Paedophile hunters ‘uncover half of child grooming cases’

Watchdog says police don't give enough priority to tackling online child sex abuse.

Online: Police Scotland said protecting children is a top priority and they will carefully consider the report. Pixabay
Online: Police Scotland said protecting children is a top priority and they will carefully consider the report.

Paedophile vigilante groups uncover almost half of online grooming cases reported to police, a watchdog has found.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) said police did not give enough priority to tackling online child sexual abuse

It said the police response was generally reactive rather than proactive and warned of an increase in so-called vigilante groups.

HMICS has made ten recommendations, including that the force should undertake an online child sexual abuse “strategic threat assessment” to accurately identify the scale, nature and risk to children of such abuse.

Police Scotland said protecting children was a top priority and it would carefully consider the report.

Gillian Imery, HMICS chief inspector, said there are “real challenges” to capturing the true nature and extent of online child sexual abuse.

She said: “One of the main proactive tactics would be employing the services of undercover online specialist officers, however, this rarely happens.

“Almost half of the online grooming cases emanate from the activities of online child abuse activist groups [vigilante groups], who are unregulated and untrained.

“A more robust proactive capability on the part of Police Scotland would reduce the opportunities for these groups to operate.”

Police Scotland figures in the report showed the number of online child abuse referrals rose from 141 in 2013 to 1961 by the end of last year.

It also reports a 65% increase in the number of recorded offences of communicating indecently with a child over the period, from 359 offences in 2013-14 to 592 in 2018-19.

Deputy chief constable Malcolm Graham, lead for crime and operations at Police Scotland, said: “Cyber-enabled crime is placing an ever-increasing demand on policing in Scotland and elsewhere.

“We have introduced new processes and reprioritised our resources to identify and understand its extent and to inform our investigative response and preventative strategies.”


Medics raise ‘grave concerns’ over coronavirus protection gear

More than 100 health professionals have signed a letter to the Scottish Government.

Pixabay
PPE: Medics raise concerns in open letter.

Health care workers have raised “grave concerns” over the adequacy of protective equipment provided to them while treating coronavirus patients.

More than 100 medical professionals said they were in the “frontline battle against an invisible enemy”.

They have signed an open letter to the Scottish Government over the issue, which they say is leaving them and their patients at risk.

The letter also states that the virus has caused “upheaval” and that people are suffering from anxiety as a result of death rates. By Tuesday, a total of 296 people had died in Scotland from Covid-19.

It says: “Health care workers are falling ill and dying due to Covid-19.

“We believe it is vital that essential workers are given adequate PPE at the very least, to protect themselves and in-turn their patients from this new virus.

“At present with current PPE we believe that the risk of becoming infected and/or passing infection between patients as a consequence of inadequate protection is simply too great.”

Medics say they have been given “thin plastic aprons” which cover “very little” of their bodies and surgical masks that don’t protect them from anything airborne, as well as “flimsy” eye cover which does not offer enough protection.

The letter says: “Even the World Health Organisation guidelines state a surgical gown is a minimum, but here in Scotland we should be doing so much better for our dedicated health care workers who are risking their well-being daily to help combat this potentially fatal virus.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We attach the highest priority to the protection of our frontline social care and healthcare workers, and the detailed clinical guidance issued last week was jointly prepared by senior expert clinicians across the UK, was jointly agreed by Scotland’s Chief Medical and Nursing officers and contains specific detail about what PPE should be worn, by which staff and when.

“As the Health Secretary announced last week, we have introduced four direct supply lines for PPE, a streamlined ordering system for all staff who need PPE and a new dedicated email address for any health or social care worker who has any concerns about PPE supply to make contact with us immediately. Where we are alerted to any local issue about PPE availability, we act immediately to address these.

“We are clear that appropriate eyewear protection must be provided in accordance with UK four nation guidance. We have adequate supplies of PPE in place and our new supply line measures are ensuring that the right equipment reaches the right locations with the highest possible urgency.

“The Health Secretary had discussions with Andrew Buist and Lewis Morrison of the BMA, last week, on key issues including PPE and will continue to engage with them both regularly during this time.”

Coronavirus live: PM spends second night in intensive care

Today's latest coronavirus news and updates from across Scotland as it happens.

Coronavirus: Wednesday's latest updates.

