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.”


First Minister: Aberdeen players ‘blatantly broke the rules’

Two footballers at the club have tested positive for Covid-19 and a further six have been told to self-isolate.

The First Minister said eight Aberdeen players who visited a bar in the city on Saturday “blatantly broke the rules” agreed by the Scottish FA, SPFL and government.

Two footballers at the club have tested positive for Covid-19, meaning the their Premiership match at St Johnstone on Saturday has now been postponed.

A further six players are facing 14 days of self-isolation after coming into close contact with the others.

Players are allowed to be in close contact with each other as long as they remain in their bubble, something the Scottish Government said has not happened.

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Nicola Sturgeon said their behaviour was “completely unacceptable” and said calling off the fixture was the right decision.

Speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing, she said: “It is now clear that all eight of these players visited a bar in Aberdeen on Saturday night.

“In doing so they blatantly broke the rules that had been agreed by the SFA, the SPFL and the Scottish Government, which – to put it mildly – is completely unacceptable.

“This morning the Scottish Government convened a meeting with the SFA and the SPFL and, following those discussions, the football authorities have confirmed the game between Aberdeen and St Johnstone scheduled for tomorrow in Perth will not now go ahead.

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“I think that is the right decision. We are expecting members of the public to behave in a highly precautionary manner right now.

“When a football club ends up with players infected – and let’s remember this is not through bad luck but clear breaches of the rules – we cannot take even smalls risks that could then spread the infection to other parts of the country.”

Sturgeon said the Scottish Government will be contacting all club captains and managers to “emphasise the importance” of complying with guidance.

Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack said he had apologised to health authorities and other Premiership clubs.

He said: “Given the significant Covid-19 outbreak in Aberdeen, we fully understand why the Scottish Government has made this decision in the interests of public health.

“With the pressure over this season’s fixtures, and the fact that we caused this problem, we were fully prepared to play the game tomorrow. We are very grateful that the decision has been to postpone, rather than forfeit the game.

“I took the opportunity yesterday to apologise to both football and health authorities, and with our fellow Premiership clubs today.”

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Regarding the ongoing outbreak in Aberdeen city, where a lockdown has been reimposed, a total of 101 cases of the virus have been confirmed.


Face masks mandatory in libraries and places of worship

Decision to expand list of places where they must be worn has been confirmed by Nicola Sturgeon.

Face coverings will become mandatory in libraries, museums and places of worship from Saturday.

Masks must currently be worn in shops and on public transport but a decision to expand the list of places was confirmed by the First Minister.

She said “risks are heightened” as the country eases lockdown measures.

Speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing, Sturgeon also said that, based on scientific advice, it wasn’t thought face visors provided sufficient protection.

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As a result, from Saturday if a visor is worn it must be accompanied by another type of face covering.

The Scottish Government will make it mandatory for pubs and other venues to collect customer details from next Friday, Sturgeon added.

The requirement will be placed on a “statutory footing”, she said, and will help ensure test and protect can function as effectively as possible.

She also said the Scottish Government will issue new statutory guidance related to indoor hospitality to ensure greater compliance with coronavirus measures, to take effect from next Friday.

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Police Scotland will enforce the measures if necessary.

The measures are introduced as a common factor in the rise in coronavirus outbreaks across the world, Sturgeon said, is a link to hospitality.


Labour bid to force Swinney out over exams ‘shambles’

No confidence motion comes as pupils gather in Glasgow to protest downgrading.

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Swinney faces vote of no confidence.

Scottish Labour has said it will table a motion of no confidence in education secretary John Swinney.

The move comes amid fierce criticism of the Scottish Government and the Scottish Qualifications Authority over the exam results moderation process.

Around 138,000 school pupils received the results of their National, Higher and Advanced Higher courses on Tuesday after an exam-free year.

Results published by the Scottish Government showed that while pass rates were up and three out of four grade estimates were not adjusted, the SQA downgraded 124,564 results – 93.1% of all the moderated grades.

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Around 133,000 entries were adjusted from the initial estimate, with only 6.9% adjusted up.

Scottish Labour said it had now obtained documentary evidence that the SQA is planning to not reveal appeal results till the end of May 2021. 

As a result, the party said it would table a motion of no confidence and seek support from other parties in the Scottish Parliament for Swinney’s removal.

