DOCTORS have told shot ice cream man Jim Allison that his heavy build saved his life when he was blasted in a shotgun attack.
The 57-year-old's stomach absorbed part of the impact of the blast after he was shot at close range in his ice cream van in Penicuik, a close friend and neighbour said today.
Mr Allison has undergone two operations in hospital, including the removal of part of his bladder, and has been moved out of intensive care at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
There doctors have told the father-of-two he is "really lucky" to be alive.
Other residents today told how Mr Allison had feuded with a convicted sex offender, who has become a suspect in the shooting, when the pair were near neighbours.
Mr Allison's friend Thomas Livingstone, 68, a retired miner, who lives a few doors along from the shooting victim, in Glenview, Penicuik, said: "I've spoken to Jim twice on the phone from the hospital. He's hoping to come home next week. The doctors had to remove half of his bladder and they're still concerned about the part that's left.
"Jim is quite a heavy guy around the waist and the doctors told him that the fat saved his life. They told him he was really lucky.
"He's told me he's thinking about giving up the ice cream van. He doesn't know if he can face going out working in the van after what happened."
Other neighbours told how Mr Allison had been involved in shouting matches in the street with David King.
King was forced to flee his home in Penicuik nine years ago after Mr Allison told the community about his conviction for fondling a 12-year-old girl.
They said King blamed Mr Allison for a campaign by vigilante-style locals which saw his windows smashed and graffiti daubed on his door.
The pair had lived only a hundred yards apart and residents described regular screaming matches between them.
Mr Allison, who served 12 years for rape after being convicted in 1970, was shot in his ice cream van in Strathesk Road last Monday.
Mr Livingstone said Mr Allison - whose is widely known in Penicuik by his nickname of 'Flash' - had rowed with King, who stayed in nearby Cuiken Terrace for around three years.
One resident in Cuiken Terrace added: "Some of the residents, including myself, had our cars scratched, and we told police we believed King was responsible. Flash's motors were among those attacked.
"He would also watch Flash from his window which Flash didn't like. They must have had dozens of run-ins.
"Even when King was finally thrown out of the flat, him and Flash were still having arguments. There was a lot of friction between them although it must be eight years since Flash last mentioned him to me."
The resident, who has lived in the street for more than 20 years, said neighbours had banded together to campaign for King's removal by writing letters to the council.
Another neighbour said: "There was real hatred between Flash and King. There was a lot of tension between them and they were always at loggerheads."
Other residents described the violent shouting matches between the feuding pair. One said: "King and Flash would argue with each other from across the street. You would see King screaming out of his window and then you'd hear Flash's loud voice calling back."
King, who has protested his innocence over the shooting allegation, was interviewed by police for six hours on Monday following a search of his Lothian home for the shotgun used in the attack. He was released without charge but remains under suspicion.