Unexplained: What happens when families and police disagree on cause of death?

Norah Connelly and Stephanie Bonner have become firm friends since the deaths of their sons - and they want answers.

The sudden death of a child is unimaginable.

But two mothers believe they are living through something even more painful — not knowing why their sons never came home.

Norah Connelly and Stephanie Bonner have become friends; bonded by the shared tragedy of losing their beloved boys in circumstances they fear may never be explained.

Trainee chef Johnny Connelly, who had mild learning difficulties, was walking home from work when he disappeared. A week later, the 28-year-old’s body was recovered from a canal.

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Two days after Johnny’s death, 19-year-old “gentle giant” Rhys Bonner was reported missing. His half-naked body was found in marshland a fortnight later.

Norah and Stephanie are convinced some people know what happened and have vowed to never give up until they get justice for their sons.

With the first anniversary of their deaths this month, the grieving mums spoke with Kelly-Ann Woodland for a Scotland Tonight report to be broadcast on STV at 7.30pm on Thursday.

Stephanie said: “He was a big gentle giant. He loved life. I’ve got his ashes but I’m never going to do anything with them until I’ve got answers.”

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Norah said: “Help me get a wee bit of closure. If my son’s death had been an illness or an accident, I could grieve naturally. But I can’t grieve until I get some peace in my heart.”

Rhys Bonner, 19 years old

Disappeared: July 24, 2019 from Barlanark, Glasgow.

Body found: August 8, in marshland three miles away.

Death certificate: “Unascertained”

Rhys Bonner’s badly decomposed remains were found semi-submerged in marshland on the outskirts of Glasgow’s east end. He had no obvious reason to be there. He had no shoes or socks on and was naked from the waist down.

Mum Stephanie believes someone was either directly responsible for killing Rhys, was involved in somehow causing his death or, at least, knows what happened.

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She and her family are highly critical of Police Scotland and have made an official complaint.

Rhys Bonner’s family have been highly critical of the police.

When Rhys did not return home, Stephanie discovered he was last seen in the company of an older woman.

His family reported Rhys missing — and shared their concerns — but felt Police Scotland were dismissive. A year later, the family’s opinion has sunk even further. All trust has gone.

Using their own initiative, the family secured CCTV of Rhys and learned he had been with the woman a few miles north of their home in Barlanark.

A witness spotted them on a path behind modern, red-brick houses on Blacader Drive in Gartloch Village, which is set in a semi-rural swathe of green on the map, belying its proximity to the inner city.

The family couldn’t convince police to search with sniffer dogs or a helicopter. Instead, they and friends mobilised to comb the dense, waterlogged expanse.

Stephanie Bonner visited the site where Rhys’ body was found.

Around a week after going missing, items of Rhys’s clothing were found in the marshland but another week passed until a police drone spotted his bright yellow Celtic top in a cluster of trees.

Stephanie said: “They found his clothes and a trainer was up a tree. Then they found a sock. Then they found his other trainer and then his jogging trousers.

“How did they not find his body until a week later? Did they not search in the same area to find him that day?”

When Rhys left home he had been wearing a baseball cap. The family found it in the women’s close and handed it to police who, they say, appeared uninterested.

In their complaint, the family allege the police failed to conduct basic enquiries, before and after his body was found, and did not publicly appeal for witnesses.

For weeks, Stephanie’s parents gathered to lay flowers at the spot where they had been led to believe Rhys was found — until a local resident approached them.

The resident had filmed phone footage of four police marine unit officers in distinctive red uniforms using ropes to remove Rhys’s remains.

Not only was the clip hugely distressing, the family realised their floral tributes were 800 feet from where his body had actually been found.

Stephanie said: “A concerned neighbour said ‘the police are showing you the wrong bit; your mum and dad are laying flowers and we just feel so sorry’.

“Every time I go to bed, that’s all I see at night, that’s my son, my wee child. It’s just devastating.”

Stephanie believes the police prematurely dismissed Rhys’s death as non-suspicious and, having done so, any potential evidence of criminality was lost forever. It also means they cannot back down.

She said: “They said it wasn’t criminal — they said that straight away. I was trying to figure out how they’re saying it’s not criminal. And when the video came, I said that’s how it’s not been criminal, because they’ve not acted, they’ve not tried to get any evidence.

