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Substance which sparked Glenrothes chemical alert deemed “non-hazardous”

June 30 2016

Members of the public have been assured that a mysterious substance which sparked a major chemical alert in Glenrothes town centre posed no risk to people’s safety. Authorities have confirmed that the liquid which caused the evacuation of Glenrothes bus station for more than an hour on Wednesday evening was “non-hazardous” and “non-toxic”, although further tests will be carried out to ascertain exactly what it was. Emergency services descended on the scene at around 4.15pm after receiving a report of a clear chemical leaking out of a drain at the bus station’s taxi rank, with witnesses also describing a distinctive chemical smell in the area. A cordon was set up as a precaution, but the fire service, ambulance and police stood down when the all clear was finally given more than two hours after the initial call. Despite the apparent false alarm, a spokesperson for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said the emergency services had to take the report of potentially hazardous chemicals seriously. “A full chemical response was mobilised including two pumps from Glenrothes and a Detection Identification and Monitoring (DIM) unit from Dundee,” the spokesperson added. “Firefighters worked quickly alongside Police Scotland to evacuate the area and establish cordons. “Firefighters wore breathing apparatus when entering the risk area to collect samples and assess the leak which was deemed non-hazardous and non-toxic by the DIM unit in conjunction with Glasgow Scientific Services.” It is understood that Fife Council was then requested to aid with disposal of the chemical before firefighters left the scene at 6.40pm. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) was contacted by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and is expected to be involved in the investigation, although a spokesperson for SEPA said that it did not expect any “significant impact” on the environment. A taxi driver, who did not wish to be named, said after the alert: “I was sitting in my taxi and we were all out in the rank when we could smell what was like an ammonia smell coming through the drains. “One of the guys thought it smelled like his clutch was away, but we soon knew it wasn’t that. “It was bubbling up through the drain, whatever it was, and all the taxis in the rank had to be moved out of the area before it was cordoned off, and it was then closed completely.” She added: “They (the emergency services) obviously didn’t know what it is, but one of the drivers said it was blue.” Locals have also suggested that both the Kingdom Shopping Centre and Scottish Water were told about the drain in question being blocked at the end of last year, although both denied responsibility.

Angus & The Mearns

VIDEO: Sadness as massive 40ft whale washed up at Monifieth beach dies

March 21 2018

A rescue mission to save a whale which washed up on a beach near Monifieth has turned into a recovery operation after the animal was found dead. The British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) team was called to a stretch of shoreline between Monifieth and Barry Buddon shortly before 6pm on Wednesday following earlier sightings of what appeared to be a cetacean that had live stranded. HM Coastguard from Carnoustie and Arbroath were called to assist, as was the RNLI’s inshore lifeboat at Broughty Ferry, but volunteers eventually discovered that the whale – which has been identified as a 12-metre (40ft) sperm whale by experts on site - had died. Teams were out in the pitch darkness to try to secure the site, and warned members of the public not to visit the beach for their own safety. Paul Smith, the BDMLR’s Fife and Stirlingshire co-ordinator, revealed that an initial sighting was made by a dog walker at around 3pm, although he confirmed the sad news that the whale did not survive. “It wasn’t notified until later on but we’ve obviously responded with our team and we’ve found it subsequently dead,” he said. “We’re just doing a search at the minute of the beach to see if it is just the one animal, and there is a possible concern of things showing up on Thursday morning. “We’re keeping an open mind but at the minute it’s confirmed as one.” https://www.facebook.com/broughtyferrylifeboat/posts/1025381290942238 Whales are regularly spotted in the waters off the east coast of Scotland, but Mr Smith admitted it was not a usual occurrence to spot a sperm whale of this size in the Tay. “We get a lot of animals and there are a lot of whales traversing all these waters and these migration routes. You do get a lot of species and we get whales which visit this part of the world,” he added. https://www.thecourier.co.uk/fp/news/local/angus-mearns/622760/pictures-photos-show-scenes-on-tayside-beach-after-huge-sperm-washes-ashore/ “But it is uncommon to get big whales visiting the Tay like this – they’ll pass by certainly but it’s not very often they come in. “The problem with sperm whales is that it’s the wrong species in the wrong area. They don’t do well on the east coast. “They should be on the west coast and there’s nothing out there on the east coast for them to eat, so it’s more than likely that it has suffered dehydration or starvation and it has succumbed. “It could also be ill, but we don’t know until we do a post-mortem.” Experts were expected to revisit the beach at first light, but Mr Smith warned people to stay away and let those doing the recovery do their jobs. “We don’t want anybody down there because this is now a biohazard,” he stressed.” “It’s going to start deteriorating -  you can get a lot of nasty diseases from these animals so we don’t want anybody down there.” The whale was spotted by a man who was walking his dog by the shore. The man, who did not wish to be named, said: “It was hard to see if it was a whale or not at first, even with the binoculars. “It kind of looked like a big log, but you could see the dorsal on it. “It looked like there were a few exits from the blowhole, but it could have been water hitting the log. “It was hard to tell because it was pretty rough, but I met my friend and we got the binoculars out and we thought it definitely looked like a whale. “We then met a woman and she phoned the RSPCA. I think it stranded a lot further up, because at that time the tide was receding and it had moved a bit. “It’s such a shame if it has died.” Article includes photos from licensed drone operator Rising View


