A businessman received death threats after he made staff at his waste disposal firm redundant days after Christmas, a court heard.
Garry Pettigrew, 56, was managing director of Healthcare Environmental Services (HES) which had sites in Shotts, Lanarkshire, Dundee and England.
He is on trial at Hamilton Sheriff Court where he denies breaching environmental laws including illegal storage of human body parts and other medical waste between May 2017 and April 2019.
The court has heard HES lost access to its banking facility in December 2018 which led to staff being put on ‘gardening leave’ before being let go at a meeting two days after Christmas without pay.
Pettigrew, of Shotts, said breaking the news was the ‘hardest day’ of his life and claimed he then received ‘numerous’ death threats against him which resulted in police being called in.
He also said he had been painted as a ‘cowboy’ as a result of a senior SEPA manager telling the trial he had threatened to ‘dump’ clinical waste in hospital car parks in an exchange after the disposal plant closed.
Shona McConnell returned to court to backtrack on the claims and said she had ‘misrepresented’ what had been said in emails between the pair.
Giving evidence to Thomas Ross KC, defending, Pettigrew told how threats had been made on his life.
He said: “I had a lot of bad press and bad feelings with the staff who had not been paid.
“I received numerous death threats as well as from suppliers who were not getting paid.
“The death threats became more real and the police had to become involved.
“This was between January and May 2019 and the police gave me a unique code because I was now at a certain threat level.”
When asked by his lawyer if he had ever threatened to dump clinical waste in hospital car parks and the impact on his reputation, Pettigrew replied: “Never. The company had a reputation that was never in doubt.
“I’m untouchable now, many a company wouldn’t want to be seen with me.
“I’m a specialist in the field and I doubt anybody knows as much as me about it.
“The headlines suggested I’m some sort of cowboy but my professionalism is something I take seriously and it is unmarked to this day.”
The trial earlier heard Pettigrew claim the UK Cabinet Office told his bank he was not to be paid which caused them to restrict access to HES accounts.
He also alleged an Australian company had been set to buy HES for £18m but pulled out amid claims the Cabinet Office had told them to let HES go bust and buy the firm from receivers.
The trial had earlier heard the cost of clearing the HES site in Shotts rose to almost £660,000 and took nearly all of 2020 to clear the plant which was ‘wall-to-wall’ with medical waste.
Peter Wightwick, a contractor, said his team had to burst open pallets of medical waste and found containers of human body parts mixed with other rubbish.
Photographs shown to the court included one of a penguin carcass which is said to have come from Edinburgh Zoo.
HES went into liquidation in April 2019 after losing NHS contracts in England and Scotland.
The trial before Sheriff Liam Murphy continues.
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