11.51am: Scottish Government responds to ‘grave concerns’ of medics over PPE

The Scottish Government has said that the protection of frontline healthcare workers is the ‘highest priority’ after medics raised ‘grave concerns’ over the issue.

Over 100 medics signed an open letter questioning if protective equipment provided to them was adequate for the job hand.

In response a government spokesperson said: “We attach the highest priority to the protection of our frontline social care and healthcare workers, and the detailed clinical guidance issued last week was jointly prepared by senior expert clinicians across the UK, was jointly agreed by Scotland’s Chief Medical and Nursing officers and contains specific detail about what PPE should be worn, by which staff and when.

“As the Health Secretary announced last week, we have introduced four direct supply lines for PPE, a streamlined ordering system for all staff who need PPE and a new dedicated email address for any health or social care worker who has any concerns about PPE supply to make contact with us immediately. Where we are alerted to any local issue about PPE availability, we act immediately to address these.

“We are clear that appropriate eyewear protection must be provided in accordance with UK four nation guidance. We have adequate supplies of PPE in place and our new supply line measures are ensuring that the right equipment reaches the right locations with the highest possible urgency.

“The Health Secretary had discussions with Andrew Buist and Lewis Morrison of the BMA, last week, on key issues including PPE and will continue to engage with them both regularly during this time.”

11.16am: Glasgow Warriors star returns to NHS as a physio to help fight against covid-19.

Rugby star Petrus de Plessis has announced he will return to the NHS as a physio.

The Glasgow Warriors player-coach, who has been at the club since 2018, made the announcement on Twitter.

The 38-year-old South African has registered as a respiratory physiotherapist in a bid to help the fight against covid-19.

He said: “I’ve registered to go back to the NHS as a respiratory physiotherapist. I strongly believe it’s important to have all hands on deck to overcome this virus!”

10.16am: Pub’s tribute to health workers

Grace’s Bar in the Merchant City area of Glasgow has paid a striking tribute to NHS workers.

The venue, known as a Celtic pub, is closed during lockdown and wanted to brighten its boarded-up windows.

Bar owner Paul Kelly said: “We felt the need to board up the windows as a precaution for extra safety and security and it suddenly hit us that everything we have worked for as a team and a community was in ruins.  

“We could have advertised our venue but that wasn’t right either when there are people out there fighting for their lives and others on the frontline battling this virus.

How the boarded-up windows of Grace’s bar look.

“We are a sports bar, mainly Celtic fans but we have many fans from other teams who visit regularly too and we’ll all really miss the place during this closure.

“However the message is still the same, we want to help remind everyone to stay at home.  It is Easter weekend which is meant to be a holiday, a time of joy and it would be easy to forget our commitments to stay safe, so we wrote this message as a reminder that it is more important than ever to stay home and help in this fight. We are all in this together.”

9.50am: Half of those diagnosed with covid-19 in Forth Valley ‘fully recovered and back home’

Around half of the 243 people who have had a confirmed coronavirus diagnosis in Forth Valley are already fully recovered and back home.

Dr Graham Foster, Forth Valley’s director of public health, said it was important to get the message out that people had been discharged when it was safe to do so.

As the Scottish and UK death tolls rise, and the Prime Minister himself in intensive care, more and more people are facing up to just how deadly covid-19 can be.

And some have been nervous about those who have had the illness returning to their communities.

But Dr Foster said: “We want to be reassuring that these people are not a big infection risk and they don’t need to be treated any differently.

“They will obviously do the self-isolation that everyone else is doing and obey the same rules as everyone else but people don’t need to worry about them.

“People need to get used to the idea that the normal path of covid is that you become unwell for a period of time, usually seven days, and then you are safe after that to be discharged.”

9.27am: Emergency £500 grant available to those impacted by coronavirus

People in financial crisis caused by the ongoing covid-19 pandemic can now receive immediate help in the form of a cash grant.

The initiative comes thanks to the launch of an emergency coronavirus grant fund by national poverty charity, Turn2us.

A one-off crisis grant of £500 will be approved and paid within just three working days of an application, as long as they meet the grant fund’s eligibility criteria.

The grant will not need to be paid back and is intended to be a financial lifeline in a time of crisis.

One million people came to Turn2us for help in the last three weeks alone, representing a 520% increase, and 1800% increase amongst the self-employed.