Fife teacher’s global lesson is ship shape

December 12 2017

A Fife school teacher has sent hundreds of tiny boats all over the world – all in order to teach her pupils about kindness. Kathryn Brown, who is an art teacher based at Inverkeithing High School, decided to send 400 plywood boats to everyone from famous artists to friends’ toddlers to be decorated in any way they liked, before they were asked to send them back to her. The idea behind the unusual fleet was that she would show her class how generous people can be. She explained: “Boats have been given to everyone from the brilliant artist and playwright John Byrne to the lady who cleans my classroom. “I have sent a boat to Antarctica, and 40 to a Spanish school. “They’ve gone to Sweden, Holland, Germany, America and Denmark. “And our little boats sailed with the Japanese Peace Boat, winners of the Nobel Peace prize. “With all the horrors that children see online these days, I wanted to show them that the world can be a kind place as well as a violent place.” The boats’ simple shape is a tribute to the late Scots artist, George Wyllie, who famously put a giant paper boat on the Clyde, and now the 400 hand-decorated ships are being displayed at an exhibition in Dunfermline before they take on the next phase of their journey. Ms Brown, of Rosyth, went on: “I am thinking of sending the boats out for another year, with the aim of gathering 2000, as this was the number of ‘dazzled’ boats that existed between the first and second world wars. “This would also tie in nicely with the centenary of the armistice in 2018. “The fleet that is emerging says everything about the positivity, kindness, generosity and good spirit of people that I wanted to show.” The ‘dazzled’ painting Ms Brown refers to was a phenomenon during the wars, with many British naval vessels painted with jagged, almost psychedelic designs to act as camouflage in a bid to protect them from German attack. The hand-decorated boats went on display at Workspace Dunfermline in Leadside Crescent, Dunfermline, on Saturday night, and the exhibition is expected to run until January 11.


St Andrews murder trial: Accused told policeman to “give up” trying to save sister’s life, court told

