Putting the handbrake on as gambling spirals out of control

Three compulsive gamblers explain how they're fighting back against the habit.

STV News

“It isn’t a choice. My brain was just completely wired. Everything in my life, gambling was at the centre of it.”

Paul Pettigrew’s world spiralled out of control after a fruitful first trip to the casino when he was 18.

Now, six years later, he is on a mission to help other Scots who are struggling with gambling addiction.

Around two million people in the UK are either problem gamblers or experience some harm from it.

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Research from GambleAware found that one in five problem gamblers spent more on the habit during lockdown, with young people more likely to gamble more.

Paul and two other compulsive gamblers, whose identities are being protected, told their stories to STV current affairs show Scotland Tonight, to be broadcast at 7.30pm on Thursday.

Paul, from Port Glasgow, became addicted to covert trips to the bookmakers and then moved on to online betting.

Within a few years, the 24-year-old had racked up debts up to £30,000 to betting sites, pay-day loan firms and loved ones.

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The pressure of his addiction took its toll on Paul’s mental health.

“Mentally, I was completely and utterly miserable,” he said. “Every single day I was waking up knowing that I was going to gamble but not actually wanting to, and that’s where helplessness starts to set in.

“The handbrake was off and I just couldn’t stop.”

Now in recovery, Paul has broken his silence and launched a social media campaign, Gamtalk, to stop more youngsters going down the same destructive path.

“The aim with Gamtalk is to provide young people with the help they need about problem gambling and the dangers it can cause,” he said. “To make sure that young people are able to identify a problem within themselves and make sure they know where they can get the right support.”

Jennifer is the same age as Paul. She also started gambling when she was a teenager.

“It started off as a fun thing. I started off just putting in a wee tenner here and there. It got to the point I could put in up to £1000 a day. Over the course of five years it spiralled into an addiction.”

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Lockdown made things harder for Jennifer. She was spending more time at home and feeling extremely low. 

“I was in the house a lot, so having it so accessible on my phone I would just think, I’ll put a tenner or £100 on,” she said. “And no matter how much I won, it was just the chase to get all the money I’d lost back.

“I lost a lot of emotions when I was gambling. I was so depressed. I was suicidal. It was horrible.”

Jennifer joined Gamblers Anonymous to seek help for her addiction and says it’s been her lifeline.

“I think without them, I don’t actually know where I’d be. It’s something I never thought I could do really, talk in a group of people but it just makes a difference when they’ve all been through the same thing as you, even worse sometimes.

“Now I’m just excited for the future without gambling and to have the mental stability and the finances to do what I want”.

Colin is 28 and has been battling gambling addiction for over a decade. He first started gambling when he was 12.

“I was outside the bookies on my 18th birthday,” he said. “I just remember blowing all this money and not knowing how to tell anybody.

“I knew I was really compulsive when I started to walk to work or run to work just so that I had this money to gamble with that I was meant to spend on a train fare.”

At the height of his addiction at the end of lockdown, Colin hit rock bottom and felt like he couldn’t go on.

“It just beat me emotionally and mentally,” he said. “I did research about the best way to kill myself. Just because life had got too much for me.

“I just didn’t think there was any help or hope out there and I just wanted to end my life.”

With support from his family and Gamblers Anonymous, Colin hasn’t placed a bet in five months.

“I reached out to GA at the right time. I got around good people and I’m absolutely thankful because I’ve got a lot to give in life.

“I would like to say that to somebody, if you are feeling like you are wanting to take your own life, I would just stop and think about the people that you love, I would stop and think about the good things you’ve got in life.”

“For me, I’ve got a clear mind today, that’s the best thing. Having the people that I love saying that they’re proud of me, I’ve not had that in years.”

Help and support is available through Gamblers Anonymous and for more information on Gamtalk, head to its official Instagram.


Military police come to aid of seal with can stuck in lower jaw

The seal was rescued in the Clyde after it sparked concern in Belfast earlier this month.

PA Media
Unsuccessful efforts were made to help the seal when it was spotted in Belfast Harbour earlier this month.

A young harbour seal that sparked concern after it was spotted in Belfast Lough with a drinks can lodged in its mouth has been assisted in the west coast of Scotland.