“It doesn’t matter what happened to Rhys, they weren’t going to do anything about it.”

This apparent misinformation about the location of where Rhys’s was found, the “disrespectful” treatment of his body and alleged failures to secure evidence are central to the family’s complaint.

Stephanie, aged 17 when Rhys was born, says he was a “family boy” who loved basketball and would often go shopping for her and take his wee sisters to the park.

He was tall and handsome, but scared of spiders and the dark. Stephanie says he would never have gone into the area where he was found.

For Scotland Tonight, Stephanie made her first visit to where Rhys was found and appealed to anyone with information, adding: “Just don’t be scared. Please come forward and just tell me anything at all, it doesn’t matter if it’s just a wee thing.”

Chief inspector Patrick Murphy says Rhys’s death was “fully investigated” with “no criminality” established and that a report was submitted to the Crown Office.

He added: “We are in regular contact with his family to keep them updated on any new information and keeping them fully informed is a priority for us.

“A complaint about the police has been received from Rhys’s mother which is under consideration by our Professional Standards Department, therefore we are unable to comment further at this stage.”

Johnny Connelly, 28 years old

Disappeared: July 15, 2019, from Glasgow city centre

Body found: July 22, in canal on route home.

Death certificate: Blank

When Norah Connelly gets up each day she has a chat with her son Johnny, who died one year ago.

She told Scotland Tonight: “Every morning I wake up and look at Johnny’s photo and say ‘maybe today’s the day we’re going to get justice Johnny’.”

The trainee chef, kids’ football coach and amateur goalkeeper had gone into Glasgow city centre one evening last July to ask his boss about overdue wages.

Having left with an assurance his pay would be deposited in the bank, he had no option but to walk home to Milton in north Glasgow.

When he did not return to Norah that night, she instinctively knew something had happened. A week spent anxiously watching every stopping bus was in vain. Then came the devastating confirmation from a police officer.

Johnny Connelly with his twin sister Norah and elder sister Michelle.

Johnny’s body was found in the canal beside the Speirs Wharf, a residential development at Port Dundas, perched above the M8 motorway and central Glasgow.

The following month, Police Scotland appealed for information, saying they believe he was injured during “an incident” in an underpass at nearby Garscube Road. They later said there may have been “some sort of altercation”.

Such was her devastation, Norah says she “wanted to jump in” to the canal, adding: “I thought my life was over. I wanted to be with my boy. Johnny had been with me for 28 years.”

Norah says that due to his learning difficulties Johnny was vulnerable, with little sense of danger. She said: “Because he was such a nice person, he thought everybody was like him. He was very trusting.”

For three months, the authorities withheld Johnny’s body before finally allowing his family to lay him to rest.

Last week, on the first anniversary of his disappearance, Norah visited the canal for the first time since the funeral. Joined by family and friends, she laid flowers and wept.

A friend gifted her a DVD in which Johnny plays Greg Hemphill’s character Victor McDade in a college production of sitcom Still Game.

Norah, who had never before seen her son’s comedy acting, said: “I’m gong to treasure that.”

Norah Connelly and Stephanie Bonner have formed a bond.

Speaking after the emotional gathering under dark grey skies, she said: “I feel as if my son’s not at peace because he knows his ma’s not at peace. And maybe when I’m at peace and get to know what’s happened, my son will get peace.”

In January this year, police released new information in a fresh public appeal. They said three white men, aged 30 to 45 and wearing jeans and sports clothing, could have “vital information”.

Norah does not know if Johnny was attacked and fell into the canal while trying to escape or whether he was assaulted then thrown in.

She added: “I believe the people who were involved knew he was in that water and they’ve left him there. They’ve never phoned any emergency services. They’ve just walked away.

“I hope they have nightmares about it because I have nightmares of my son lying in that canal for a week.”

Unlike the family of Rhys Bonner, she is mostly satisfied with the police response, singling out a sergeant who attended Johnny’s funeral while off duty and left flowers at a memorial bench.

However, she struggles to understand why a blank space remains on his death certificate.

She said: “They can’t tell me how my son died. I can’t get my head around how this day and age a pathologist can’t tell how somebody died. I’m left in limbo.”

