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Bad blood boils over at Muckle Flugga flats

A FORMER lighthouse keeper in Shetland who drew a pocket knife on his neighbour after years of disputes boiled over was acquitted after a trial at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Thursday.

The court heard that there was bad blood between 66 year old Lawrence Johnstone and his neighbour, (name removed), who lives beneath him at the remote Muckle Flugga shore station on the island of Unst – the most northerly residence in the UK.

The animosity spilled over on 8 November last year when the 53 year old neighbour, who described himself as a Buddhist, confronted Johnstone about damage he claimed had been caused to the footings of a drying pole on the flats’ communal green.

The neighbour said his face was just six inches away from Johnstone’s as he explained to him why he had to fix the footings.

He said he was walking away, when Johnstone called him back and then drew his pocket knife out and pointed it at his throat.

“I wasn’t sure what to do with someone waving a knife at me. It’s dangerous, even by accident you can cause severe harm,” he said.

On Thursday Johnstone denied causing a breach of the peace by brandishing a knife and being in possession of an offensive weapon.

The pensioner, who looked after the Muckle Flugga lighthouse at the northern tip of Unst for five years before buying his flat at the shore station in 1991, said he lived in fear of his neighbour who moved into the flat beneath him 10 years ago.

“I did put my hand in my pocket and took the knife out to get him away from me, but I was scared, I told the police I was scared, he frightened me,” Johnstone told the court.

He said the neighbour was a younger, taller and fitter man who had cornered him against his camper van with his face so close that their noses were touching.

He added that previously his neighbour had threatened to assault him, but the police “said they couldn’t do anything unless he physically beats me up, so what am I supposed to do”.

The neighbour had earlier told the court he would never cause anyone physical harm.

Finding Johnstone not guilty of both charges, Sheriff Philip Mann said he accepted that he had no intention of using the knife and had acted in the heat of the moment out of fear as well as anger.