8.50am: ‘Video visiting’ launched for Western Isles hospitals

A new ‘video visiting’ service is to be launched in the Western Isles on Wednesday, which will enable hospital inpatients and their friends and family to keep in touch via a video link.

In a statement, NHS Western Isles said that since the closure of local hospitals to visitors as a measure to control the spread of Coronavirus, staff had been working on a new system enabling video connections for hospital patients.

The service will initially be available for calls seven days a week between 2pm and 4pm to patients in Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway, with a roll-out of the scheme to all Western Isles hospital sites over the next two weeks currently being considered. Calls will be ten minutes in duration. 

8.46am: Entrepreneur gives £100,000 to fund free meals

Scots entrepreneur Marie Macklin has donated £100,000 to help people in need during the coronavirus outbreak.

She has launched a community fund called Lift Up Your Hearts, which aims to deliver 20,000 free meals.

The project has teamed up with charity Centrestage and company Braehead Foods to prepare and deliver free meals to homes in Kilmarnock and across East Ayrshire.

Marie, who founded the HALO urban regeneration company, said: “It is a very proud day for not just me but everyone at the HALO to see so many people come together to support the Lift Up Your Hearts campaign which we hope will help local communities that need it the most during these unprecedented times.

“I’d like to thank the team at Braehead Foods and everyone at Centrestage for their support and dedication to making the first deliveries of these 20,000 meals happen so quickly.

“I am confident that together we will help as many people as possible get through these difficult times.”

8.32am: Scottish football clubs set for crunch coronavirus talks

Scottish clubs will hold further talks with league officials on Wednesday in a bid to secure more clarity on the fate of the current season.

A number of clubs have already called on the Scottish Professional Football League to declare the standings as they are.

But Hearts have threatened legal action if they are relegated with eight games left and Rangers vowed to challenge any attempt to declare Celtic champions.

8.20am: Medics raise ‘grave concerns’ over protection equipment in open letter to Scottish Government

More than 100 medical professionals have signed an open letter to the Scottish Government raising “grave concerns” over personal protective equipment.

The open letter states that the virus has caused “upheaval” and lives have been “turned upside down” with people suffering from “fear and anxiety”.

It goes on to say that many working for the health service have concerns about the adequacy of the protective equipment needed in the “frontline battle” against an “invisible enemy”.

The medics wrote: “Health care workers are falling ill and dying due to covid-19. We believe it is vital that essential workers are given adequate PPE at the very least, to protect themselves and in-turn their patients from this new virus.”

7.50am: UK coronavirus strategy questioned

Questions have been asked over the UK’s covid-19 strategy in the absence of the Prime Minister who remains in intensive care with the virus.

Concerns were raised over when the lockdown measures will be reviewed – and leading officials have admitted the UK has “a lot to learn” from Germany’s expansive testing scheme.

Earlier, foreign secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputising in Boris Johnson’s absence, suggested the review of the lockdown announced by the PM when he set out the restrictions would not go ahead on Monday as scheduled.

7.35am: Prime Minister spends second night in intensive care

Boris Johnson spent second night in intensive care.

Boris Johnson has spent a second night in intensive care being treated for Covid-19.

Downing Street said the PM’s condition remained “stable” on Tuesday night as they confirmed he would be staying in St Thomas’s hospital for “close monitoring”.

The 55-year-old is said to be in “good spirits”.

7.05am: Report warns that GDP could shrink by 25% if lockdown continues

The Scottish economy could contract by up to a quarter if the current lockdown restrictions continue for a three-month period, according to the Fraser of Allander Institute.

The report from the economic research institute at Strathclyde University found there is likely to be “a long road to recovery” from the “unprecedented” impact on GDP from the coronavirus pandemic.

The estimates are predicted on a three month period of restrictions and are not an “exact prediction for growth” in Q2 of 2020, but “simply an illustration of the scale of the shock” to the economy.

The report adds that “it might be many months or even years before we actually know the full extent of the effect of the shut down on the Scottish economy”.

7am: Jobs market sees greatest drop in permanent starts since global crash

Permanent job appointments across Scotland in March fell at the fastest rate since the global financial crash, according to a study.

The latest Royal Bank of Scotland figures show the country saw the steepest decline last month in these job starts since April 2009, with a drop of 10.7 points from the “no change” base rate of 50.

Permanent job placements in April 2009 had a rating of 33.6, some 16.4 points below the 50 standard.

