Man threatened to assassinate Nicola Sturgeon in Facebook post, court told

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A threat was made to assassinate Nicola Sturgeon and several of her ministers in a Facebook post seen by one of her office managers, a court has heard.

The post was read out at the trial of William Curtis, 70, who is accused of sending threatening messages to the First Minister.

Curtis and another man, Philip Mitchell, 60, are also been accused of assaulting and abducting a sheriff in a car park in Banff, Aberdeenshire, in June 2021.

A 15-strong jury at the High Court in Glasgow heard evidence from John Skinner, 61, an office manager in charge of checking correspondence to Ms Sturgeon’s private office in Edinburgh since 2014.

Advocate depute Chris McKenna read out a Facebook post from an account with the name William Patrick Curtis that was flagged to Mr Skinner on March 6 2019.

It read: “We have reason to believe while it is my intention to citizens (sic) arrest her (Ms Sturgeon) to answer her treason, over the last three years, serious people who feel the abuse to the electorate by her criminal activities warrants assassination of her and sevreal (sic) of her ministers, on down to even civilians who work in all these agenices (sic) who have repeatedly lied to the electorate and conspired with the First Minister.”

Mr McKenna asked Mr Skinner what he made of the phrase “warrant assassination of her” to which Mr Skinner replied: “To murder the First Minister.”

Earlier, Mr McKenna asked Mr Skinner if on February 27 2019 he had noticed “anything out of the ordinary” coming into the office’s inbox.

Mr Skinner replied: “I noticed one email that was quite threatening in nature.”

A copy of the email he referred to was shown to the court with the heading “Billy Curtis” and the email address:

Part of the email which was read out to the jury said: “We have now got enough evidence to warrant a citizens (sic) arrest for the First Minister for treason.”

It went on: “We do not intend to harm her, but if her security attempt to stop the rights of a citizens (sic) arrest on an ongoing crime, well, as police are so good at saying: reasonable force will be used.”

At the end of the email, which was shown on a screen before the court room, it read: “40 fisherman who think nothing of working for 20 hrs in 30ft waves and gails (sic) will be present…There’s nothing democratic about the Scottish Government.”

Gareth Jones KC, representing Curtis, asked Mr Skinner if the email was sent to a general address “that’s not monitored by the First Minister” to which he replied: “Yes.”

Stephen Smith, 52, who worked as an office manager for former MSP Stewart Stevenson was also called to give evidence.

He told the court a parliamentary assistant had flagged a direct message on Facebook from a person called Carole Curtis which read: “Your turn is comming (sic) of that you can be sure.”

The message also contained a YouTube video link with reference to former British Labour MP Jo Cox, who was murdered by a far-right extremist, the court heard.

Mr McKenna asked Mr Smith what he thought when he saw that message, to which he replied: “I took it to be a threat against my employer Stewart Stevenson.”

Curtis is accused of behaving in a threatening or abusive manner which was “likely to cause a reasonable person to suffer fear or alarm” by sending emails and posting messages on social media in which he made threatening remarks towards Scotland’s First Minister on various occasions between February 27 and March 6 2019.

He is further accused of allegedly sending or causing a message to be sent through social media on March 9 2019 to Stewart Stevenson MSP which threatened him and contained a link to a video relating to the murder of the MP Jo Cox.

And Curtis also faces two other charges of posting messages of a “threatening and abusive nature” on social media in October 2020 and June 2021.

Curtis and Mitchell, who is representing himself, are accused of assaulting and abducting a sheriff in a car park in Banff, Aberdeenshire, on June 29 2021.

It is alleged they seized Robert McDonald, sheriff of Grampian, Highlands and Islands, at Banff, pulled him to the ground, sat on top of him and detained him there against his will.

All the alleged offences happened in Aberdeenshire.

Curtis has denied the charges while Mitchell, who said the trial is unlawful, has had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf by the court.

Lord Weir adjourned the hearing until Thursday.