She hoped to learn more at a meeting with Crown Office officials and police officers on March 31. But it was cancelled due to coronavirus lockdown and is due to be rescheduled.

Many people have struggled with lockdown. For Norah, it was “a total nightmare”. She said: “I was sitting in that house for three months on my own with the mental torture because I’ve not got any answers.”

She and her two daughters remain cautiously optimistic that a breakthrough will come one day.

She said: “I keep praying for a miracle that somebody comes forward with information because I do believe that whatever happened to Johnny has been spoken about. There are people who do know and I plead with them — please come forward.

“I could be your mother sitting her today. Your mother would want justice for you. It’s a living hell. He was a good boy who never deserved that.”

Radiating maternal love and pride, she added: “He’ll never be forgotten. Johnny touched a lot of people’s hearts when he was living and he’s still touching people’s hearts today. That’s the kind of boy he was. Once you met him you never forgot him.”

Police Scotland say their investigation is ongoing. Detective Inspector John Morrison added: “A team of officers continues to work on the John Connelly inquiry and we are in close contact with his family, who are kept up to date with any relevant developments.”


Coronavirus: Travel ban to be lifted in Scotland from Friday

Nicola Sturgeon also confirmed that six people from up to six households will be able to meet up outdoors.

SNS Group via SNS Group

Travel restrictions within Scotland are to be eased this week as the country’s route map out of lockdown continues.

From Friday, Scots will be able to leave their local authority area for the purposes of socialising, recreation or exercise.

Nicola Sturgeon also confirmed that six adults from up to six households will be able to meet up outdoors.

The First Minister announced the changes at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Tuesday.

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She said a reduction in prevalence of the virus meant some acceleration of planned lockdown easing was possible to support mental health and wellbeing.

It comes a day after beer gardens and outdoor dining areas in England were allowed to reopen in line with the latest easing of the UK Government’s Covid-19 restrictions.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the nation to “behave responsibly” as indoor gyms, swimming pools, nail salons and zoos also welcomed customers back.

Scotland is on schedule to ease restrictions further with cafes, restaurants, beer gardens, museums, libraries and gyms expected to open from April 26.

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Hospitality will need to close their doors at 8pm indoors and 10pm outdoors, with alcohol only allowed to be served outside.

Travel will also be allowed on this date to other parts of Britain, with reviews planned on journeys to Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Sturgeon said: “We are now extremely confident that those parts of the country currently in level four will move to level three on April 26, that’s now less that two weeks away.

“That means, amongst other things, that on that day shops will fully reopen, pubs, cafes and restaurants will also be able to fully open outdoors on April 26 and will be able to open indoors on that date, but on a restricted basis.”

The First Minister also announced that, while Scotland’s islands would be able to move to level two, a decision has been made to align them with the rest of the country to stop the need for travel restrictions to the islands.

From May 17, pubs are set to open indoors until 10.30pm and contact sports, cinemas, and some small scale events can take place.

Up to four people from two households will also be able to meet up indoors.

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It was also confirmed at the briefing that a further three people have died in Scotland after being diagnosed with Covid-19.

The death toll of those who tested positive stands at 7633, however weekly figures on suspected Covid-19 deaths recorded by National Records of Scotland suggest the most up-to-date total is now more than 10,000.

An additional 221 new cases of Covid-19 were also recorded overnight.

The daily test positivity rate is 1.6%, down from the 2.4% reported on Monday when 199 cases were recorded.

According to NHS boards across Scotland, 133 people are currently in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.

The Scottish Government also confirmed that 2,682,706 Scots have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, an increase of 13,983 from the day before.

A total of 605,126 people have received their second dose, a rise of 14,952.

The FM said figures are now at their lowest since September, and have fallen by 40% in the past two weeks.

But she warned against complacency, adding: “We’ve got to be careful not to do too much all at once, because we don’t want the virus quickly gaining ground again, particularly because this new variant is we know more infectious and setting us all back.”


Party leaders go head-to-head in STV’s live election debate

The debate, at 7.30pm on Tuesday, is being shown on STV and will be available on the STV Player.

Kirsty Anderson via STV
Debate: The live debate is being shown on STV between 7pm and 9pm.

Scotland’s leading political party leaders are going head-to-head in a televised debate live on STV on Tuesday night.

