Killer driver’s five-year sentence ‘outrageous and unjust’

Shaun Gatti had been drinking at a nightclub before he knocked down 15-year-old Robyn Fryar.

STV News

By Jenness Mitchell & Louise Scott

The family of a schoolgirl who was mowed down and left dying on the road has branded the killer driver’s five-year jail sentence as ‘outrageous and unjust’.

Shaun Gatti, 21, had been drinking at a nightclub in Paisley before he knocked down 15-year-old Robyn Fryar in the Renfrewshire town on July 7, 2019.

The teenager, who was struck as she crossed a road with friends around 2am, died hours later from her injuries.

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Gatti fled the scene with a friend in his Volkswagen Golf and attempted to cover up his involvement by cleaning his car, hiding it under tarpaulin and removing its registration plates.

However, he was soon snared after an anonymous tip-off to police.

At the High Court in Glasgow on Wednesday, Gatti was sentenced to five years and three months in prison.

Robyn’s parents, Iain Fryar and Cheryl Madden, told STV News they did not feel justice had been served.

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Ms Madden said: “That’s outrageous, absolutely outrageous.

“I’m going to appeal against that sentence because I don’t think that was just.”

Mr Fryar said he did not expect the sentence to be “so short”.

He added: “A judge decides to give him a few years in prison. If that’s justice, I don’t know what justice is.

“It’s like Robyn was insignificant and meant nothing.

“He can now go on and know he’s going to be out. We have got to live in this hell for the rest of our lives.

“We can only visit our daughter at the cemetery. I know he’s incarcerated, but he’s still got a life to look forward to. My daughter never got a life to look forward to.”

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Gatti was also banned from the roads for 11 years and seven months after admitting causing the teenager’s death by dangerous driving.

He also pleaded guilty to attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Club: Shaun Gatti was drinking before the fatal incident.

Gatti, who had been captured on CCTV drinking a cocktail out of a fish bowl at Paisley’s Vienna nightclub before the fatal incident, was traced too late by police to have a drink-driving sample taken.

However, police estimated he was driving at up to 47mph in a 30mph zone at the time of the incident. He was also on the wrong side of the road.

Ms Madden said: “She would never have survived what happened to her. Her injuries were so severe.”

Lord Mulholland told Gatti during his sentencing he had “delivered the most acute grief” and a “life sentence” to Robyn’s family.

Mr Fryar said his “heart left” him when he was told the police were coming to pick him up following the incident.

He said: “You always think that these things happen to other people. You don’t ever expect you to get that phone call.”

Robyn, who was supposed to be staying at a friend’s house that night, was described as “intelligent and brilliant at school”.

Mr Fryar added: “She was everybody’s friend, and she loved life.

“From being an IVF baby she was very special, and she knew it.

“She loved everything to do with life.”

Responding to Mr Fryar and Ms Madden’s call to appeal Gatti’s sentence, a spokesperson from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said: “As with all cases, the Crown will consider the sentence and give consideration to whether it might be unduly lenient.”


Election 2021: Scotland’s seat-by-seat results as they stand

The first lot of constituency seat declarations came in across Scotland on Friday.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images

Counting is under way across Scotland in the 2021 Holyrood election.

With the normal overnight count cancelled to ensure Covid safety, it will be Saturday or Sunday before the final results are known.

Turnout is up significantly on the 2016 Scottish Parliament election.

The first lot of constituency declarations took place throughout Friday, and you can follow all the latest results right here.