May 31 2017

A court has heard a Fife man accused of raping and murdering his sister told a police officer trying to save her life: “She’s already dead, you might as well give up.” The High Court in Glasgow was told Charles Gordon made the comment as he calmly sat on a sofa smoking a cigarette while PC Craig Walker carried out CPR on Elizabeth Bowe lying yards away. Gordon, 52, denies murdering Ms Bowe, 50, by putting a dressing gown around her neck, compressing it and placing a bag over her head at her home in Bobby Jones Place on September 17 last year. He also denies raping Ms Bowe, and behaving in a threatening manner towards detectives. PC Walker told the court he and colleague PC Keith Leinster were on mobile patrol when they were called to an incident at a flat in Bobby Jones Place at around 9.25pm on the evening in question. PC Walker said he had to force entry to the communal door but was told to come in by Gordon when he knocked on Ms Bowe’s door. There he saw Gordon sitting on the sofa smoking a cigarette, with Ms Bowe lying motionless beside a coffee table on the floor. PC Walker told the court she was only dressed on her top half wearing a vest top, with her bra undone. He saw she had blood in her mouth and what he initially thought was a blue blanket wrapped “like a scarf” around her neck. He also saw a torn and stretched carrier bag with blood on it nearby. PC Walker told the court he started doing chest compressions, as he couldn't do mouth-to-mouth due to the presence of blood, and heard Gordon say: “She's already dead, you might as well give up.” While PC Walker's focus was on trying to save Ms Bowe's life, PC Leinster told the court his attention was on Gordon, whom he handcuffed. PC Leinster said Gordon had been compliant and had not shown any emotion, albeit he had been “a bit rambling” as he appeared under the influence of alcohol. The court then heard how Gordon had told police: “I wish it hadn't happened, but it did.” After being taken to Kirkcaldy police station, Gordon was then heard to say: “Wee sister tried to be a wee slut, so I tried to kill her.” And then a short time later, he said: “Nothing to hide, I know what I’ve done.” Asked by prosecutor Iain McSporran what Gordon’s mood was like, PC Leinster replied: “He didn't appear to be a man who was distraught at the potential loss of life of his sister.” He added that Gordon had seemed “a little agitated”, but had been cooperative. Sergeant James Scarborough, who had been a detective constable at Kirkcaldy at the time, confirmed Gordon had made the statements alleged after his detention, adding that he had also heard him say: “Little b*****d sister.” Sgt Scarborough said Gordon became “quite abusive” when trying to move him from his cell at 5.18am the following morning and told him “You'll be next”. The court also heard from ambulance technician Angus Headley who arrived at Ms Bowe’s flat to find her on her back on the floor. She had no signs of life at that stage, but medics eventually managed to find a faint pulse after drugs were administered at the scene. She was taken to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, but the court heard that a CT scan showed changes to her brain consistent with a prolonged lack of oxygen and that doctors felt it was “highly unlikely” she would survive. She was pronounced dead at 12.01pm on September 20. The trial before judge John Morris continues. For more, see Thursday's Courier


One-legged Dundee United fan in running for SPFL Goal of the Month prize

December 1 2016

A one-legged Dundee United fan who scored a dream goal at Tannadice is now in the running for the SPFL’s coveted Goal of the Month award for November. Tommy McKay, who walks with the aid of crutches, wowed the crowd during the half-time interval of Dundee United’s league game with Dunfermline last month when he sent a superb lob over Tangerines keeper Brett Long. It might have only been half-time entertainment, but the stunning 20-yard chip during the McEwan Fraser Legal challenge was one that will live long in the memory of the 6,000 or so fans in attendance and the thousands who have since viewed the footage online. And now the SPFL have acknowledged Tommy’s efforts, shortlisting him for the November Goal of the Month prize. https://youtu.be/_kXCFHdAgtw Tommy, who had his leg amputated at the age of nine, is up against one of his favourites, actual Dundee United player Scott Fraser, while also shortlisted are Aberdeen’s Jayden Stockley, Celtic’s Tom Rogic, Rangers’ Joe Dodoo, Hamilton’s Ali Crawford, Hibs and former Dundee striker Martin Boyle, and Sean Dickson from Stirling Albion. Members of the public can vote on social media for their favourite, and already Tommy’s strike looks to be the clear front-runner. Indeed, fans of different clubs – including United’s arch rivals Dundee – have already indicated on Facebook and Twitter their support for Tommy.


