Fifteen readers of The Courier have been selected to form the jury for a special reconvening of the High Court of 1889. They will be presented with the same medical evidence used to convict Bury of the brutal slaying of his wife, Ellen, in the flat they shared at 112 Princes Street in Dundee. Experts at his trial gave wildly contrasting versions of what might have happened, suggesting suicide and post-mortem disfiguring to a vicious slaying, with the medical evidence causing significant confusion. Nonetheless, William Henry Bury was convicted and sentenced to death, achieving immortality as the last man to be hanged in Dunde. Were that not enough, he made a confession to police officers to have been “Jack the Ripper” and has ever since been linked to “Ripper” lore. Forensic anthropologist Dame Sue Black and her team at Dundee University have been given permission to recreate part of the trial in court 1 at Dundee Sheriff Court. The volunteer panel of jurors will be joined by some of Scotland’s brightest young trainee lawyers, with a Dundee University legal team prosecuting and Aberdeen counterparts defending the accused. They will do so under the guidance of two of the country’s top legal minds, in Alex Prentice QC and Dorothy Bain QC respectively. The trial will take place in front of Lord Hugh Matthews, a Senator of the College of Justice and a judge of Scotland’s Supreme Courts. Ahead of the trial, Dan Snow said: “We are so excited to see the outcome of CSI Dundee. “A retrial in the same courtroom of the man who might have been The Ripper, but with all the techniques of modern science, will be absolutely fascinating.” His director for HistoryHitTV, Nathan Williams, is no stranger to working with Professor Black, having collaborated with her last year on the exhumation of Simon Fraser – the last man beheaded at the Tower of London. He said: “When Sue mentioned that she was going to be re-staging a trail of the last man to be hanged in Dundee I knew we had to be involved. “The fact that William Bury is also a possible suspect for the Jack the Ripper murders made the story even more thrilling. “I have no idea what's going to happen during the trial, but I know it will be gripping and gruesome. “It's wonderful to be able to bring it to a larger audience via HistoryHit TV so that people around the world will be able to witness this unique event.” The Courier will be covering every moment of the trial, tweeting live from the court room and presenting a full report in Monday’s edition.


172-0: Why Howe of Fife’s defeat at hands of Blairgowrie is no laughing matter for junior rugby