“It is now clear that John Swinney has completely lost control of the SQA and the exam process, and he needs to go.”

Iain Gray, Scottish Labour education spokesperson

Scottish Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said: “Since the shambles of the SQA results emerged on Tuesday, the SQA and SNP ministers have deflected criticism through arguing that students could appeal unfair grades. 

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“This astonishing leak blows the lid off their defence. The SQA created this mess and the SNP government has entrusted them to sort it out – but all we have seen is shambles upon shambles upon shambles. 

“It is now clear that John Swinney has completely lost control of the SQA and the exam process, and he needs to go. We will seek to lay a motion to that effect and approach colleagues across parliament for their support.”

Labour claims it has seen evidence – on the SQA intranet portal – that the SQA plans to conclude “priority” reviews for candidates awaiting university places by September 4, adding that such a lengthy delay for all other appeals could “compromise those applying for university next year and those seeking to apply for jobs”.

But the SQA said there is no nine-month wait for grades.

An SQA spokesman said: “This was a meaningless date set as part of a technical requirement to allow the system to go live.

“The results of the priority appeals will be emailed to schools and colleges for learners by 4th September.

“We are committed to processing all appeals as quickly as possible. We will provide a date for all other reviews shortly after 21st August.”

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More than 100 pupils held a protest in Glasgow on Friday, with many claiming they had been penalised for living in less affluent areas.

During the protest in George Square, young people were pictured holding placards with captions such as ‘judge my work, not my postcode’ at a protest organised by 17-year-old student Erin Bleakley.

This year’s exam results were calculated by teachers, who based their estimates on preliminary exams and coursework, while the SQA took into consideration the previous performance of the school.

But the national moderation system meant that many students received lower grades than originally estimated.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s daily briefing, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told pupils the moderation was necessary to “command the confidence of colleges and universities and employers”.

However, she urged pupils to challenge their results if there has been “genuine individual injustices”.

Queen to miss Sunday service amid new lockdown restrictions

Head of state will not take her seat at Crathie Kirk in a bid to stop well-wishers gathering in Aberdeenshire.

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Queen normally joins congregation at Crathie Kirk.

The Queen will not attend church in Scotland on Sunday in order to stop well-wishers gathering.

The head of state, who travelled to Balmoral with the Duke of Edinburgh on Tuesday for her traditional summer break, normally joins the congregation at nearby Crathie Kirk.

But it is understood she will not take her seat in the place of worship in Aberdeenshire to avoid large groups of people congregating outside.

Lockdown measures have been reintroduced in Aberdeen following the outbreak of a coronavirus cluster in the city.

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The Queen’s annual visit to Balmoral Castle was already expected to be different from normal due to the coronavirus restrictions in place.

Crathie Kirk – a regular place of worship for the royal family when they are in residence at the estate – is among the places subject to rules allowing communal prayer for a maximum of 50 people, with two-metre distancing in place.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman previously said arrangements for the Queen’s stay in Scotland “will be in line with the relevant guidelines and advice”.

Pubs required to take customer details after virus outbreak

The new law was made in the wake of a Covid cluster in Aberdeen, with 101 new cases confirmed.

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Pubs: It will be mandatory to collect customer details from next Friday.

Pubs and other venues will be required to collect customer details from next Friday, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister said the mandatory requirement will be placed on a “statutory footing” and will help ensure test and protect can function as effectively as possible.

Speaking at the daily briefing in Edinburgh, she said businesses should be collecting contact details, asking people to pre-book tables and there should be no queues.

Sturgeon also said the Scottish Government will issue new statutory guidance related to indoor hospitality to ensure greater compliance with coronavirus measures, to take effect from next Friday.

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Police Scotland will enforce the measures if necessary.

The news follows an outbreak of coronavirus in Aberdeen where a lockdown has been reimposed, with 101 new cases of the virus confirmed.

Eight Aberdeen FC players visited a bar in the city centre at the weekend, which led to two of them testing positive for Covid-19 and six others having to self-isolate.

As a result, the team’s Premiership match at St Johnstone on Saturday has now been postponed.

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Sturgeon said a common factor in the rise in coronavirus outbreaks across the world is a link to hospitality.

She said settings like pubs and restaurants are particularly susceptible to the virus.