Patrick Harvie (co-leader of the Scottish Green Party), Willie Rennie (Scottish Liberal Democrats), Douglas Ross (Scottish Conservatives), Anas Sarwar (Scottish Labour) and Nicola Sturgeon (Scottish National Party) are being pressed on the big issues between 7.30pm and 9pm.

Hosted by STV political editor Colin Mackay, the debate is beginning with opening statements from each party leader, followed by initial discussion, cross-examination between the leaders and closing statements.

The show – which will also air on the STV Player – is then being followed by reaction and analysis on Scotland Tonight at 10.40pm.

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Voters in Scotland will go to the polls to decide the make-up of the next Scottish Parliament on Thursday, May 6.

There will be no overnight count at this election due to the coronavirus pandemic, with a result instead expected over the weekend May 7-9.

How is STV covering the election?

Scotland Tonight specials

Colin Mackay has been carrying out one-to-one leaders’ interviews, which are also available for catch-up on the STV Player. 

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STV News election special

This show will air between 4-7pm and 8pm-8.30pm on Friday, May 7, bringing viewers the first results as they come in. 

The programme will be presented by John MacKay outside Holyrood, with STV special correspondent Bernard Ponsonby and Rona Dougall analysing the numbers at STV’s results studio in Glasgow – bringing viewers the story as it unfolds and key declarations as they happen live on air. 

STV reporters will be at voting counts across the country, feeding in live to the programme.

An additional special will air on Saturday, May 8 from 4.30-6.30pm, covering the results being declared as the new parliament begins to take shape. 

STV News at Six

Coverage continues on STV’s nightly news programme, with Kathryn Samson travelling to communities across the country in her Covid-secure ‘bubble’, inviting viewers to share views on all the political developments of the day.

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Online

The STV News website will offer comprehensive, up-to-the-minute coverage including leader interviews, expert insights from STV’s political team, rolling results coverage as the counts declare and detailed analysis once the outcome is known. 

Reporting will be available on the STV News website, apps and social media platforms.

More on:

Armed police lockdown supermarket amid hunt for driver

Officers with guns surrounded the Aldi in Newton Mearns on Tuesday afternoon.

Craig Mackay via Submitted
A large number of Police Scotland vehicles and officers are at the Aldi on Greenlaw Way.

Armed police have surrounded a supermarket in Newton Mearns in a hunt for occupants of a car involved in an earlier incident.

A large number of police vehicles and officers have sealed off Aldi on Greenlaw Way.

A shopper told STV News that police had blocked the entrance to the carpark to prevent anyone else from entering.

At around 3pm on Tuesday, a car reportedly mounted the pavement on Pollokshaws road in Glasgow before driving off.

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Officers traced the car to Greenlaw Way where they are now searching for the occupants.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Police were called to Pollokshaws Road in Glasgow around 3pm on Tuesday, 13 April, following a report that a car had mounted the pavement before driving from the scene.

“This car has been traced in Greenlaw Way and officers are carrying out searches in the area for the occupants. Enquiries into the full circumstances of the incident are ongoing and there is not believed to be any threat to the wider public.”


At-a-glance: Key dates in Scotland’s easing of Covid rules

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accelerates planned lockdown easing to support mental health and wellbeing.

Mark Scates via SNS Group
Travel ban to be lifted in Scotland from Friday, April 16.

The lifting of coronavirus restrictions is to be accelerated, with lockdown measures being eased from Friday.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scots will be able to leave their local authority area for the purposes of socialising, recreation or exercise.

Six adults from up to six households will be able to meet up outdoors.

The First Minister also said the government is “extremely confident” that parts of the country currently under level four restrictions will move to level three on 26 April.

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Mainland Scotland and some islands have been under level four restrictions – carrying stay at home guidance – since January 5.

Orkney, Shetland and islands in the Highland and Argyll and Bute local authority areas – with the exception of Skye – are already under level three restrictions.

The Scottish Government’s updated framework on the planned easing of restrictions is available here and the key dates can be viewed at a glance below.

All of the indicative dates are subject to change in accordance with the prevalence of the virus and the progress of the vaccination programme.

