‘Innocent George was an easy target for murder police’

The sister of a man convicted of murdering Margaret McLaughlin in 1973 speaks publicly for the first time.

A man convicted of murder in 1973 was an “easy target” for the police, his sister has said.

George Beattie was jailed for murdering Margaret McLaughlin in Carluke – but her fiancé and a criminologist have told STV News they believe he is innocent.

Georgina Lansdell was 23, the same age as Margaret, when her brother, 19-year-old “mummy’s boy” George, was convicted.

Speaking publicly for the first time, she said their father Robert died from a heart attack two years later – with the family blaming stress and anxiety.

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Their mother Jeanie “spent her life trying to prove his innocence” before passing away two years ago.

The 70-year-old care home manager told STV News: “It’s so sad that they both went to their graves and he was innocent. They know he was innocent but we couldn’t fully clear his name.”

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George’s parents Jeanie and Robert Beattie.

Georgina was one of eight siblings – six brothers and two sisters – and living at home in Unitas Crescent, Carluke, in 1973.

The family were concerned when detectives asked George to come to a police station. It was the beginning of a nightmare that consumed their lives.

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Georgina said: “At the beginning, when the police started going round all the street questioning everybody, they were taking statements from everyone, they took a statement from him.

“And I think he just gave a statement in the wrong way because he thought he was going to help the police. And that statement that he gave didn’t help him, it just got him into trouble because a few days later they came knocking on the door and said they wanted him to go to the police station and help with their enquiries.

“Two of them came and took him away and from that point we never saw him again because he never came home.”

That night, with George being questioned alone by the CID, his family became increasingly agitated.

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Bob Alexander and his wife-to-be Margaret McLaughlin.

She said: “I must have fallen asleep. But it must have been about five o’clock in the morning, I heard this most awful scream and it was my mother.

“The police had arrived at the house to say that George had confessed to the murder of Margaret McLaughlin. And all I could hear her say was ‘oh no, oh no, oh no’.

“She was lying on the settee and John Adams, one of the police inspectors, was kneeling at the front of the settee and she kept saying to him ‘he didn’t do it, he never did that, he has not confessed’. She knew that there was no way he had ever done anything like that.

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“My mum and dad were just devastated. The windows were closed, the blinds were closed, and my mother just sat and cried. She just could not take it in. She could not believe it.”

Like many other people, Georgina describes her brother as “a big softie” and also as a gentle mummy’s boy with a passion for trainspotting.

Asked whether he was capable of Margaret’s brutal murder, she said: “There is no way he could ever have done that. If he saw somebody fighting in the street he would cross to the other side of the road because he wouldn’t want to be involved. He wasn’t an aggressive person in any way.”

During George’s trial, his family believe evidence was withheld from the jury and that his defence failed to raise crucial points that would have seen him acquitted.

Georgina added: “There was just so many things that were wrong. So many questions left unanswered and I think as a family it just totally floored us. I suppose we ever really healed because it’s always there in the back of your mind.

“The police weren’t worried. They had got an easy target and he was going to be the one that they were going to convict.

“Common sense would have told you the way that this girl was murdered, he must have been covered in blood. There was nothing on him.”

Criminologist Professor David Wilson’s book Signs of Murder has seen a groundswell of support in Carluke for the family – but it was not always like that.

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Professor David Wilson tracked down a ‘more likely suspect’ for the murder.

Prof Wilson has named a “more likely” suspect for the 1973 murder.

Georgina said: “You’ll always feel people looking at you and thinking and saying to you ‘oh that’s George Beattie’s sister, he murdered Margaret McLaughlin’. You always feel that people are looking at you and you’ve got that stigma.

“Why now do I think the people of Carluke are in readiness to support us? I don’t know.

“Nobody ever came and knocked on the door and said ‘I don’t believe your son did this’. Nobody ever came and gave us support. We just got nasty letters, we just got windows smashed. The rumours and the horrible stories that went around, it was awful.”

She also understands how painful these past five decades will have been for Margaret’s family, adding: “I feel for the McLaughlins as well. Are they thinking they did get the right person, the right person was caught? But now this book has been written, what are their thoughts on what’s happening? Do they really want to know or do they just want it to finish?”

George, according to his sister, is not in the best of health but the family still “hope and pray” that his innocence will be proved.

More on the investigation into Margaret McLaughlin’s murder on Scotland Tonight on STV at 10.40pm.


Five-level coronavirus alert system to begin on Monday

Each part of the country will be allocated a level of restrictions later in the week.