January 24 2017

Glasgow Warriors may have set the rugby world alight with a stunning 43-0 demolition of Leicester on the Tiger’s own home pitch but theirs was not the weekend’s only big score. Blairgowrie RFC travelled to Cupar for what would usually be a testing battle against Howe of Fife 2nd XV only to run out the Division 2 Midlands match as 172-0 winners. The Fifers had their match preparations blighted by all manner of misfortune and circumstance and did well to even turn out a side. A combination of injuries, call-ups to the firsts’ squad and eight young players heading off on a gap year meant that in the end, only a 12-strong team could be gathered. Ten of that number were veteran players on the wrong side of 35 and they endured a chastening 60 minutes before the game was called. Howe of Fife Club president Murdo Fraser said he was “very proud” of the effort of his team but said the situation underlined the serious problems facing the sport he loves. He said clubs were facing an ever greater struggle to find players and fears clubs face oblivion if the Scottish Rugby Union does not shift its gaze from the professional game. “This match was a clear example of the struggle that clubs like Howe of Fife are having at this time,” Mr Fraser said. “There is a serious lack of player numbers in junior rugby. It is a massive issue and one that the governing body needs to look at. “All anyone is interested in is money. Clubs at our level lose so any players to the higher clubs where they get paid big wages. “We find it increasingly hard to keep players but we refuse to go down the route of 'chequebook' rugby football.” Mr Fraser said many clubs, including Howe, Morgan and Madras had enduring problems with finding players. One issue has been the creation of the British University League, to which a large number of very fine university players are contracted. In the past, Howe and Madras used to be able to call upon St Andrews University players to play for their clubs, but that resource has now been lost. “The SRU has a duty to look at the reasons why player numbers are dwindling,” Mr Fraser said. The Howe president admitted the team had considered not playing but said he had been convinced the fixture must go ahead. “I told them that it would be a shame for Blairgowrie if we didn’t play as they would lose their day out and the chance for their boys to play rugby. “That is what Saturday afternoons are all about; a good game of rugby and a beer and camaraderie afterwards. “We had to scramble about and our veterans – most of them over 35 – had to dust down their boots and play for the team. “We ended up with 12 players and yes in the end it was a big scoreline but I’m very proud of the boys. “It was a great effort and in amateur sport that is what it is all about.” Mr Fraser admitted the club had also feared failing to fulfil the fixture would lead to a possible points deduction and even being kicked out of the league. Within the past 12 months Howe of Fife has invested £1.28 million on a first class training facility in an attempt to boost youth rugby. It has done so very successfully, working successfully with schools such as Bell Baxter High and producing under 18 and under 16 sides that have enjoyed great success in youth cup competitions. Nonetheless, Mr Fraser said he believed there is a significant disconnect between success at grass roots level and that at club level. Blair controlled Saturday’s game from start to finish with John McLaren scoring seven tries - equalling his own record set just a few weeks ago. Arran Todd and Mattey Michie both scored their first hat-trick of tries for the club, while there were doubles for four players and single tries for seven further Blair players.   More mergers look inevitable Embarrassing mis-matches like Saturday’s at Duffus Park are becoming all too common in Scotland’s club rugby leagues, highlighting a personnel crisis in the grassroots game, writes Courier rugby correspondent Steve Scott. When even a well-run club with a famously productive junior section like Howe can’t get a 2nd XV together, things are getting parlous. Well-established clubs like Morgan Academy FP, Madras and Panmure in the same division as Howe IIs have had difficulty fulfilling first team league fixtures this year. The St Andrews club depends heavily on army personnel from Leuchars and had to scratch one match because they couldn’t raise a team when units were on manoeuvres. Morgan, who were in the third tier of club rugby just a few years ago, have suffered two 100-point defeats this season. Panmure, the region’s oldest club, had to pull out of a fixture this season as well due to lack of numbers. Investment from Murrayfield probably can’t solve this issue. In practical terms, perhaps more club mergers – such as have occurred in Edinburgh and Glasgow – are inevitable in the Midlands District.

Perth & Kinross

Concern over crippling debt levels in Perth and Kinross

February 13 2017

Families across Perth and Kinross are in the midst of an unprecedented struggle with debt that could plunge the council into crisis. Shocking new figures reveal that residents are straining and crumbling beneath the weight of historic levels of money woes. The total debt faced by the hardest pressed rose by 12% over the past 12 months and is predicted to increase by a further 17% during the next financial year. Perth Citizens Advice Bureau warns that could lead to a significant increase in unpaid council tax and council rent. That could have a major impact upon Perth and Kinross Council whose own cash crisis will see it forced to slash £65 million from its budget over the next five years. Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart said the CAB’s warning “should set alarm bells ringing throughout the entire community” as he called for a new strategy to address debt. Perth CAB reports that it is now “working to capacity” as its staff attempt to offer a way out for local people. They have worked with households plunged into ill health by the strain of paying for even the basics, such as rent, council tax or fuel. Chief Executive Sandy Watts warned that without swift action and major welfare reform the future bodes ill for individuals, families and the council. Mrs Watts said: “Individuals in debt are accumulating more debts and a higher level of indebtedness. “The trend for increasing priority debt such as rent, council tax and fuel and the gradual decrease in consumer debt suggests more and more people are struggling just to make ends meet. “Rent arrears have more than doubled in the last two years as have fuel debts, such as domestic gas and electricity, which is hugely worrying as these are essential household costs. “Council tax debt remains high with a 50% increase last year and a further increase anticipated this year. “It is likely to increase again next year quite substantially if council tax is increased. Welfare reform must be a key factor. 86% of Universal Credit claimants are now in council tax or council rent arrears. “The full UC service will not reach Perth and Kinross until next year but this bodes ill for the future and I think is a big worry for local authorities.” Pete Wishart MSP said he was ever more aware of the scale of Scotland’s debt problem as an increasing number of struggling constituents visit his offices in Perth and Blairgowrie. “What we are hearing from CAB should set alarm bells ringing throughout or community,” he said. “This is not about excessive spending on luxury items or pushing the boat out. It is about people struggling with day-to-day necessities.”