From April 16:

SNS Group
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Travel: People will be able to leave their local authority area and travel anywhere in mainland Scotland for the purposes of socialising, recreation or exercise, though travel between the mainland and some islands will not be permitted.

Socialising: Rules on gatherings will also be relaxed, with six adults from up to six households able to meet up outside.

From April 26:

milesgilmour via Getty Images

Levels: The whole of Scotland expected to move into level three.

Retail: All non-essential retail permitted to reopen.

Socialising: Under level three restrictions, up to six people from two households can socialise indoors in a public place, such as a cafe or restaurant. No in-house socialising permitted.

Travel: The islands, which could have moved to level two, will stay in level three to open travel to and from the mainland. Journeys across the border to England will also be permitted, with reviews planned on journeys to Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Hospitality: Hospitality venues like cafes, pubs and restaurants can open until 8pm indoors – but without alcohol – and 10pm outdoors where alcohol is allowed to be consumed.

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Gyms: Gyms can open for individual exercise.

Tourism: Tourist accommodation can open with restrictions in place.

Driving lessons: Driving lessons and tests can resume.

Weddings and funerals: Funerals and weddings including post-funeral events and receptions can take place with up to 50 people, but no alcohol may be served.

Visitor attractions: Indoor attractions and public buildings such as galleries, museums and libraries can open.

From May 17:

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images

Levels: Scottish Government plans to move all of Scotland to level two.

Socialising: Under level two restrictions, up to six people from three households can socialise indoors in a public place, such as a cafe or restaurant. Four people from two households can socialise inside a house. Eight adults from up to eight households are able to meet up outside.

Hospitality: Venues can open and sell alcohol indoors until 10.30pm or outdoors until 10pm.

Sport: Outdoor adult contact sport and indoor group exercise can restart.

Recreation: Cinemas, amusement arcades, and bingo halls can open.

Events: Small-scale outdoor and indoor events can resume subject to capacity constraints.

Support: Face-to-face support services (where not possible to deliver remotely) can resume.

Further education: Universities and colleges can return to a more blended model of learning. Non-professional performance arts can resume outdoors.

Worship: Communal worship can open, subject to capacity constraints.

From early June:

Tashi-Delek via IStock
Close up shot of an indoor tennis player preparing for serving a ball.

Levels:  Scottish Government plans to move Scotland into level one in early June.

Socialising: Under level one restrictions, up to eight people from three households can socialise indoors in a public place, such as a cafe or restaurant. Six people from three households can socialise inside a house. Twelve adults from up to twelve households are able to meet up outside.

Hospitality: Hospitality can remain open until 11pm.

Events: Attendance at events can increase, subject to capacity constraints.

Sport: Indoor non-contact sport can take place.

Weddings, funerals and places of worship: Numbers of guests at weddings, funerals and in places of worship may be able to increase.

From late June:

Fizkes via Getty Images

Levels: The Scottish Government plans to move Scotland into level zero by the end of June.

Socialising: Under level zero, restrictions up to 10 people from four households can socialise indoors in a public place, such as a cafe or restaurant. Eight people from four households can socialise inside a house. Fifteen adults from up to fifteen households are able to meet up outside.

Offices: A phased return of some office staff.

Steps that have already been taken

From February 22:

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images

Schools: Primaries one, two and three returned to class full-time in late February. Nursery children also went back on that date, along with some senior pupils facing assessments in S4-S6 on a part-time basis.

Care homes: Regular visiting resumed in Scottish care homes from early March, with residents allowed to have two designated visitors each. Each designated visitor can see their relative once a week.

Socialising: Rules eased from Friday, March 12 to allow outdoor meetings of four people from two households.

Sport: Non-contact outdoor group sports for 12-17-year-olds – in groups of up to 15 – were also permitted to resume from March 12.

From March 15:

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images

Schools: The second phase of schools reopening began on March 15. Primary four to seven pupils returned full-time and all secondary school pupils went back on a part-time ‘blended learning’ basis until Easter.

Universities and colleges: Phased return of a further small number of priority students for in-person learning.

Communal worship: Places of worship reopened with numbers restricted to 50 – up from the previously proposed limit of 20 – from March 26.

From April 2:

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images

Stay at home: The ‘stay at home’ order changed on April 2 to ‘stay local’, allowing for travel within a local authority area for non-essential purposes.