Temporary billings also fell 19.3 points – the steepest rate on record – as the Scottish jobs market was hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Travel operator Tui cancels all holidays up until mid-May

The company announced that they had made the decision due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Holiday: Tui cancels all trips due to Covid-19.

Travel operator Tui have cancelled all holidays up to the middle of May.

The company announced on Wednesday that they had made the “difficult decision” due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tui said customers due to travel with the company can amend their holidays up until June 30 for free, even if they are due to travel between April 17 and May 14.

A Tui spokeswoman said: “We are constantly monitoring the situation and will start taking people on holiday again as soon as we are able to do so.

“At this point in time, nobody can accurately predict when that will be, so for the time being we will keep a close eye on our programme and continue to amend and adapt timings in line with the latest global travel advice.”


SPFL clubs to vote on season end but Premiership not clear cut

The league body wants to finalise current standings in the Championship and League 1 and 2.

SNS
A decision on the fate of this year's competition is drawing near.

The SPFL board will ask lower league clubs to vote to end their season prematurely but a call on the outcome of the Premiership won’t be made yet.

Instead, top flight clubs will be asked to give a vote on bringing the season to an end, but their decision will be used as the basis for further discussions with UEFA.

UEFA has warned associations they risk losing their Champions League and Europa League spots for next season if they call their top leagues without prior approval.

The SPFL is holding conference calls with all 42 clubs on Wednesday. It’s understood they will propose a resolution to vote on ending the season. Voting isn’t expected to take place on Wednesday.

Football has been suspended since March following the coronavirus pandemic. The likelihood of any competitive action returning before August or even September is slim. 

The prospect of going several months with no income could threaten the existence of some clubs.

However, if a decision is taken to end the season now, this would allow the governing body to hand out prize money for their final league placings.

In the Premiership, that would see Celtic crowned as champions, with Hearts facing automatic relegation, though that decision is not imminent.

But an instant decision on the lower leagues would see Dundee United promoted to the top flight as Championship winners. The club are currently 14 points clear at the top of the league.

Partick Thistle would be relegated from the Championship, while Raith Rovers move up from League 1.

Stranraer would drop into the fourth tier, with League 2 promoting Cove Rangers as champions.

Some clubs had pushed for league reconstruction during the crisis but there are no plans to change the format of the competition.

While lower league sides are expected to be widely supportive of ending the season and releasing funds, the Premiership decision would be more controversial.

Rangers have already warned they would challenge any decision to crown Celtic as champions, while Hearts would take legal action if they were to be relegated without having played all of their games.

The primary stumbling block though, is UEFA’s desire for all of Europe’s top leagues to act uniformly and after consultation with the governing body.

After Belgium ended their league and named a champion, UEFA threatened that leagues who acted unilaterally would risk losing Champions League and Europa League places.

However, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has since indicated leagues could decide to end early, though only after consultation with the hierachy in Nyon.


Coronavirus outbreak causes 12 cases at elderly care home

Pitkerro Care Home confirmed five residents and seven staff have so far tested positive.

Google 2020
Care home: Owners praised the 'courage and commitment' of staff during the crisis.

An outbreak of Covid-19 has hit an elderly care home in Dundee, with 12 confirmed cases so far.

Pitkerro Care Home on the outskirts of the city revealed on Tuesday night five residents and seven members of staff have been infected with the virus.

The victims are showing mild symptoms.

A spokesperson for the home said: “We know this will cause significant worry, especially amongst the friends and relatives of our residents and staff, but we remain committed to doing all we can to mitigate the risks.

“Five residents and seven members of staff have tested positive for the virus. At the moment, they are all only showing mild symptoms. We are pleased to see that some of their symptoms are also improving.

“That said, we will not be complacent, and have already taken quick and decisive action to prevent transmission.”

The home has capacity for 70 residents and is owned by Hudson Healthcare. It specialises in Alzheimer’s care for over 65s.

The spokesman added: “In line with Public Health Scotland guidance, we have upgraded the personal protective equipment provided to staff.

‘Together, we will beat this virus.’

Pitkerro Care Home

“Similarly, we are enforcing isolation and social distancing rules more stringently in the best interests of our residents and staff.

“Our approach is kept constantly under review in partnership with Dundee City Council, Public Health Scotland and the Care Inspectorate.

“Throughout this crisis, we have been blown away by the courage and commitment of our staff.