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Empty streets like this one in Aberdeen in August could be seen across Scotland under the new system.

A five-tier system designed to control coronavirus in Scotland will come into effect from Monday.

Each part of the country will be allocated a level on a scale between zero – the minimum number of restrictions – and four, the closest to a full lockdown.

MSPs unanimously voted through the proposed Covid alert system following a debate at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

It means that from Monday, current restrictions on many pubs and restaurants across Scotland will be relaxed.

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Holyrood also unanimously agreed a Green amendment, stating that “the ultimate goal must be elimination of Covid-19” and recognising the role that expanded testing to asymptomatic people will play in this.

The Scottish Parliament further endorsed a Liberal Democrat amendment stating that additional capacity is “urgently needed” in the Test and Protect coronavirus contact tracing system.

However a Scottish Conservative amendment, calling on ministers to “develop and publish a Christmas loneliness strategy to consider the need for families to safely meet relatives across the UK this festive season” was rejected by 50 votes to 69.

And a Labour amendment which said the Scottish and UK governments should “work together to put in place greater economic support for wages and for businesses that may be required to close or have their operations restricted” was voted down by 54 votes to 64, with one abstention. 

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Earlier on Tuesday, it was revealed 1327 new coronavirus cases and 25 deaths had been recorded over the past 24 hours.

Levels will be allocated to council areas across the country later this week, when it’s expected North and South Lanarkshire will face the most severe rules under tier four.

That would mean the closure of non-essential shops as well as pubs and restaurants.

The rest of central Scotland is being tipped for level three, close to the current restrictions, although from Monday hospitality establishments can open until 6pm as long as they don’t sell alcohol.

Much of the rest of Scotland is likely to be in level two, with the Highlands and Islands set for level one.

The Scottish Government will set up a new postcode checker so people can check what levels of restrictions are in place in their area.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the plan was to keep schools open throughout, even under level-four restrictions.

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Level by level at-a-glance

Zero

  • Most businesses can open
  • Eight people from three households are able to meet indoors
  • Life events such as weddings and funerals will be allowed with a maximum of 50 people in attendance

One

  • Indoor visits restricted to six people from two households
  • Small indoor seated events will be allowed although outdoor standing events will be banned

Two

  • Limits on when pubs and restaurants can open
  • No indoor socialising
  • Six people from two households will be able to meet outdoors
  • Stadium gatherings and events will be banned, other than those which are drive-in
  • Venues such as soft play centres, funfairs and theatres will be shut
  • Cinemas and amusement arcades will remain open
  • Pubs will be allowed to open indoors as long as they serve a main meal

Three

  • Pubs and restaurants can’t sell alcohol and must close at 6pm
  • Entertainment premises will be closed. People should avoid public transport and there should be no travel outside of the area, unless essential
  • Additional protective measures may be in place for services such as hairdressers

Four

  • Closure of non-essential shops
  • Public transport must not be used unless essential
  • Places of worship will remain open but the limit will be reduced from 50 people to 20
  • Weddings and civil partnerships will be limited to five people – six when there is an interpreter
  • Construction and manufacturing will continue

Pub and restaurant restrictions set to be relaxed

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlined changes as MSPs debate a framework for tackling Covid-19.

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Pubs and restaurants in much of central Scotland could be allowed to reopen from Monday under the new Covid alert system – but can’t serve alcohol.

They will also have to close at 6pm under tier three of the new plan to control coronavirus being debated in the Scottish Parliament.

A series of changes to hospitality rules were unveiled before the debate by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Pubs and restaurants in central Scotland have been closed since October 9 in a bid to control the spread of Covid-19.

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It’s expected most of the central belt will be in level three, although North and South Lanarkshire are being tipped for level four, meaning venues couldn’t reopen there.

Closing times for venues in levels one and two will be extended to 10.30pm from 10pm.

Premises can sell alcohol indoors with a main meal up to 8pm at level two.

At present, hospitality premises outside the central belt cannot serve alcohol indoors and must close at 6pm.

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The five-tier system will see all parts of Scotland given a level of restrictions to combat the spread of the virus – ranging from the least prohibitive at zero to the highest at four.

Sturgeon said North and South Lanarkshire council areas are being considered for the highest level of restrictions under the proposed tier system.

Other areas in the central belt covered by tougher measures would likely move into level three, while the rest of the country would be at level two.

Sturgeon said it was hoped local authority areas including the Highlands, Shetland, Orkney, the Western Isles and Moray would go into level one, while Dundee could also go into level three.