While she said the majority of businesses had complied with coronavirus measures imposed on hospitality, she said “it is clear there are some businesses where that has not been the case”. 

The First Minister added that businesses should not wait for new statutory measures to come into place before complying with Scottish Government advice.

People should not be standing at the bar to watch football, she added, and there should be no background music to prevent shouting and any increased risk of transmission.

Sturgeon said that while new mandatory measures being introduced are “really restrictive,” they are there because they are necessary.

She said: “We see in Aberdeen right now including the situation with the football club how quickly this virus spreads”


Workman in hospital after van bursts into flames

Firefighters tackled blaze after the vehicle exploded in Prestwick on Friday morning.

Fire: The van erupted into flames in Prestwick.

A van burst into flames on a South Ayrshire street on Friday morning.

Fire crews attended the scene in Langcroft Avenue, Prestwick, after they were alerted to the blaze at 11.24am.

A workman was taken by ambulance staff to Ayr Hospital as a precaution, while firefighters extinguished the flames.

A spokesman for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service: “We were alerted at 11.24am on Friday, August 7, to reports of a vehicle fire in Prestwick.

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“Operations Control mobilised three appliances to the town’s Langcroft Avenue, where firefighters were met by a van on fire.

“Crews extinguished the fire and worked to make the area safe before leaving the scene.

“One casualty was transported to Ayr Hospital by Scottish Ambulance Service personnel.”

Police were also called to the incident and said enquiries are ongoing.


Religious cult member jailed for raping two girls

One woman who helped bring Derek Lincoln to justice describes life in Children of God communes.

Derek Lincoln will has been jailed for more than 11 years.

A member of a religious cult has been jailed for 11-and-a-half years after admitting repeatedly raping two girls almost three decades ago.

Derek Lincoln, 74, was told by judge Lord Matthews that he “stole the dreams” of his young victims.

This is the second prosecution of its kind in Scotland in two years.

Lincoln, who was extradited from France, admitted abusing the two girls while he was a member of the ‘Children of God’ cult, based at various sites in Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, and Renfrewshire between 1989 and 1996.

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The girls were aged nine and 11 when they were first targeted by Lincoln.

One woman who gave evidence against him hailed a “massive victory” for survivors.

Known only as Joy and now in her 40s, she managed to escape the cult when she was a teenager.

She had been abused by members of the religious sect from the age of four at locations including Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire.

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Joy said: “For so many years we were taught not to expect justice. We were taught no one in the outside world will believe you.

“It’s a crazy story, telling people you were trafficked between communes, didn’t know your own address for most of your childhood, how you were out fundraising from four years old and never had an education, the extreme and bizarre daily punishments.

“People don’t believe this stuff happens outside 80s American films but it does and often it was hidden in plain sight.”

Children of God began in the United States in the late 1960s and has faced allegations of widespread sexual and physical abuse of women and children.

Its founder David Berg called himself Moses.

The victims involved in both prosecutions grew up in communes around Scotland in the 1980s and 90s.  

Lincoln, who was also known as Derk Birks or John Green, committed the offences at addresses in Ayrshire,  Renfrewshire and Lanarkshire.

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Detective sergeant Neil Wilson, from Police Scotland, said: “Derek Lincoln was a very cruel individual, there was no information to suggest he was brainwashed in any way.

“We are of the opinion that he used his position within the children of god to abuse his victims.”

Lincoln was caught as part of a five-year international investigation.

His crimes came to light when his first victim made a complaint to police in England.

Det Sgt Wilson said: “Derek Lincoln held the position of like a house master at communes so he would be responsible for education of children and conveying adults from different locations for charity work.

“He used that opportunity to commit the serious sexual crimes that he did.

Children who were brought up as being members of the Children of God , now called Family International, were commonly brought up  in a household with a dozen other families, curtains drawn, not seeing the light of day. 

Joy said: “The communes were international. Sometimes it was a family unit, sometimes they had 40 to 50 people. I never stayed in one place long enough to make a friend.  

“One of the challenges of bringing people to justice was the fact we were constantly moved so we didn’t know the exact locations. I was aware of Derek Lincoln but I didn’t know him by that name.  

“Everyone in the cult had a biblical name. There are no surnames. This was another difficulty for police but by tracking down supporting witnesses, they were able to identify abusers like Lincoln.”