Seat-by-seat results

ConstituencyResults (Turnout)
Aberdeen CentralSNP HOLD (56%)
Aberdeen DonsideSNP HOLD (58.2%)
Airdrie & ShottsSNP HOLD (59%)
Angus North & MearnsSNP HOLD (64%)
Argyll & ButeSNP HOLD (68%)
AyrSNP GAIN (68%)
Banffshire & Buchan CoastSNP HOLD (56%)
Caithness Sutherland & RossSNP HOLD (65%)
Clackmannanshire & DunblaneSNP HOLD (66%)
Clydebank & MilngavieSNP HOLD (70.8%)
Coatbridge & ChrystonSNP HOLD (63%)
CowdenbeathSNP HOLD (61%)
Cunninghame NorthSNP HOLD (64%)
Cunninghame SouthSNP HOLD (58%)
DumbartonLabour HOLD (68%)
DumfriesshireConservatives HOLD (66%)
Dundee City WestSNP HOLD (57%)
East LothianSNP GAIN (69%)
EastwoodConservatives HOLD (76%)
Edinburgh CentralSNP GAIN (63%)
Edinburgh SouthernLabour HOLD (71%)
Edinburgh WesternLib Dems HOLD (71%)
Ettrick, Roxburgh & BerwickshireConservatives HOLD (64%)
Falkirk EastSNP HOLD (63%)
Glasgow AnnieslandSNP HOLD (58%)
Glasgow Maryhill & SpringburnSNP HOLD (52%)
Glasgow PollokSNP HOLD (55%)
Glasgow SouthsideSNP HOLD (59%)
Greenock & InverclydeSNP HOLD (63%)
Hamilton, Larkhall & StonehouseSNP HOLD (61%)
Inverness & NairnSNP HOLD (64%)
Kilmarnock & Irvine ValleySNP HOLD (61.5%)
KirkcaldySNP HOLD (57%)
LinlithgowSNP HOLD (62.2%)
Midlothian North & MusselburghSNP HOLD (61%)
MoraySNP HOLD (65%)
Motherwell and WishawSNP HOLD (59%)
Na h-Eileanan an IarSNP HOLD (66%)
North East FifeLib Dems HOLD (69%)
Orkney IslandsLib Dems HOLD (65.4%)
PaisleySNP HOLD (62%)
Perthshire NorthSNP HOLD (70%)
Renfrewshire North & WestSNP HOLD (68%)
RutherglenSNP HOLD (63%)
Shetland IslandsLib Dems HOLD (66%)
Skye, Lochaber & BadenochSNP HOLD (68%)
StirlingSNP HOLD (69%)
Strathkelvin & BearsdenSNP HOLD (72%)
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SNP majority still uncertain with count to continue tomorrow

With 48 constituency results declared on Friday, the SNP had 39 seats, Lib Dems four, Conservatives three and Labour two.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images

The SNP have gained three key seats in the Scottish Parliament election but their hopes of an overall majority remain on a knife edge.

Counting has been paused for the night, with the rest of the results expected to be announced across Saturday as the coronavirus pandemic meant traditional overnight counts were abandoned.

With 48 constituency results declared on Friday, the SNP had 39 seats, Liberal Democrats four, Conservatives three and Labour two.

Sturgeon’s party picked up key seats in Edinburgh Central – where former SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson replaced the one time Scottish Tory boss Ruth Davidson – as well as as in Ayr and East Lothian.

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But under Holyrood’s proportional representation system, those successes could see it lose seats on the regional list ballot.

Seat-by-seat results (After 48 of 129 seats declared)

  • SNP – 39
  • Lib Dems – 4
  • Conservatives – 3
  • Labour – 2
  • Greens – 0
  • Other – 0

Meanwhile, Labour’s Jackie Baillie held on to her Dumbarton constituency – which had been the most marginal seat in all of Scotland and a top target for the SNP.

Baillie had a majority of just 109 from the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, but increased that 1483.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar lost out to Sturgeon in Glasgow Southside but said he was pleased to increase his party’s share of the vote in the constituency.

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Labour’s Daniel Johnson held Edinburgh Southern on 20,760 votes to SNP candidate Catriona MacDonald’s 16,738.

But Labour’s Martin Whitfield lost East Lothian to the SNP’s Paul McLennan.

Former Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw increased his majority in Eastwood as did Oliver Mundell in Dumfriesshire.

Rachael Hamilton also held Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire for the Tories, although with a reduced majority.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats retained all four of their constituency seats with leader Willie Rennie increasing his majority in North East Fife, as did Alex Cole-Hamilton in Edinburgh Western.