Unsuccessful efforts were made to help the seal when it was spotted in Belfast Harbour earlier this month.

It has now emerged that over the weekend military police at a base in Clyde were able to approach the seal and remove the Red Bull can from its lower jaw.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “MoD Police Clyde Marine Unit officers freed this animal in distress and would urge people to take extra care in how they dispose of their rubbish near any waterway.”

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Earlier in the month there were unsuccessful attempts to help the seal by the Lagan Search and Rescue Team, working with police, Belfast Independent Lifeboat and charity Debbie Doolittle’s Wild Life along with specialists from Exploris Aquarium Seal Sanctuary.

The seal had last been spotted in Belfast close to Harland and Wolff shipyard last Friday, when the can was still stuck in its mouth.


Valneva reports positive results from Covid-19 vaccine trial

The UK had about 100 million doses on order and Boris Johnson visited Valneva’s Scottish manufacturing site in Livingston in January.

jonathanfilskov-photography via IStock
The UK Government last month scrapped a deal for Valneva’s Covid-19 vaccine.

French pharmaceutical firm Valneva – whose UK contract for vaccines was cancelled last month – has reported positive results from its Covid-19 trial.

Last month, the UK Government scrapped a deal for Valneva’s Covid-19 vaccine, with the firm saying the UK Government had served notice over allegations of a breach of the agreement, which Valneva “strenuously” denied.

The UK had about 100 million doses on order and Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Valneva’s Scottish manufacturing site in Livingston in January.

In new phase three results reported on Monday, the Valneva vaccine showed around 40% higher neutralising antibody titer levels compared with the vaccine from AstraZeneca in a head-to-head trial, and had fewer side-effects.

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The company also said its vaccine – VLA2001 – induced broad T-cell responses, a part of the immune system believed to be involved in long-term immunity.

Adam Finn, professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol and trial chief investigator, told a briefing that the figure for the vaccine’s efficacy would come when the jab is used in the population.

He said the Valneva jab is expected to be “at least as effective as, and potentially more effective than” the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.

But he said “the efficacy of a vaccine is not proportional to the antibody titers that it generates”, and there tended to be a threshold above which people were protected against infection or serious illness.

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“Enough antibody is what you need and more antibody may not be any better,” he added.

The phase three trial recruited 4,012 people across 26 trial sites in the UK, including around 3,000 who took part in the comparison with AstraZeneca.

The number of Covid-19 cases was similar between those given AstraZeneca and those given Valneva, the firm said.

It added that the complete absence of any severe Covid-19 cases may suggest that both vaccines used in the study prevented severe symptoms caused by circulating variants, mainly the Delta variant.

Prof Finn said: “The low levels of reactogenicity and high functional antibody responses alongside broad T-cell responses seen with this adjuvanted inactivated whole-virus vaccine are both impressive and extremely encouraging.

“This is a much more traditional approach to vaccine manufacture than the vaccines so far deployed in the UK, Europe and North America, and these results suggest this vaccine candidate is on track to play an important role in overcoming the pandemic.”

He told the briefing that it was unclear how the current vaccines would perform in the future and so more vaccines and more vaccine platforms could only be a good thing.

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Thomas Lingelbach, chief executive officer of Valneva, said: “These results confirm the advantages often associated with inactivated whole-virus vaccines.

“We are committed to bringing our differentiated vaccine candidate to licensure as quickly as possible and continue to believe that we will be able to make an important contribution to the global fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Valneva started commercially manufacturing VLA2001 at its Livingston site, which it describes as a “globally qualified manufacturing site for viral vaccines”, in January this year and will continue to do so.

It expects to finalise its submission to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for regulatory approval in November, with the hope the vaccine will be approved by the end of the year.

Valneva hopes to initially get the jab approved for those aged 18 to 55 owing to the age range of people in the trial.

The company’s site in Solna, Sweden, provides full “fill and finish” operations for VLA2001.

Professor Penny Ward, a pharmaceutical expert at King’s College London, said of the new study: “As we know, the UK Government is in dispute with Valneva, having cancelled the UK’s order of up to 100 million doses, placed by the Vaccines Taskforce in 2020, in September.