Perth & Kinross

Police officer on trial accused of stalking former partners

June 27 2017

A Tayside police officer has gone on trial accused of stalking one former partner and both stalking and assaulting a second. Scott McGregor denies three charges relating to two women, which are said to have taken place over a decade. During hours of evidence at Perth Sheriff Court, Kirstyn Fullerton told how the 28-year-old had first spotted her as she worked as a door supervisor at a pub and club in Perth. She said he had plied her with sweets and gifts as he and police colleagues competed for her affections. Ms Fullerton said she had come to care for him over a number of weeks, only for the relationship to falter when she discovered he was living with a long-term partner. As their relationship fractured, Ms Fullerton said his behaviour had become increasingly erratic, beginning with following her and culminating in at least one assault. She said he had begun to lurk outside in the street as she visited friends and had waited by the roadside for her as she drove home from work. Ms Fullerton said the behaviour surfaced “when we had an argument or when I caught him out in lies”. As the relationship finally came to an end, she said he had become physically violent, claiming that he had once kicked out at her as she attempted to flee his home. “My bag caught on the door as I ran out,” she told the court. “He aimed a kick at my back and missed, but caught my hand. One of my fingers was broken.” Also giving evidence was former partner Katherine Allan, who dated McGregor when they were both in their teens. She recounted how their 12-month relationship had broken down, and then told the court how he had begun to follow her and make unannounced visits to her home. She told the court he had followed her to friends’ homes, tailed her to her parents’ house and even shadowed her on dates. Though she claimed he had been in relationships after they broke up, she said he had taken it badly every time she herself began dating. The witness said McGregor sometimes made suggestions they should rekindle their relationship, but said she “never felt his heart was in it”. On one occasion she said he had visited her home and battered on the door – even reaching through the letter box to try and gain entry – when she would not let him in. She also claimed that on another occasion, he had used a house party to slip into her bedroom and sit, watching her sleep. The witness added: “He didn’t appear to want a relationship, yet he kept intruding in my private life.” McGregor, who gave the police force's Professional Standards Department as his address, is employed within the Tayside area. He is understood to be on restricted duties at present. McGregor denies stalking his former partner Katherine Allan at numerous locations in Perthshire between October 1, 2007 and May 31, 2010. He denies conducting himself in a disorderly manner by sitting in his vehicle and repeatedly following Miss Allan, as well as bombarding her with phone calls and text messages. The charge alleges he also shouted at her, repeatedly tried to get into her flat in Scone, entered it uninvited and got into the bedroom and sat on her bed and repeatedly demanded to know her whereabouts. He also denies a second charge that between January 1, 2015 and February 29 2016, he behaved in a manner likely to cause fear or alarm by repeatedly following Kirstyn Fullerton and bombarding her with phone and text messages. The third charge, which he also denies, alleges that between 1 January 2015 and 21 February last year he assaulted Miss Fullerton in various parts of Perth. The trial continues.

Perth & Kinross

Renaissance of Perthshire property market — sales up £10 million from last year

April 4 2017

The renaissance of Perthshire’s property market is continuing apace, with sales up £10 million on this time last year. The average price of property sold has also markedly increased, rising from £163,409 this time last year to £181,473. Perthshire Solicitors Property Centre (PSPC) figures show that member firms have sold almost £33 million worth of homes in little more than three months. While March is traditionally one of the busiest times for sales — with the winter slump forgotten — that was nonetheless a significant increase on 2016, when the combined value was just over £22m. Increasing confidence amongst buyers has played its part in the success story, but PSPC manager Anne Begg said it was also important that sellers were being “realistic” with the prices demanded. “We are absolutely delighted to see, in black and white, the marked increase in sales compared to the first quarter of 2016 and the significant increase in the average price tag compared to this time last year,” she said. “With winter well and truly behind us, it’s not surprising that March performed particularly well with 82 properties sold at a total value of over £15m. “We hope that the market continues to improve as we head towards the summer months, or at least retains the current stability we are enjoying.” This boost in property sales mirrors a recent house price growth in Perth, with the city seeing an increase of 26% over the past five years. Ms Begg had previously said that properties selling for up to £250,000 in Perth and Kinross were often snapped up “within a few hours,” with the majority meeting their home report value. “Some properties exceed that value, especially in family friendly areas of Perth and Kinross,” she had said.