However there was disappointment for the party in Caithness, Sutherland & Ross and Shetland – which they failed to take from the SNP.

Elsewhere, former first minister and Alba Party leader Alex Salmond said the measure of his party’s success would be “our existence as a political party”, adding it is “here to stay”.


NHS rubbishes rumour Covid tests are ‘fooled’ with ketchup

Moray's health board reassured residents that the coronavirus outbreak was 'real and serious'.

UK Government via Gov.uk
Young adults in Moray are to receive their Covid-19 vaccinations sooner than expected in a bid to tackle the growing outbreak.

A Scottish health board has reassured members of the public that a rise in coronavirus cases is not down to people “fooling” Covid-19 tests with tomato sauce.

NHS Grampian issued advice rubbishing rumours that the increasing number of positive results in Moray were due to Lateral Flow Devices being tricked by ketchup – or any other condiment.

The statement comes as the health board seeks to reassure residents after the rate of coronavirus cases in the council area surged above the rest of Scotland.

A NHS Grampian spokesperson said: “Please set aside the rumours and hearsay. The situation in Moray is real and it is serious.”

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Young adults in Moray are to receive their Covid-19 vaccinations sooner than expected in a bid to tackle the growing outbreak. NHS Grampian said 18-39-year-olds will start to receive appointments from Saturday.

The update came the day after the health board said door-to-door testing for the virus was being considered due to a “rapidly deteriorating” outbreak.

Almost 50 coronavirus cases have been linked to Elgin Academy since April 14. More than a quarter of the school’s population of around 1000 pupils have since been ordered by public health officials to self-isolate.

An NHS Grampian spokesperson said: “We can’t quite believe we have to say this, but here goes: rising case numbers in Moray are not the result of people ‘fooling’ Lateral Flow Devices with tomato ketchup – or any other condiment for that matter.

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“A positive Lateral Flow Device test is always followed up with a PCR test to confirm the result. This is the gold standard of testing. 90% of the positive LFD tests in Moray have been confirmed as positive by PCR testing.

“We are seeing people requiring hospital treatment as a result of COVID-19 infection. We need people to [protect Moray], stick to the guidelines, and take up the expanded testing offer.”

Little girl reunited with wheelchair after stolen car found

Three-year-old Alba McCulloch's mum had packed her chair into the family car but the following day it had disappeared.

Katie McCulloch via Submitted
Alba's chair is specially customised with designs on the wheels.

A little girl whose wheelchair was stolen along with a family’s car is “delighted” to have it back.

Alba McCulloch’s mum had packed her and her twin brother’s nursery bags into the Range Rover on Tuesday night but on Wednesday morning the car had disappeared.

Katie McCulloch told STV News: “We were shocked and heartbroken to find someone had stolen our family car.

“Having them steal the car with the chair in it ment Alba had no way of getting about on her own.

Katie McCulloch via Submitted
Alba’s chair is specially customised with designs on the wheels (Katie McCulloch)
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“We worked so hard to afford that car and it was a special treat we got ourselves after a terrible few years, for someone to just take it was gut wrenching.”

Police said the white Range Rover was taken from outside the family’s home in Kilmarnock sometime between 6.30pm on Monday and 8.25am on Tuesday.

When Mrs McCulloch shared an appeal on social media word spread quickly about how the theft had impacted on three-year-old Alba who needs her chair due to a spinal cord injury which left her paralysed.

The theft also meant the McCullochs were without a car to take the kids to a number of hospital appointments.

Katie McCulloch via Submitted
The family’s white Range Rover Sport was stolen from outside their home (Katie McCulloch)
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Alba’s chair was specially customised with designs on the wheels, but the family resolved to get Alba a new chair and make it “even more gorgeous for her”.

However, the car was found abandoned in Dreghorn, near Irvine, in the middle of the road with the front door open and the hazard warning lights on, Mrs McCulloch said.