“The results today suggest that this decision might yet be regretted, but because of it Valneva might be able to provide an immediate supply of this vaccine for other countries struggling with the freezer shipping requirements of other, more expensive, vaccines.

“Good news for Covax and countries still awaiting supplies.”

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Celebrating Scottish cricketers disrupt Bangladesh news conference

Rendition of Flower of Scotland temporarily delays Bangladesh T20 captain Mahmudullah speaking to media.

International Cricket Council via Twitter

Scottish cricketers celebrating victory in their T20 World Cup opener against Bangladesh inadvertently disrupted a post-match news conference being held by their opponents.

Bangladesh T20 captain Mahmudullah was preparing to speak to the media in the Omani capital, Muscat, when he was interrupted by a rousing rendition of Flower of Scotland.

After a brief pause for the singing to die down, Mahmudullah resumed fielding questions from the media.

Cricket Scotland tweeted: “Sorry we will keep it down next time.”

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All-rounder Chris Greaves was the hero as Scotland got their T20 World Cup campaign off to a dream start with a six-run victory over highly-fancied Bangladesh in Muscat.

The 31-year-old Greaves, in only his second T20 international, top-scored in his side’s 140 for nine and then took two crucial wickets with his leg spin as Scotland held their nerve in a tense finish.

“We were in a tough situation obviously,” Greaves told Sky Sports. “It was a just (a case of) re-building the innings at that stage and see where we could go from there.

“It was unbelievable that I could be that person, to be a part of that is incredible.

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“It was my day I think. There will be many other days when any one of us in that squad can be a part of it. I’m just so glad I could contribute what I did.”

Put in to bat, Scotland were reeling at 53 for six in the 12th over before Greaves added 51 runs with Mark Watt, who struck 22 off 17 balls, to post a respectable total which proved enough to earn them a shock result.


Appeal after 15-year-old girl sexually assaulted by two teenagers

The girl had been walking along Eastfield Road in Cumbernauld at the time of the attack on Saturday.

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Two men, both aged 17, are being sought by police.

A police appeal has been launched after a 15-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by two teenagers.

The girl had been walking along Eastfield Road, near the Islamic Education Centre, in Cumbernauld, at the time of the incident at around 3.30pm on Saturday, October 16.

Two men, both aged 17, are alleged to have made sexual comments towards the girl before grabbing her inappropriately from behind and then running off towards Tesco.

The first man is described as being around 5ft 11in, with blonde/brown hair and was wearing a grey hoodie.

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The second man is described as being around 5ft 7in and was wearing a black hoodie with the hood up.

Detective constable Emma MacFarlane, of Coatbridge CID, said: “This was an upsetting incident for the 15-year-old girl who should have been able to walk along the road without being subjected to that.

“We’re appealing for anyone who witnessed this, or has any relevant information, to contact us.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact Police Scotland on 101 quoting incident number 1499 of October 16.

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Alternatively, Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111.


Students let hair down for traditional Raisin Monday foam fight

Students at St Andrews University dress in flamboyant costumes and engage in a huge shaving foam fight.

Jane Barlow via PA Ready

Hundreds of students at St Andrews University have let their hair down in the annual Raisin Monday foam fight.

Students got a soaking as part of the famous event inspired by the 600-year-old Scottish university’s “academic families” tradition, which sees older students adopt first-year students as “children” and help guide them in a system of mentoring.

Jane Barlow via PA Ready
Hundreds of students at St Andrews University have let their hair down.

The mentoring culminates in Raisin Weekend, when the “children” are entertained by their parents and are encouraged to play pranks and silly games.

On Raisin Monday the “children” dress in embarrassing, flamboyant costumes, are given strange objects with a traditional Latin inscription, and are let loose on Lower College lawn for an enormous shaving foam fight.


Terror plot suspect had ‘dead girl pics’ folder on laptop, court hears

Sam Imrie has been charged with posting statements suggesting he was going to carry out an attack on the Fife Islamic Centre.

Jane Barlow via PA Ready
'Terror plot' trial: Sam Imrie.