Charles Gordon murder trial: Jury consider verdict

June 2 2017

A jury will today consider its verdict in the trial of a Fife man accused of murdering his own sister. Charles Gordon, 52, denies murdering Elizabeth Bowe by putting a dressing gown around her neck, compressing it and placing a plastic bag over her head at her flat in Bobby Jones Place, St Andrews, on September 17 last year. Ms Bowe, 50, was rushed to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee but she suffered serious brain damage due to a lack of oxygen and was pronounced dead on September 20. Gordon has admitted causing the injuries which resulted in his sister’s death, but denies murder. The jury at the High Court in Glasgow have heard three days of evidence, and advocate depute Iain McSporran urged them to convict Gordon of murder. He pointed to evidence given by pathologist Dr David Sadler which said the cause of Ms Bowe’s death had been mechanical asphyxia, most likely by manual strangulation. And he noted his expert view that although a person being strangled could lose consciousness in around 10 to 20 seconds, it could take up to a minute for death to occur. “If you want to kill someone and make sure they are not coming back, if you want to make sure death is the result, you keep strangling them and applying pressure,” Mr McSporran told the jury. Ms Bowe had been found unresponsive with a dressing gown around her neck and half naked, while a blood-stained torn plastic bag lay nearby. Gordon claimed his sister had removed the lower half of her clothing and threatened to cry rape, before going on to threaten to “cut the face off” him. It was at that point, Gordon claimed, he took hold of her neck to restrain her. Mr McSporran told the jury to “utterly reject” that version of events. “It's a vile and disgusting lie about someone who is not here to defend herself,” he went on. “We might simply never know why he murdered her but when you look at the evidence...he was sitting there having a cigarette, calm as you like, with his feet almost touching his sister's head as she lay dying, mouth full of blood. “He had done his job. He didn't let her go when she lost consciousness, he kept his grip.” However, defence solicitor Iain Paterson stressed that his client had made the initial phone call and had been co-operative with police, adding that he fully accepted he had caused injuries to his sister which resulted in her death. “It's not a whodunnit,” he told the jury. “What this trial is about is his level of responsibility for this crime.” Mr Paterson reiterated Gordon's position that he had been provoked and urged the jury not to speculate, suggesting that the Crown had not proved that Gordon had murdered Ms Bowe. He went on to say there had been no evidence led by the Crown to suggest the plastic bag had been placed over Ms Bowe’s head, and pointed out the evidence of Dr Sadler who said there was no sign of any ligature mark on her neck. Mr Paterson also highlighted evidence from a police officer describing Ms Bowe as “erratic, quite aggressive and chaotic”, and said her conduct tended to support his client’s version of events. Suggesting a lesser charge of culpable homicide or culpable homicide by provocation, he added: “I accept he grabbed her by the throat, but all that proves is that he killed her, no more. “It is a tragedy, there's no getting away from that, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's murder.” Charges alleging Gordon had sexually assaulted his sister and threatened detectives were withdrawn by the Crown on Thursday.


Fife ‘bedroom tax’ campaigners claim to have scored arrears victory

July 10 2017

Activists in Fife fighting the controversial 'bedroom tax' are claiming victory after Fife Council confirmed it will no longer pursue tenants with a “static balance” of arrears. Members of the Fife Anti-Bedroom Tax Campaign have been critical of the local authority’s stance on enforcing bedroom tax arrears going back to 2013/14. However, the latest move has been welcomed by campaigners who insist a decision to clear the accounts of people in that situation is long overdue. Although tenants no longer have to pay the so-called bedroom tax locally, it is still on the statute books and the Scottish Government mitigates it by covering the costs with local authorities. This started in April 2014 and has continued to date but tenants still have liability for 2013/14 bedroom tax. Maureen Closs, of the Fife Anti-Bedroom Tax Campaign, said: “From day one of the bedroom tax implementation, Fife Council pronounced its opposition to the tax but at the same time came down very hard on people who couldn’t pay. “Right up to last year tenants were receiving texts, letters, telephone calls and visits from housing officers hounding them to pay their 2013/14 arrears. “We campaigned for the council to introduce an amnesty on tenants whose only arrears were due to the bedroom tax but met with full resistance.” Those with a ‘static balance’ have arrears that have remained the same all year with no further arrears being added on to the rent account. The council will be sifting through their records to find people in this position and will contact them to let them know their account is being cleared. Mrs Closs continued:  “We are very pleased that the council is taking this step, because it’ll be a huge weight lifted from the shoulders of people who still owe the bedroom tax. “We met someone a while ago who was intimidated into borrowing the money from her mother because of the hassle she was getting from council officers and then was unable to repay it. “This was no way to treat people and we hope that the officers involved this time around will not come in heavy handed.” Despite the move though, campaigners say they fear that this new leniency will come at the cost of people transferring on to Universal Credit (UC) who will almost certainly fall behind with their rent. This benefit now includes housing costs - formerly housing benefit that used to be administered via local authorities. “UC itself is routinely delayed by six weeks before the first payment comes through and this won’t necessarily include the housing costs,” Ms Closs warned. “People not used to having to pay rent from their benefits most likely will not be aware of the situation and will end up in rent arrears. “We feel people are being set up to fail.  Everybody who knows about these things has told the government that housing costs should be paid directly to the landlord but currently this cannot happen until the person is twelve weeks in arrears.  This sort of proves our point.” Les Robertson, head of revenue and commercial services, commented: "Like other landlords we take a pragmatic approach to debt collection. “If it will cost more in time and resources to recover the arrears than the outstanding balance we're owed, we will consider writing off small, static balances. “This approach isn't limited to cases affected by the bedroom tax, nor is it a one-size fits all approach. "The council has consistently opposed the bedroom tax and continues to highlight the negative impact that the roll out of Universal Credit will have on many people throughout Fife."