The number plates had been removed but there was no damage to the vehicle and Alba’s wheelchair, and the children’s nursery bags and jackets were as they had been left.

On Wednesday, Mrs McCulloch said: “Words can’t describe how happy and emotional we are.

“[Alba] was so happy to get [her chair] back the wee soul. We have one absolutely delighted little girl this morning.

“Thank you to the person who found it and called it in and to everyone who shared the post and got word out. We are overwhelmed at the response this got.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We can confirm the vehicle has been recovered and the child’s wheelchair has been returned to the family. Enquiries are ongoing and we thank the public for their support.”

Hitman convicted of murdering Trainspotting actor Bradley Welsh

Sean Orman, 30, shot the 48-year-old on his doorstep in Edinburgh in April 2019.

CO via Crown Office / Ross Parker via SNS Group

A hitman has been convicted of murdering Trainspotting T2 actor Bradley Welsh.

Sean Orman, 30, was found guilty at the High Court in Edinburgh on Friday of shooting dead Mr Welsh, 48, on his doorstep in Edinburgh’s west end in 2019, just yards from his partner and young child.

The judge, Lord Beckett, called the killing a “pre-meditated and meticulously planned assassination, the ultimate reasons for which remain unknown to the court”.

Orman was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 28 years before he can be considered for release, sentencing remarks show.

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The trial heard evidence that Orman gunned down Mr Welsh with a shotgun after being paid £10,000 by gangland figures to carry out the attack.

Mr Welsh ran a boxing gym and was ambushed as he returned to his home in the city’s New Town on April 17 that year.

CO via Crown Office
Orman shot and killed Bradley Welsh outside his home (Crown Office)

He appeared in Danny Boyle’s 2017 sequel to Trainspotting.

Orman was also found guilty by jurors of attempting to murder Mr Welsh’s friend David McMillan around a month beforehand at his home in Pitcairn Grove, Edinburgh, on March 13 that year.

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He was convicted of bursting into the family home of Mr McMillan, masked and armed with unknown accomplices, before striking him repeatedly with a machete to his severe injury.

CO via Crown Office
Close up of a shotgun hole in Duddingston Row (Crown Office)

The trial heard that police were warned about the plot to kill Mr Welsh in the month before his death after being alerted by a man called Dean White.

Mr White had told the court he was at his brother’s house when Orman “brought a wad of cash out” and bragged about his plan to shoot the gym owner.

Mr White said: “He said that his next hit he was getting £10,000 to kill Bradley Welsh.

CO via Crown Office
CCTV still from Main Street in Kirknewton (Crown Office)

“I went to the police and reported this before it happened.”

Orman has nine previous convictions for assault, many of them aggravated, between 2006 and 2019.

Passing sentence, Lord Beckett said: “To shoot an unarmed man as he approached his own house was a cowardly as well as a wicked thing to do.

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“His partner and young child were inside when you ended his life, apparently in the expectation of payment.

“As a result of your actions, Mr Welsh lost his life in his forties and his family and friends lost him forever.

“I have read of the impact of all this from his partner who describes the traumatic consequences for her family of what you did and how they have lost their home and can no longer feel safe.

“There can be no mitigation for such a dreadful crime.”

David Green, procurator fiscal for homicide, said: “Sean Orman carried out brazen and calculated attacks; violently invading David McMillan’s home and taking Bradley Welsh’s life on his own doorstep.

“He took steps to try and conceal his actions, but thanks to diligent work by investigators and prosecutors, Orman has been brought to justice.“Our thoughts are with both victims and their families at this difficult time.”

Assistant chief constable Judi Heaton said: “Sean Orman carried out the brutal, pre-meditated and targeted murder of Bradley Welsh.

“Our thoughts today are with Bradley’s family who have lost a much-loved father, partner, brother and uncle.

“Police Scotland carried out a thorough, robust and professional investigation into Bradley’s murder and I hope today’s conviction and sentence helps to bring his family some degree of comfort.”