A laptop and phone found in the bedroom of a man on trial for terrorism offences had images of sexual activity with mutilated women in a folder named ‘dead girl pics’, a court has heard.

The images included photos of women who were believed to be dead, with parts of their bodies missing, including their breasts and heads.

Some of the photos showed signs of sexual activity with the corpses.

The devices are said to belong to Sam Imrie, who is on trial at the High Court in Edinburgh for posting statements on the social media platform Telegram suggesting he was going to carry out an attack on the Fife Islamic Centre in Glenrothes.

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The 24-year-old has also been accused of planning to stream live footage of “an incident”, and of taking, or permitting to be taken or made, indecent photographs of children.

Giving evidence on Monday, Robert Steer, 51, a cybercrime leader in digital forensics for the police, told the court the laptop and phone had 78 files showing deceased women that he believed were “genuine” photos, some of which were taken at a morgue.

He said several of the images were “distinct” showing sexual activity with the corpses.

Jurors heard that 67 images of child exploitation were also found on the accused’s phone.

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Mr Steer said there were 17 photos classed as category A under the UK’s child abuse image database (CAID), which involves photos showing penetrative sex or sadist acts with an animal or a child.

There were also eight images under category B and 42 under category C.

Category B involves images involving non-penetrative sexual activity with a child, while category C relates to “other indecent images” that could include children “sexually posing”, Mr Steer said.

Among other charges, Imrie is accused of being in possession of neo-Nazi, antisemitic and anti-Muslim material.

On the same laptop recovered from Imrie’s bedroom there was a folder called “Hero’s”, which had sub-folders including one named Anders Breivik and Brenton Tarrant, both convicted of terrorism offences.

On Thursday, the High Court in Edinburgh heard a recording of an interview carried out with the accused by police on July 8 2019.

The accused told police he was a “white nationalist”. Asked what that meant, he replied: “It means I care about my race.”

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Imrie denied that he thought white people were superior to non-whites, saying he believed the Chinese were superior.

He made no response when it was put to him that that view “flies in the face of white nationalism”.

Jurors previously heard how the accused made a series of derogatory remarks about minority groups on the messaging app Telegram.

Imrie blamed his actions on alcohol.

When asked about his visit to the Fife Islamic Centre in July 2019, which he had threatened to burn down on the Telegram app, Imrie said: “It was a joke.”

He denies all of the nine charges against him, three of which come under the Terrorism Act.

The trial, before Lord Mulholland, continues.


Former US secretary of state Colin Powell dies from Covid complications

The US statesman’s family said he had died from Covid-19 complications despite being fully vaccinated.

Department of State of the United States of America via Wikipedia
Former prime minister Tony Blair said Powell was a 'towering figure' who 'still had so much to give'.

US military leader and statesman Colin Powell, who helped make the case for the Iraq War, has died aged 84.

The US statesman’s family said he had died from Covid-19 complications despite being fully vaccinated.

Powell, who served as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and as secretary of state, gave a landmark speech at the United Nations in 2003 detailing Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction – claims that later turned out to be based on false intelligence.

In 2004, Powell applied for a coat of arms to mark his Scottish ancestry.

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The four star general had Scottish roots on his mother’s side, with his father having been born a citizen of the Crown in Jamaica.

Former prime minister Tony Blair said Powell was a “towering figure” who “still had so much to give”.

Blair, who led the UK into the war alongside the US, said: “Colin was a towering figure in American military and political leadership over many years, someone of immense capability and integrity, a hugely likeable and warm personality and a great companion, with a lovely and self-deprecating sense of humour.

“He was wonderful to work with, he inspired loyalty and respect and was one of those leaders who always treated those under them with kindness and concern.

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His life stands as a testament not only to dedicated public service but also a strong belief in willingness to work across partisan division in the interests of his country.

“I am so sorry to hear the news of his death. He still had so much to give.”

The former prime minister offered his “thoughts and prayers” to Powell’s widow and his “large and loving extended family”.


Cold snap to bring frost and snow to parts of Scotland this week

Orkney, Caithness Sutherland, Moray, Aberdeenshire and Angus are expected to be hit with potential snowfall by Wednesday.