“We know this will continue so that our residents can continue to receive the best possible care. Together, we will beat this virus.”

More on:

Comedian Kevin Bridges reveals Covid-19 quarantine haircut

The comic was compared to Joe Exotic from Tiger King and Jim Carrey from Dumb and Dumber.

Netflix / New Line Cinema / Kevin Bridges Twitter
Comical: Kevin Bridges' new haircut was compared to Joe Exotic and Jim Carrey's from Dumb and Dumber.

Kevin Bridges has debuted a ‘dodgy new haircut’ amid the coronavirus quarantine.

The Scots comic posted a picture of the trim online, stating: “Stay strong folks…”

Some fans said the look resembled Jim Carrey’s Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber and Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean.

He was even compared to Joe Exotic from Netflix’s Tiger King.

Singer Amy Macdonald replied: “Can you twist your fringe into wee separate sections with gel please? Just so we can fully relive the good old days at school in the early 00s.”

Jobs market sees greatest drop since global crash

The latest RBS figures show the country saw the steepest decline last month in permanent job starts since April 2009.

Pixabay
Decline: Permanent job appointments fell in March.

Permanent job appointments across Scotland in March fell at the fastest rate since the global financial crash, according to a study.

The latest Royal Bank of Scotland figures show the country saw the steepest decline last month in these job starts since April 2009, with a drop of 10.7 points from the “no change” base rate of 50.

Permanent job placements in April 2009 had a rating of 33.6, some 16.4 points below the 50 standard.

Temporary billings also fell 19.3 points – the steepest rate on record – as the Scottish jobs market was hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Businesses across the country have been ordered to shut to help reduce the rate of the virus spreading.

Sebastian Burnside, chief economist at Royal Bank of Scotland, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic weighed heavily on the Scottish labour market in March.

“Permanent staff placements fell at the steepest rate since the global financial crisis over a decade ago while temp billings declined at the sharpest rate since data collection began over 17 years ago.

“At the same time, demand for both permanent and short-term staff declined, with panellists reporting that firms had stopped hiring amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The reduction in permanent vacancies was the first since September 2010 while the fall in temp staff demand was the fastest since mid-2009.

“Overall, latest data highlighted the substantial impact of emergency measures and shutdowns that have taken place due to the Covid-19 outbreak and the vital importance of the government schemes put in place to safeguard livelihoods during this exceptional time.”

The rate of decline in demand for permanent staff was described as “mild overall” and softer than that recorded at the UK level.

A fall in temporary worker vacancies in Scotland was part of a wider UK trend, according to the study, although the fall in north of the border “outstripped” that seen at the UK level.

Starting salaries awarded to permanent joiners continued to increase during March, as has been the case in each month for over seven years.

However, the rate of wage inflation was the softest for three months and only mild.

The average hourly pay rates for temporary staff rose further, with the uptick the quickest since last October.

Wage inflation remained softer than the long-run series average.

The report, compiled by IHS Markit, is based on a monthly survey of around 100 recruitment and employment consultants.

How to keep children entertained during Easter lockdown

Here's a list of resources to keep children occupied while on lockdown during the spring break.

Easter: 18 ways to keep children occupied.

It might be tough to tell the difference these days but the schools are off on Easter holidays throughout the country.

So with schoolwork at home on hold, and lockdown in force, how do you keep the kids entertained?

Technology might be the enemy a lot of the time as you battle it out over screen time – but there are plenty of resources to tap into, no matter what the interests.

Arts and Crafts


Kids Art Academy in Bishopbriggs have been posting video tutorials for arts and craft classes for children of all ages on their Facebook page. Activities include creating collages and learning to draw fish.

Artful Parent have lots of great ideas for crafty activities to keep the whole family busy, from creating Lego cities to going on nature walks.

Sparklebox offers a mix of art and music challenges alongside other educational resources. There are plenty of colouring pages to print off and step-by-step Easter cards to make.

Perfect for smaller children, Red Ted Art have easy craft activities on offer, with popular activities including toilet roll crafts, paper helicopters and even making your own volcano.  

Science and Nature

Inquisitive kids will love science projects from The Dad Lab, with experiments featuring everything from colourful Skittles to raw eggs to keep little ones entertained.

Even though you can’t make it to Dundee Science Centre during lockdown, an online learning portal has been set up by staff with a different theme each week. Activities and daily facts related to themes such as minibeasts and egg experiments. 