From April 5:

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images

Hairdressers: Hairdressers and barbers opened in Scotland for pre-booked appointments on April 5.

Retail: More retailers including click-and-collect services, garden centres, car dealerships, homeware and electrical repair stores began welcoming back customers.

Sport: Outdoor contact sports for 12-17-year olds returned.

Further education: More university and college students returned for in-person teaching.

From April 12:

David C Tomlinson via Getty Images
School road sign.

Schools: All pupils returning to school full time after the Easter holiday – start date varies according to the local authority.

Man charged in connection with woman’s death in her flat

A 46-year-old man is due to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Wednesday.

Police Scotland
Jacqueline Grant was found dead in her flat on Cumlodden Drive.

A man has been arrested and charged in connection with the death of a woman in a Glasgow flat.

Jacqueline Grant was found dead in her flat on Cumlodden Drive in Maryhill at around 5.25pm on Tuesday last week.

The 54-year-old’s relatives were notified with police initially treating her death as suspicious.

But following a post mortem examination officers opened a murder inquiry.

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A 46-year-old man is due to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Wednesday, April 14, and a report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.

Detective chief inspector Stuart Grainger, of Police Scotland’s Major Investigation Team, said: “I would like to thank the public for their assistance throughout our enquiry.

“Officers continue to support Jacqueline’s family, who are still understandably devastated by her death.”


Inverness claim striker Todorov was racially abused at Raith

Highland club say striker showed 'exemplary conduct' after he was issued with excessive misconduct charge by the SFA.

Ross MacDonald via SNS Group
Nikolay Todorov (right) in action against Raith Rovers.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle striker Nikolay Todorov was subjected to “extreme provocation, racist abuse and violence” in a match against Raith Rovers, the club alleged on Tuesday.

The Highland side released a statement after Todorov was issued with an excessive misconduct charge by the Scottish Football Association due to an alleged breach of conduct during the Championship match in Kirkcaldy on March 16.

Raith Rovers midfielder Iain Davidson has also been issued with an excessive misconduct charge for an alleged breach during the same match.

Both players face disciplinary hearings in the coming weeks.

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Inverness CT said in a statement: “Today, Inverness Caledonian Thistle player Nikolay Todorov was issued a notice of complaint by the SFA. This relates to an allegation that disciplinary rule 202 was breached i.e ‘No player shall commit excessive misconduct at a match’.

“We will robustly defend our player from this allegation. Nikolay’s conduct on March 16 was entirely exemplary during the extreme provocation, racist abuse and violence he was subjected to. We are unable at this stage to comment further.”

Davidson was shown a straight red card for a foul on Todorov after ten minutes during the match at Stark’s Park last month.

Solicitor Aamer Anwar, who has been instructed to act on behalf of Todorov, said: “Nikolay Todorov vehemently denies that he is guilty of any misconduct. He sees the allegations as spurious and believes the facts will speak for themselves at a full hearing in due course.

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“However, it is important to state what is already in the public domain, during the course of the match Nikolay was subjected to violent tackles on two occasions, whilst another player was grabbed by the throat, which resulted in a Raith Rovers player being issued two red cards on the second occasion and sent off.

“During the first incident it is alleged that Nikolay was subjected to racial abuse which left him shaken and upset. The alleged abuse was witnessed by others.”

Raith Rovers made no comment when approached by STV News.

A club spokesperson said: “We await the result of the disciplinary case involving Iain Davidson.”

Braemar Gathering cancelled for second year in a row

The decision follows other Highland Games which have been forced to cancel for the second year in a row.

Chris Jackson via Getty Images
Cancelled: Braemar Gathering cancelled for second year.

The Braemar Gathering has been cancelled for a second year due to ongoing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. 

The decision follows other Highland Games across Scotland which have been forced to axe plans over fears restrictions on gatherings won’t be lifted in time.

The historic Highland event near the Balmoral Estate has been held in the area for more than 900 years, with the Queen patron of the games. 

She would regularly attend the games with her late husband the Duke of Edinburgh, who died on Friday aged 99 at Windsor Castle. 

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David Geddes, president of the Braemar Royal Highland Society said: “This has been an extremely difficult decision to make. To cancel a gathering is something which I had hoped I would never have to do in my time as president. Now, to cancel for a second year is heart-breaking. 