Carlos G. Lopez via Getty Images
Cold snap: Snowfall could hit parts of Scotland.

Scots can expect frost, hail and the possibility of snow showers later in the week as a cold snap is set to hit parts of the country.

Areas including Orkney, Caithness Sutherland, Moray, Aberdeenshire and Angus are expected to be hit with potential snowfall by Wednesday afternoon.

According to STV Weather presenter Philip Petrie, a frontal system will begin to move in from the north, so by teatime Shetland and Orkney will start to see cloud thickening and a band of rain spreading in.

At the same time, this front will bring in much colder air stretching back to the Arctic, so overnight there is a chance that any lingering showers could feel quite wintry, with hail down to lower levels and on higher ground the chance of snow. 

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By the time most of the country are wakening up Thursday the frontal system will be south of the border, and we will be well under the influence of the cold arctic air.

It is around this time that a second frontal system moves in from the north, and again this will bring further showers that will feel quite wintry across the higher ground of Orkney, Caithness and Sutherland, parts of Moray, Aberdeenshire and stretching down to Angus. 

Philip said: “Well we’ve started the new week fairly unsettled with a lot of low cloud, damp and murky conditions.

“At the same time though we are in a southerly airflow, so that is pulling in milder.

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“If we track that air back it is originating from across the Azores, so this is helping to push our temperatures up a few degrees across Tuesday and Wednesday, possibly reaching highs of 17C for the likes of Inverness, Fort William and parts of the central belt. 

“This is unseasonably mild for the time of year and in some spots will be 4C or 5C above the average. 

“However come Thursday our wind direction does a complete 180 and we will then be in a northerly airflow, with colder conditions flooding down from the north.

“We’ll then be in an arctic airflow and it will be noticeable – not only do our temperatures drop but the freezing level will drop too meaning we could see some hail down to lower levels for the far north of the country, with snow too but restricted mostly to higher ground.

“Conditions will be cold enough for snow down to around 400-500m in any heavier showers.

“This is nothing out of the ordinary for Scotland for the time of year, and in fact Thursday and Friday look set to be some of the brighter days of the week for Scotland, however it will be noticeably colder.”

A Met Office forecaster said: “From Thursday, temperatures will fall below average for most, increasing the likelihood of snow over higher ground in the north.”


Woman cleared of killing cyclist after jury returns not proven verdict

Jordan McDowall, 21, was accused of driving onto an opposing carriageway and colliding with Kevin Gilchrist, 51.

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Court: Jordan McDowall was cleared after a trial.

A young woman broke down in tears as she was cleared of killing a cyclist.

On Monday, jurors returned a not proven verdict against Jordan McDowall following a trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

The 21-year-old was alleged to have caused the death of Kevin Gilchrist by dangerous driving following a collision on Greenock Road, Inchinnan, Renfrewshire, on July 28, 2018.

The charge included claims McDowall was not paying attention while behind the wheel of her Ford Fiesta, went onto the opposite side of the road and hit the 51-year-old cyclist.

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McDowall – who had only been driving for seven weeks at the time – told the court how she had “no recollection” of the incident and that there was a “gap” in her memory.

After being cleared of the charge, Lord Armstrong told her: “As you have heard, the jury has acquitted you. You are free to leave the dock.”

A sobbing McDowall was hugged by another young woman as she left the courtroom.

Members of Mr Gilchrist’s family were also in tears following the verdict.

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McDowall, of Erskine, Renfrewshire, had stated during the trial that she was a “confident” driver.

Prosecutor Paul Kearney QC put to McDowall: “Is it not the case you were fully conscious but for whatever reason not paying attention to the road ahead?”

McDowall said: “No.”

She added that the last thing she remembered was turning at a roundabout.

McDowall denied a suggestion she was seen on her phone after getting out of her car following the collision.

Mr Kearney said: “If the witness is right, it means you were conscious enough and alert enough to be using your phone straight after an episode of loss of consciousness and memory.”

McDowall responded: “I don’t know what happened.”

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She had earlier told her own QC, Brian McConnachie, that she did not know how the crash happened.

Jurors heard how married dad Mr Gilchrist died as a result of “serious injuries to the chest”.


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