Waid Academy bolsters The Courier’s ‘Can It’ campaign

September 29 2016

Staff and pupils at Waid Academy in Anstruther threw their weight behind The Courier’s ‘Can It’ campaign earlier this year and pledged on Wednesday to keep backing the initiative in the weeks ahead. Several Fife secondary schools are supporting The Courier’s drive to ban caffeine-based fizzy ‘energy’ drinks from school premises in a bid to improve the health and wellbeing of the region’s youngsters. Specially designed ‘Can It’ water bottles are being given out to the new S1 cohort at participating schools as a thank you for signing up. Teachers said they plan to hold assemblies in the coming weeks to reinforce the ‘Can It’ message. The school’s health and wellbeing group has been raising awareness of the potential effects of such drinks, while Waid’s student congress has aimed to increase the number of water fountains on school premises. A deal was struck with the school’s PPP partners for one to be installed in the sports hall before the summer break. Rector Iain Hughes said: “We currently do not sell carbonated drinks from any outlet in the school but there is still a task ahead to limit the number of these being brought onto school premises. “We strongly believe that for the significant health benefits to our learners that we have to break down the culture of drinking energy drinks.” Teacher Jacqui Smith-Mackay added: “Now that they have the bottles, we’ll have an assembly to explain to the pupils why they have got them and there will be a big drive from our Health and Wellbeing Group. “We have mooted it around the school and have some of The Courier’s articles and photos from earlier in the year, but it’s something we’re keen to get behind. “We’ve got the Co-op nearby, the pupils have got the pocket blazers, so you’ll see them try to come in with energy drinks every morning.” Other Fife schools backing the campaign include Kirkcaldy High, Bell Baxter High, Lochgelly High, Balwearie High, Glenrothes High, Queen Anne High, St Andrew’s RC High and Inverkeithing High. The campaign was also endorsed by Fife councillors earlier in the year.


Funding boost in fight against bladder cancer

July 20 2016

A pioneering new method for the accurate diagnosis of bladder cancer is one step closer thanks to a major funding boost. Funding of £500,000 from the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, will allow experts at the University of St Andrews to develop technology alongside Aberdeen-based diagnostic specialists Cytosystems. Together they will work on the development of a cell based test coupled to software which automatically analyses digital images of the cells, resulting in an ‘extremely accurate’ test for the presence of bladder cancer. The new non-invasive kit will not only aid the initial diagnosis of bladder cancer but will also relieve the need for traditionally uncomfortable methods of long-term post treatment management of the disease such as cystoscopy and would avoid associated risks such as urinary tract infection. The patient would also be able to provide a sample at their local point of care and therefore potentially avoid a trip to the hospital. Dr Peter Caie, a senior research fellow in pathology at the University’s School of Medicine, is leading the research behind the development. He said: “The cutting-edge image analysis technology involved in the BladderLight automated system captures complex measurements of each individual cell’s shape and size in the patient sample. “It combines these single-cell resolution measurements with each cell’s protein biomarker expression, resulting in an extremely accurate assessment of the presence or absence of cancer cells within the urine sample.” Initial results from trials of the technology have proved with 100% accuracy whether a patient has cancer or not, which improves upon current clinical practice.


New speed detection device unveiled in north east Fife

April 21 2016

A new weapon in the fight to tackle speeding motorists throughout north east Fife was unveiled by officers in Tayport. Local councillors Tim Brett, Maggie Taylor and Bill Connor were given a demonstration of a new speed detection device by Tay Bridgehead ward officers PC Susie Martin and PC Ewan McIntosh after the state-of-the-art equipment was purchased using locality budget cash earlier this month. The Unipar device, which is a handheld laser speed gauge, can detect driver speed from much further away than conventional techniques, and has been donated to Police Scotland for use on north east Fife’s roads. It now means local officers have two such devices which can be deployed to particular hotspots, or where there are community concerns. “It’s the most fantastic thing,” Councillor Taylor added. “To be able to detect people speeding from a much further distance than before is tremendous, so we’re delighted.”