Joy was thrown out of the cult by becoming a “bad apple” but still suffers flashbacks after all these years.

She said: I have issues with insomnia. I know this will be with me for the rest of my life but with counselling, I can lessen the impact it has on my daily life. I am taking back control.

“The cult gave abusers an environment in which they could flourish. Even the other ones that went along with it and didn’t say anything, they are not innocent. 

“If they are truly sorry, they should acknowledge that. The innocent ones are the children.”

Lincoln began abusing one of the girls when she was 11 or 12.

The first rape victim described Lincoln as ‘stern and controlling” and said he once put soap in her mouth and beat her with a switch and a belt.

When the girl was aged 12, Lincoln apologised to her for his behaviour, but despite the abuse became more frequent.

On one occasion he took her out jogging with him and as they ran into a wooded area he pulled her to the ground and raped her.

Lincoln’s second victim was raped when she was nine or ten. After abusing her he would tell her he was sorry and frequently bought her gifts.

Lincoln, who was retired and living in France, was returned to Scotland on October 9, 2019 on a European Arrest Warrant.

The first man to be convicted of abuse linked to Children of God in Scotland was Alexander Watt from Maybole.

The 68-year-old admitted offences against two children and was given three years’ probation and placed on the sex offenders’ register in 2018.

Family International continues to have a presence online. 

Following the first conviction, the group issued a statement saying: “Although the Family International has apologised on a number of occasions to former members for any hurt, real or perceived, they may have suffered during their time in our membership, we do not give credence to tales of institutionalised abuse.”

Ian Haworth, who runs the Cult Information Centre, which supports ex-cult members and advises police, welcomed the sentencing.

He said: “Sadly this kind of abuse is a very common story that I hear but what isn’t  common is the police taking this kind of action.  

“I’m absolutely delighted there has now been two prosecutions in Scotland. We just haven’t seen this elsewhere. 

“In that particular group, people are given new names when they enter into the group so even if you knew the name of the person, that’s not their name in real life so tracing these people is very hard. I hope this encourages more people to come forward.”


Man injured by gang in late night robbery

A 55-year-old suffered minor injuries and had cash stolen after being attacked by three men in Moray.

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Man assaulted and robbed in Forres.

A 55-year-old man was assaulted and robbed in Moray.

Police are appealing for information after the man was attacked just after midnight on Saturday, August 1 on Califer Road in Forres.

The man had a quantity of cash stolen from him and suffered minor injuries but did not require any medical treatment.

The three men responsible are described as being in their late teens to early 20s and were all wearing dark hooded tops.

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Detective Sergeant Robbie Williams of Elgin CID said: “This was a scary experience for the man involved who has been shaken by the incident.

“I would urge anyone who may have been in the area at the time or saw the three men to get in touch with us as soon as possible.”

Anyone with information should contact police on 101 quoting incident number 2091 of 1, August 2020.

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I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! to be filmed in UK

The hit TV show could be travelling north of the border with many Scottish castles fitting the bill.

ITV News
I'm A Celeb: To be filmed in the UK.

Hit reality TV show I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! is to be filmed in the UK for the first time.

Rather than the usual trip to an Australian jungle, a group of celebrities will instead he staying in the ruined castle in the British countryside for what will be the show’s 20th series.

The location has not yet been revealed, however it could potentially be north of the border with several Scottish castles fitting the bill.

Geordie duo Ant and Dec will return to host the series which will be broadcast live every night on STV. 

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As on the regular series, viewers will see the celebrities undertake gruelling trials and fun-filled challenges to win food and treats in the lead up to one of them being crowned, for the first time ever, King or Queen of the Castle.

The change was made due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that made it unfeasible for it to be shot in Australia.

Kevin Lygo, ITV’s director of television said: “We announced last week that we were doing all we could to make the series and I’m thrilled that we can bring the show to viewers albeit not in the jungle. “

Richard Cowles, Director of Entertainment at ITV Studios said: “We pulled out all the stops to try and make the series happen in Australia.  Unfortunately, due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and despite us looking at many different contingencies, it became apparent that it just wasn’t possible for us to travel and make the show there.  

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“Our celebrities will probably have to swap shorts for thermals but they can still look forward to a basic diet of rice and beans and plenty of thrills and surprises along the way”.


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