Cabinet secretary Fergus Ewing said: “I understand that any restrictions are hard for business and I know that many will want us to go further, however, this is a proportionate relaxation of the current rules that will enable premises to serve evening meals and alcohol in level two, in addition to removing the distinction between cafés and other licensed premises at level three.

“We need to be very cautious at level three, to ensure that the restrictions in place contribute to reducing the spread of the virus, so that they can be lifted as soon as possible.

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“I want to thank the sector for its constructive engagement over the weekend and commit to continuing these discussions as we go forward.”

Coronavirus: 25 deaths and 1327 new cases in Scotland

The latest daily figures have been revealed by the Scottish Government.

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Another 25 people with coronavirus have died in Scotland, as the country recorded more than 1300 new cases.

The latest figures, which saw the return of 1327 positive tests, have been published by the Scottish Government.

The death toll under the measure of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days now stands at 2726.

The number of patients in hospital confirmed to have the virus rose to 1100 – 82 of whom were in intensive care.

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The daily test positivity rate is 8.7%, up from 7.1% on the previous day.

Health board apologises for flu vaccination failures

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has said sorry over its handling of flu jab programme.

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Concerns: Health board dealing with backlog of people waiting.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has apologised for its handling of the flu vaccination programme this year.

Concerns have been raised about delays, with some of the elderly receiving their letter after the appointment date.

The health board said it was aware of the anxiety felt by those in the over 65 group, who haven’t had the jab yet.

Senior health officials met with MPs and MSPs on Tuesday to hear more detail regarding constituents’ concerns and explain the actions being taken to resolve the situation.

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Jane Grant, chief executive of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: “On behalf of the health board, I would like to sincerely apologise to all those people who have experienced issues with their flu vaccination appointments.

“We are very sorry for any distress and anxiety this has caused, especially among the more vulnerable members of our local communities.

“There have been a number of challenges with the delivery of the flu vaccination programme and we have taken action to ensure this situation never happens again.”

Ms Grant said the health board wanted to “offer reassurance” to those over 65 still waiting that remaining letters will be sent this week and appointments scheduled to take place before the end of November.

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She added: “For those who received their letter after their appointment date, we will ensure that you get an alternative appointment.

“We understand that many people have struggled to get through to our appointment line and we are very sorry for that.

“We have now employed an additional 20 call handlers to manage enquiries so that more people can be supported in a more timely way.

“The flu vaccination programme has been especially challenging this year, due to the increased number of eligible people and because it is vitally important that we adhere to physical distancing guidelines when administering vaccinations.

“However, we will make sure that we learn the lessons from what has happened this year and put measures in place to avoid these issues being repeated.”

If members of the public need to change their appointment, they should contact 0800 707 6699 or email adult.flu@ggc.scot.nhs.uk


Police car overturns following crash with another vehicle

Emergency services were called to the scene on Carmunnock Road, Castlemilk on Tuesday evening.

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Crash: Police car overturns following collision.

A police car has overturned following a crash with another vehicle in Glasgow

On Tuesday, emergency services were called to the incident on Carmunnock Road, Castlemilk at around 5.40pm.

There is currently no information if anyone sustained any injuries in the crash.

Diversions are in place in the area following the crash. 


Lennon: There’s no justification for Celtic to sack me

The Celtic boss gave an impassioned defence of his side after three games without a win.

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Celtic boss Neil Lennon has slammed critics of his side for overreacting and says there is no justification for him to be sacked after three games without a win.

Defeats to Rangers and AC Milan were followed by a 3-3 draw at Aberdeen on Sunday, leaving the defending champions six points behind in the title race, albeit with a game in hand.

Celtic now travel to face Lille in the Europa League before facing Aberdeen again, this time in the semi-final of last season’s Scottish Cup. The build-up has been marked with widespread discussion of Celtic’s form but Lennon has hit back at the criticism he says is “media driven” and only shared by a minority of the club’s support.

“We have lost one game in the league and pundits are talking about me being two games away from the sack,” he said at a media conference on Tuesday. “Where that comes from I have no idea.

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“I have seen two newspapers run polls on whether I should get sacked or not. I have never seen it before in 20 years I have been here.

“Who is driving that? It is not the Celtic fans.

“There is a minority of our support who need to calm down, let the players settle. It has been very disruptive the last few weeks but I am not using that as an excuse.

“In the main I think the majority of the supporters are behind the team and behind the club.”