Re-elected Sturgeon vows to stage indyref2 ‘when time is right’

Giving an acceptance speech after being re-elected in Glasgow, the First Minister said her party is set for a fourth term in power.

STV News

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has said she wants to hold a referendum on Scottish independence “when the time is right”, as she retained her Glasgow seat.

Giving an acceptance speech in Glasgow after she defeated Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar by 19,735 votes to 10,279, the First Minister said her party is set for a fourth term in power.

Earlier, she had played down the likelihood of an overall SNP majority at Holyrood, saying it has “always been a very, very long shot”.

After being re-elected to her seat, Sturgeon said: “If that is indeed the outcome of this election, I pledge today to get back to work immediately to continue to steer the country through the crisis of Covid, to continue to lead this country into recovery from Covid.

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“And then, when the time is right, to offer this country the choice of a better future.”

The First Minister also took aim at elements of the far right who stood in the Glasgow Southside seat, including former Britain First deputy leader Jayda Fransen – whom Sturgeon had described as a “racist and a fascist” during a confrontation between the pair on election day.

In her speech, she said: “The far right thug who led that confrontation got 46 votes and I am proud that once again Glasgow Southside has shown the racists and the fascists that they are not welcome in Glasgow Southside, they are not welcome in Glasgow, and they are not welcome anywhere in Scotland, and let that be a note of unity.”

Before the First Minister arrived at the Glasgow count, Scotland’s Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said members of an anti-vaccine party had made a “beeline” for him due to his skin colour.

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Derek Jackson, standing for the Liberal Party in Glasgow Southside, arrived at the count with supporters wearing black suits and yellow stars with “unvax” written on them, and claimed to be satirising “fascist SNP hate laws”.

After they approached Yousaf, members of other political parties joined the SNP to confront them.

Speaking to reporters after the incident, Yousaf said: “What I’m always struck by is voices of good always outweigh the voices of hatred.”

Members of the Scottish Liberal Party were later escorted from the count by security and police.

Meanwhile with more 30 seats declared across Scotland, just two have changed hands – the SNP took East Lothian from the Scottish Labour Party and also won Ayr from the Conservatives.

As he secured his Perthshire North seat, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the SNP would be the “leading and largest party” in the new Scottish Parliament.

While he said there is a “long way to go” before all the results are known, Mr Swinney insisted it is “beyond any doubt” that the SNP will form the next government.

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He added: “That is an absolutely gigantic feat for the Scottish National Party to have achieved, to be on the brink of a fourth continuous term.”

Elsewhere, former first minister and Alba Party leader Alex Salmond said the measure of his party’s success would be “our existence as a political party”, adding it is “here to say”.

Vote count falls silent in memory of hundreds killed in blitz

On May 6 and 7, 1941, German bombers attacked Greenock and the surrounding area.

Inverclyde Council via Inverclyde Council
Provost Martin Brennan laying a wreath for the 80th anniversary of the Greenock Blitz.

An election count fell silent in memory of the Greenock Blitz in which 271 people lost their lives when 350 German bombers flew over the town on May 6 and 7, 1941.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the raids which targeted shipyards but dropped bombs over residential areas.

More than 10,000 people were injured and thousands of homes destroyed across the area.

The election count at the Waterfront Leisure Complex fell silent at 11am as those in attendance observed a local minute’s silence.

Inverclyde Council via Inverclyde Council
Inverclyde Council chief executive and returning officer Aubrey Fawcett speaks before the minute’s silence in respect of all those affected by the Greenock Blitz (Inverclyde Council)
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In a ceremony scaled back in accordance with coronavirus restrictions, Provost of Inverclyde, councillor Martin Brennan, laid a wreath at the blitz memorial in Greenock Cemetery on Friday morning.

Provost Brennan said: “While Greenock bore the brunt of the bombings, the events of the sixth and seventh of May 1941 had a devastating impact on communities and families right across Inverclyde.

“Although the Covid-19 crisis won’t allow us to mark this dark chapter in our history properly, it’s vital that we don’t let this milestone anniversary pass without remembering those who were killed, as well as the many thousands more who were affected by this awful tragedy.

