Man who sparked major armed police response at Torvean Quarry in Inverness placed on a community payback order
Twenty-one officers were involved in a four hour stand-off at Torvean Quarry when John Stewart threatened to blow himself up.
Sheriff Eilidh Macdonald had previously heard a dispute between families of travellers plunged John Stewart (40) into depression.
Matters came to a head when he ordered his family out of a caravan at the quarry on December 2 last year then held a knife to his neck and threatened to set gas canisters alight and blow himself up.
Stewart, now living at Milton, Kildary, admitted behaving in a threatening manner at the quarry.
Depute fiscal David Morton told Inverness Sheriff Court how events unfolded at an earlier hearing. He said there were three caravans at the quarry and the day before they had been celebrating Stewart’s wife’s birthday. They had been drinking and Mrs Stewart went to bed but her husband continued drinking. Mrs Stewart woke at 5am and found her husband in a distressed state shouting at them to leave the caravan which they did.
The police were called and when Mrs Stewart returned to the caravan Stewart was holding a kitchen knife and Stanley type knife to his neck.
“He told her to leave as he wanted to kill himself. She lunged towards the accused in an effort to remove the knives from him.”
By the time police arrived Stewart had secured the caravan door with a bungee cord and when they tried to speak to him he said he was going to kill himself. He then opened gas cannisters in the caravan and made efforts to set it alight.
Four firearms officers were called to the scene and the fiscal said at one time 21 officers were involved in the stand off, which ended after the intervention of police negotiators.
Stewart surrendered himself voluntarily having earlier told officers he wasn’t afraid to die and his family would be better off without him.
Shahid Latif, solicitor for Stewart, said at the time he was under pressure to take sides in a family dispute and “his neutrality was being tested”.
On Wednesday Mr Latif said it was a wretched time in Stewart’s life. He was having mental health difficulties and he was trying to shield his wife and children from “destructive influences of one side of his family”.
Sheriff Macdonald said it was a very serious matter but she accepted he was under stress. She said: “You caused significant alarm and possible danger to those around you.”
But she said she took into account he was now receiving mental health treatment. She placed him on supervision for two years and ordered he carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.