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Lennon said that one of the reasons for a dip in form was down to recent disruption in his squad, alluding to not only injuries but also positive coronavirus tests that have seen Odsonne Edouard, Ryan Christie, Hatem abd Elhamed and Nir Bitton sidelined since the international break.

The manager said he doesn’t feel under pressure and doesn’t have to justify his position but took aim at anyone who felt that his job should be under threat.

“There is no justification for me to get sacked, none whatsoever,” he said. “I shouldn’t have to defend my record, it speaks for itself.

“I don’t feel under any major pressure. Am I unhappy with this week’s work? Yes, because we would like to play well and win.

“But I think we are getting better, stronger and have a lot to look forward to and I think I should be the man in charge of it.

“We go through a little spell and conspiracy theories come out about dressing room break ups, fall outs, all that nonsense.

“It is fake news. I sound like Donald Trump now but it is just all fake news.”

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Lennon defended his team as a whole, pointing out that they are only two points worse off than at the same point last season and that results before the international break had been positive.

He also gave support to summer loan signing Shane Duffy, who has seen his performances put under the spotlight in recent games.

“Players getting singled out and abused, it is absolutely shocking,” he said.

“If that’s the way of the modern world. I am glad I am not a player any more.

“Shane needs to find his feet. He has had a bumpy week, nothing more nothing less. It happens.

“I am not happy with the treatment he is getting from certain quarters of the media. I think it is hysterical. Comments that he is rank rotten and he is a bombscare are ridiculous.

“He is a quality player. The personal, banging the drum with certain players is unacceptable.

“He made a mistake, he shouldn’t be hung out to dry for it. He has my full support, he has the team’s full support.

“I have seen millions of players come in here and take time to find their feet and then go on to have brilliant careers.”


Musician Jack White buys busker guitar after stranger smashes his

Matt Grant was delighted The White Stripes frontman wanted to step in and help after hearing about his plight.

David Becker / Stringer via Getty Images / STV News

An Edinburgh busker who had his guitar smashed up by a drunken stranger is delighted after singer Jack White stepped in and bought him a new one.

Matt Grant, 26, said he felt, “like a kid in a candy shop,” when he walked into Guitar Guitar in Edinburgh and discovered The White Stripes frontman’s manager had been trying to track him down to buy him a new instrument.

“It’s still sinking in,” he told STV News, “Saying it out loud it’s crazy.”

Last week Matt says he was setting up to busk on Edinburgh’s Princes Street when a drunk woman came up to him and started accosting him and swearing. 

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“I tried to tell her where to go and next thing I know she’s got my guitar in her hand, swinging it over her head, it comes down on the pavement and…crack,” he said.

“I was gutted, totally gutted.

“I was trying to hold back how terrible I felt. I didn’t want people to see me in tears but that’s my livelihood. It was scary.”

Matt took to social media to set up a GoFundMe page for a new guitar, with a target of £300.

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But within 24 hours, his story had been seen all over the world and he’d raised more than £4000.

“Before I knew it there were comments from all over the world and people saying, ‘what’s your Paypal?’ I closed it the day after at about £4000.

“I was like, I can get any guitar I want now.”

Overwhelmed at the generosity of strangers, Matt picked out a replacement guitar from GuitarGuitar in Edinburgh and was due to collect it the next day.

But his luck wasn’t over yet as Seven Nation Army singer White had seen Matt’s story and set about tracking him down to buy him a new guitar.

“We got a phone call just after we opened from Jack’s manager, wondering if we’d heard Matt’s story,” said Chris Cunningham from GuitarGuitar Edinburgh.

“Jack’s manager had said he was trying to track [Matt] down and thought the easiest way to do that was to phone around the guitar shops in Edinburgh. 

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“They said if Matt comes in, can you pass over my phone number? Low and behold, half an hour later, in comes Matt.”

When Matt arrived to pick up his replacement guitar, he was put on the phone to Jack White’s manager to hear the amazing news.

“Matt was absolutely bowled over,” said Chris. “I don’t think he could believe it, it took a while to sink in that the person on the phone was actually Jack White’s manager.”

Having explained that he had already bought a replacement guitar, Jack’s manager replied: “Well, buy another one! Jack White wants to buy you a guitar.”

“I thought, that’s awesome, and I’m looking around like a kid in a candy shop.” Matt said.

Now Matt is back busking on the streets of Edinburgh, he plans to give back to musicians who have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I want to pay it forward,” he said.