“I hope everyone can take a moment today to observe their own moment of solemn reflection as we remember the Greenock Blitz.”

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Speaking ahead of the minute’s silence at the count, returning officer and Inverclyde Council chief executive, Aubrey Fawcett, said: “The sixth and seventh of May marks the eightieth anniversary of the Greenock Blitz.

“As we count votes for the Scottish Parliament in peacetime, it is important that we do not let these two days pass without acknowledging the tragedy that befell our area during World War Two.

“The raids by German bombers over these two nights targeted the shipyards and berthed ships around the town.

“However, the brunt of the bombing fell on residential areas across the town.

“Over the two nights eighty years ago, 271 people were killed and over 10,200 injured.

“Many of those were children and entire families were lost.

“Nearly 25,000 homes suffered damage and 5,000 were destroyed outright including many within a very short walk of where we stand now.

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“As a mark of respect please join me in marking this occasion to hold a local minute’s silence to remember those who tragically lost their lives 80 years ago in the Greenock Blitz.”

Rapist who faked death to escape facing trial found guilty

Kim Avis preyed on two girls and two women in Inverness but fled to America in 2019.

Monterey County Sheriff’s Office via MCSH Facebook
The 57 year-old fled to America where he was reported missing only to captured by US Marshals in Colorado Springs.

A market trader who tried to cheat justice by faking his own death has been found guilty of sexual abuse.

On Friday, Kim Avis was convicted of 14 charges after a two-week trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

He preyed on two girls and two women between 2006 and 2017 mainly in Inverness including at his property called Wolves Den.

Avis, also a well known busker in the city, should have originally stood trial in March 2019. But, the 57 year-old had instead fled to America where he was then reported missing by his 17 year-old son Reuben.

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He was said to have last been seen going for a swim at Monastery Beach in Carmel, California.

The fugitive was caught 1300 miles away in Colorado where he was tracked down to low-cost motel after a police stake-out in July 2019.

Avis was taken back to Scotland and now faces a lengthy jail-term when he is sentenced next month.

The crimes included raping three of the victims, also attempting to rape one of the them and sexually assaulting the fourth. He was further convicted of failing to appear for the previous trial.

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Lord Sandison adjourned sentencing until June 11 in Edinburgh. As he was lead handcuffed to the cells, Avis stated: “This is a tragedy for truth and justice.”

The victims bravely testified against Avis, who moaned the accusations were like “reading from a film script”.

One, just 12 when Avis first struck, described him being in a “trance” during a sex attack. He targeted the girl after the pair had been at a car boot sale in Muir of Ord in the Highlands in May 2016.

Avis stated “It’s time” leaving the girl terrified.

This victim – now aged 22 – recalled: “I remember telling him to snap out of it while trying to look at him – but there was absolutely nothing there.”

Avis, who later raped the victim in a separate incident, told the victim there was “something wrong” with him.

The two women Avis abused had been in relationships with him. Both were also raped as they repeatedly suffered at his hands.

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One told how he flew into a rage at “not very much”. She described him as “extreme”.

Prosecutor Graeme Jessop asked her: “Did he ever do anything sexually that you did not want to do?”

The 48 year-old replied: “He would want to have sex in the daytime when he came home from work.

“But, I was too busy and thought it inappropriate. In the evening, a lot of times I was too tired.

“He did not take it well.”

The woman eventually “just went along with it” not to “upset” Avis.

The other ex-partner denied “chucking mud” at Avis in a bid to blacken his name.

The woman sobbed as she told jurors: “I am just giving my story.”

She said her abuser had even made false accusations against her on social media – but denied wanting “vengeance”.

The final victim – now 21 – was also aged around 12 when Avis first targeted her.

Avis was held after police were alerted in 2017.

He gave evidence during the trial and suggested some of the victims were motivated by money.

Quizzed about the allegations, he insisted: “It is like reading a film script. It is untrue. It is disgusting.”

Avis was placed on the sex offenders list.