National Geographic for Kids offers amazing activities and quizzes about the natural world, from facts about tigers to a ‘unicorn’ puppy which was born with an extra tail on its forehead.

The Woodland Trust is the perfect resource for those looking to find an adventure in their own back garden, with some excellent ideas for exploring indoors too. 

Edinburgh Zoo may be closed to the public, but staff are still tending to the animals. Watch the zoo’s cameras for updates on the giant pandas or check out the penguins as they enjoy some downtime during the zoo’s closure.

Blair Drummond Safari Park also offers an insight into the lives of the animals at the park, with webcams set up to keep an eye on the lions’ den and the rhino house. 

The Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh are offering online tours of the gardens, with educational videos and tips for the garden also available online. 

Sport

Tennis coach Ian Cannon has been sharing tips for keeping active inside and in the garden on Facebook. For those with limited sports equipment fear not, as Ian shows how to use household objects such as biscuit tins as tennis rackets.

On Twitter, Tennis Scotland have been posting links to drills you can do inside as well as outdoor exercises to perfect your technique. Ideas include using a tennis ball and a sock to help correct your serve and using a hula hoop to learn about judging distance and speed of the ball. 

For football fans, Box Soccer based in Dundee and Perth are offering video tutorials on YouTube to help youngsters hone their skills. Practice dribbling and roll stops with the help of an experienced online coach.

Museums

Despite museums and galleries throughout Glasgow closed due to coronavirus, many will still be showcasing their exhibits and hosting classes on their social media channels. Drawing challenges, toddler sing-along sessions and art classes will be held during the week on Twitter and Facebook, with a look through the archives also hosted on Instagram. 

Fans of the National Museums Scotland can still enjoy the exhibits from home thanks to digital tours, with plenty of resources online to aid any history projects.

Literature

Author and television personality David Walliams will be releasing a free audio story from his The World’s Worst Children series every day for 30 days on his website.

Fans of Harry Potter will love the Wizarding World website, a free hub for magical craft videos, fun articles, quizzes, puzzles, and much more.


Couple’s antique clockwork characters are worldwide hit

Viewers from across the globe have been enthralled by Michael and Maria Start's online videos during the coronavirus lockdown.

A couple who own clockwork characters which appeared in Hollywood movies have been keeping viewers enthralled during the coronavirus lockdown with live online shows.

Michael and Maria Start, from Moray, entranced people from Australia, the US, Germany, South America and the UK as they showed off items such as a crawling leopard which dates from 1890, a rabbit which pops up from a cabbage and, one of their most talked about pieces, a life-sized lady called Nancy who sews, blinks her eyes and crosses her legs.

Mr Start said: “Social media is a new way for people to get out there when you can’t actually get out.

‘It’s escapism – people are escaping into another world where reality is not quite the same.’

Maria Start

“We have such a fantastic cast of characters, we’ve got entertainers in every cupboard and drawer and we thought we need to  show them – and modern technology is about keeping up with us.”  

The couple say some of their exhibits may be hundreds of years old but they are proving to be comforting for people during this modern time of crisis.

Mrs Start said: “It’s escapism – people are escaping into another world where reality is not quite the same.”

Based in Forres, the couple’s expertise was called upon by legendary Hollywood director Martin Scorsese for his film Hugo, in which a young boy lives in a clock tower where his father, played by Jude Law, makes mechanical items such as a wind-up mouse.

Mr Start, a trained horologist, taught the movie makers the intricacies of how such items would work, and was even asked to fix Scorsese’s own watch when it stopped.

Brian Selznick, who wrote the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, on which the movie was based, was one of those tuning into their live online show.

The Starts have hundreds of automata in their collection but some stand out for them.

Mrs Start explained: “The leopard is my all time favourite automata. It was given to us in a complete state of disrepair, with no body, no head, no tail and we just adore it.

“It was given to us to break up and use as spares but there’s no way we would do that.

“It’s so magical – now it lives in a special box with a sliding front. You open it and he crawls out by himself.

“There’s a video of him in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh in their robots section and he is like a piece of ‘more than life’.”

As well as their automata show, the couple have held an online Flea Circus show and plan to continue to entertain on social media with a look behind the scenes in their workshop on Thursday.

You can see more from the house of automata on Instagram: @thehouseofautomata.

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