“So the plan is to do a fundraiser, I’m going to put in £500 of my own money from the GoFundMe and we’re going to busk all day, me and some friends, to help musicians who’ve been affected by Covid-19.”

Matt wants to turn what was a frightening and negative situation into something positive, and has even added Seven Nation Army into his setlist as a thank you to the rockstar.


Church fined £40,000 over pensioner’s care home death fall

Inadequate safety measures at care home where 94-year-old man fell from second-floor window.

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Roman Catholic Diocese of Dunkeld fined.

A catholic diocese has been fined £40,000 over the death of a care home resident in Dundee.

Dundee Sheriff Court was told that in the early hours of May 30, 2017, a 94-year-old man fell nearly 30ft from a second-floor window of the Wellburn Care Home.

An investigation by Police Scotland and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the bedroom window was unsafe.

Many of the windows at the care home had not been fitted with restrictors, which prevent them being opened wide enough for a person to fall.

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The court heard the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dunkeld had failed to put in place safety measures to protect elderly and vulnerable residents.

The Diocese pleaded guilty to health and safety contraventions at the court on October 14 and was fined £40,000 on Tuesday.

The care home closed in June 2017.

Alistair Duncan, head of the Health and Safety Investigation Unit at the Crown Office, said: “This tragic incident could easily have been prevented had suitable and sufficient measures been put in place.

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“A window restrictor would have prevented this from being able to happen.

“Hopefully this prosecution and the sentence will remind other organisations that failure to fulfil their obligations can have tragic consequences and that they will be held to account for their failings.”


Stalker went looking for council leader despite banning order

Amanda McCutcheon was stopped by security as she tried to contact Susan Aitken at Glasgow City Chambers.

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Woman convicted of stalking Susan Aitken went looking for her at Glasgow City Chambers.

A woman convicted of stalking Glasgow city council leader Susan Aitken breached an order banning her from contacting the politician.

Amanda McCutcheon entered Glasgow City Chambers on September 23 this year looking for her, but was stopped by security.

The 48-year-old was subject to a lifelong non-harassment order from April 2018 preventing her from entering the building and contacting the SNP councillor.

McCutcheon had targeted Ms Aitken between January and March 2018 due to a housing problem and was later ordered to do 200 hours unpaid work.

McCutcheon sent threatening texts and letters to Ms Aitken who she referred to as “Psycho Susan”.

McCutcheon, representing herself, was convicted of two charges of breaching non-harassment orders.

The mum-of-two was cleared of a charge of behaving in a threatening or abusive manner.

The court heard from building supervisor Gerard Stelmaszuk, 28, who stated McCutcheon, holding a gym bag, demanded to speak to Ms Aitken.

He said: “I asked why she was in the building and she refused to give me her name. It sent off alarm bells.

“I told her that most councillors were working from home and there was no one here.

“She asked for Susan Aitken’s number and I refused to hand over her number.

“She was just rather rude calling me names.”

Prosecutor Ian Meacock asked Mr Stelmaszuk what names he was called and he replied: “She said I was just a stupid supervisor. I will turn you inside out and I will throw you about.”

Mr Stelmaszuk then told the hearing that McCutcheon refused to leave the building after being asked repeatedly.

He added: “I told her the next step was that I would phone the police and she said: ‘That’s fine I will leave in handcuffs.’

“She said: ‘That’s why I have brought a bag’ and put her bag on the floor.”
It was discovered that McCutcheon was banned from entering the council building.

Mr Stelmaszuk said: “She was supposedly stalking Susan Aitken.”

Officers later arrived and spoke to McCutcheon.

PC Paul Lorenzetti, 40, told the court: “She said she wanted a job and a house and wasn’t leaving until this was granted.”

Officers arrested McCutcheon before attempting to caution and charge her for the offence.

PC Lorenzetti said: “When we tried to do that, she put her fingers in her ears and she started making noises and wasn’t listening.”

McCutcheon, who represented herself, told the court in her closing speech that she was trying to get support to find employment and education and didn’t believe she had broken the law.

Sheriff Daniel Kelly told McCutcheon: “I’m satisfied that the evidence heard was truthful and it was quite clear from what I heard that you were present in the city chambers and were attempting to contact Susan Aitken.

“There was a non-harassment order in place and you cannot do that.

“There is a substantial risk if released on bail that you would fail to comply with the conditions of bail.”

Sentence was deferred until next month for background reports and McCutcheon, of the city’s Springboig, had her remand in custody continued meantime.

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