Under 40s to be offered alternative to AstraZeneca vaccine

Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation says balance of benefit and risk is more finely balanced for younger groups.

Javier Zayas Photography via Getty Images
Under 40s will be offered alternative to Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

Under-40s are to be offered an alternative to the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said there is an “extremely small risk” of people suffering blood clots after having the jab, but the risk of serious illness with Covid-19 also drops for younger people as infection rates fall across the country.

While the balance of benefit and risk for the AstraZeneca vaccine is very favourable for older people, it is more finely balanced for younger groups, who do not tend to suffer serious coronavirus illness.

Experts have also assessed the risks from any third wave of Covid in the UK and concluded that that wave is likely to be smaller than previously anticipated.

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It came as an expert source said they anticipate approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the UK shortly.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is currently appraising the jab and the review is said to be at an advanced stage.

Regarding AstraZeneca, the JCVI has advised that another vaccine should be offered to under-40s without underlying health conditions where an alternative is available, and as long as it does not cause any substantial delays to the vaccination programme.

Urging people to accept vaccines, it has warned that reductions in uptake or speed of jab deployment will increase the size of any third wave of infection in the UK.

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For this reason, it believes any vaccine would be better than no vaccine, even for those under the age of 40.

However, there are thought to be no supply issues with offering the vast majority of younger people alternatives to AstraZeneca.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, Covid-19 chairman for JCVI, said: “Safety remains our number one priority.

“We have continued to assess the benefit/risk balance of Covid-19 vaccines in light of UK infection rates and the latest information from the MHRA on the extremely rare event of blood clots and low platelet counts following vaccination.

“As Covid-19 rates continue to come under control, we are advising that adults aged 18 to 39 years with no underlying health conditions are offered an alternative to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, if available and if it does not cause delays in having the vaccine.

“The advice is specific to circumstances in the UK at this time and maximises use of the wide portfolio of vaccines available.

“The Covid-19 vaccines have already saved thousands of lives and the benefit for the majority of the population is clear – if you are offered the vaccine, you should take it.”

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Up to April 28, the MHRA had received 242 reports of blood clots accompanied by low blood platelet count in the UK, all in people who had the AstraZeneca vaccine, out of around 28.5 million doses given.

These clots occurred in 141 women and 100 men aged from 18 to 93, with 49 deaths. Six cases have been reported after a second dose.

A particular type of brain blood clot – cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) – was reported in 93 cases (with an average age of 47), and 149 had other major thromboembolic events (average age 55) accompanied by low blood platelet count.

The overall incidence of blood clots with low platelets after a first dose is put at 10.5 per million doses, and about one in a million for a second dose.

For those aged 40 to 49 the incidence is 10.1 per million doses, and 17.4 per million for those aged 30 to 39.

Overall, the death rate per million doses is 2.1, but is 4.5 for those aged 30 to 39.

MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine said: “Public safety is always at the forefront of our minds and we take every report seriously.

“Our position remains that the benefits of the Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca against Covid-19, with its associated risk of hospitalisation and death, continues to outweigh the risks for the vast majority of people.

“The balance of benefits and risks is very favourable for older people but is more finely balanced for younger people and we advise that this evolving evidence should be taken into account when considering the use of the vaccine, as JVCI has done.”

According to Public Health England (PHE), the vaccine programme is estimated to have prevented more than 10,000 deaths in England alone by the end of March.

Health experts are urging everyone who has had a first dose of AstraZeneca and not suffered a clot to have a second dose of the same jab, irrespective of their age.

The MHRA said that, as a precautionary measure, anyone who has a severe headache which is not relieved with painkillers or is getting worse, should seek prompt medical attention at any point from around four days to four weeks after vaccination.

The same goes for a headache that feels worse when a person lies down or bends over, a headache that is unusual and occurs with blurred vision, feeling or being sick, problems speaking, weakness, drowsiness or seizures, a rash that looks like small bruises or bleeding under the skin, and shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling or persistent abdominal pain.

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