“However, there is still uncertainty surrounding the spread of the virus and we must put the wellbeing of our community, visitors and volunteers first.

“We know the gathering is a highlight in many people’s year and an event which many make plans for well in advance. 

“We share everyone’s disappointment and offer our hope and thoughts that you stay well and keep safe as the pandemic moves into what we hope is the final phase. 

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“As I said last year, like the hills around Braemar, the gathering will be here next year, and we look forward to happier times and to welcoming you back to Braemar on September 3, 2022.”

Tickets for this year’s games will be valid for the 2022 event, however ticket holders can also request a refund from the bookings secretary.


FM: I carry weight of care homes decision with me every day

Nicola Sturgeon said she 'can't turn the clock back' over the decision to move patients into care homes.

Fraser Bremner via Getty Images
Sturgeon: FM said she 'can't turn the clock back' over care homes decision.

Nicola Sturgeon has said she “carries the weight” of the decision to move patients into care homes during the early days of the pandemic with her “every single day”.

During Tuesday’s coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said she “can’t turn the clock back” in order to make different decisions over the care of older patients. 

It comes as the Scottish health secretary admitted moving patients back from hospitals into care homes was a “mistake”.

In an interview with the BBC, Jeane Freeman said the Scottish Government had failed in “understanding the social care sector well enough” and “didn’t take the right precautions” when older people were leaving hospitals.

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When asked about Freeman’s comments during the briefing, Sturgeon said: “We thought it was wrong to leave older people in hospitals that were about to be overrun with Covid.

“We thought they would be safer in other settings with the right infection protection procedures and isolation procedures in place, and we didn’t know what we know now about asymptomatic transmission.

“We have tried to learn as we have gone along and we’ve made changes as we’ve gone along and thankfully, although one death is one too many, in the second wave that we have experienced, deaths in care homes have been significantly lower than in the first because we had learned those lessons as we’ve gone along. 

“I can’t turn the clock back and know everything then that I know now.

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“We tried to make the best decisions but we would have got things wrong, it is inevitable given what we were dealing with but that doesn’t mean that the sense of responsibility we feel for that is any less. 

“There will be a full public inquiry into all of this and I hope that we will see this public inquiry get under way later this year. 

“Please believe me when I say I carry the weight of this every single day and alway will in terms of the decisions we were taking.”


Warning of ‘extreme risk’ of wildfires across Scotland

The warning is in place across west, north-east, east and central Scotland until Saturday.

Dunvegan Fire Station via SFRS
Emergency services have had to deal with several wildfires already this year.

There is an “extreme risk” of wildfires across the country posing harm to people and animals, the fire service has warned.

The warning is in place across west, north-east, east and central Scotland until Saturday, April 17.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) said the fires can burn for days and devastate vast areas threatening lives and livelihoods.

Local senior officer Bruce Farquharson said: “We are asking the public to exercise extreme caution and think twice before using anything involving a naked flame.

EFFIS via SFRS
EFFIS Initial Spread Index forecast maps for April 13 – 17.
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“Livestock, farmland, wildlife, protected woodland and sites of special scientific interest can all be devastated by these fires – as can the lives of people living and working in rural communities.”

The warning comes after police forces responded to more than ten fires started in one afternoon on the Easter weekend.

Emergency services have had to deal with several wildfires already this year, and warnings of extreme risk in February were followed by blazes across the Western Isles.

Earlier this month a major road in the Highlands has to be closed as six engines tackled a 200m long wildfire.

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In February, a large fire spread uncontrollably across a hillside by a Highland village.

Many wildfires are avoidable and the result of people discarding cigarettes, littering or lighting campfires or barbecues in the wrong places.

Forestry and Land Scotland said it continues to welcome locals to forests but urged visitors to follow guidelines.

Chief executive Simon Hodgson said: “Right now everyone should take extra care and be aware of the heightened fire risk and not carry out any activity that might risk starting a wildfire.

“Helping to prevent wildfires also prevents undue demands being made on our blue light services – and could also save lives.”

Senior officer Farquharson said: “Human behaviour can significantly lower the chance of a wildfire starting, so it is crucial that people act safely and responsibly in rural environments, and always follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.”

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