Charlotte Gibson received the personal message on Facebook from a fake profile referring to a press photograph of her holding up a public appeal poster to find her missing 90-year-old grandpa, William Scott. She received the awful message on the day his body was found.
Mr Scott, who had dementia, was reported missing on December 11 2018 and his body was found in the Water of Leith near to Victoria Bridge at Leith Docks on Friday, January 4 2019. Police said his death was not suspicious.
Speaking to the Edinburgh Evening News, Miss Gibson said she received “hundreds” of heartwarming messages of support from people who knew her grandpa.
But one message said if she had spent “less time worrying” about her nails - which had been painted blue for her 30th birthday on Christmas Eve - and more time worrying about her grandpa, he might have been found alive.
The 32-year-old community support worker said: “The person commented on my nails and anyone who knows me knows that I never have my nails done. I only had them painted because it was my 30th birthday.
“The day the picture was taken, I was with a policeman at the dermatology clinic sitting to see if grandpa would turn up for an appointment he had, and we did not know what had happened to him, and then a policeman got a phone call to go to Fettes Police Station for a press release. I went into the interview just how I was that day.
“It definitely hurt my feelings but because of my personality, I felt hurt and then moved on because I had to for my mum’s sake. I had three kids to look after and a job to go to.”
Miss Gibson said she deleted the message after coming across it again in her Facebook inbox a few days ago.
She said she has also been contacted by other people in recent days saying they had been messaged by internet trolls, and was sent a message of support from Scottish comedian Janey Godley who had raised concerns about comments on a recent article.
Miss Gibson has also set up a Facebook group - Win Laugh Cry Share Support Edinburgh - for people in the community to share their stories in a bid to encourage more discussion about mental health issues and to “normalise” it, especially in these more difficult times during the pandemic.
Miss Gibson continued: “For me to have that message that week, fine, but I can imagine someone in a more vulnerable state of mind, who just found out that their grandpa drowned to death in an unpleasant way on a freezing cold winter night, that one comment could have been absolutely disastrous. If my mum had received it on the day her dad was found, it would have devastated her.
“No one really has an excuse for it these days because you can educate yourself and most people have internet access and you know what’s going on in the world and know how vulnerable people can be. You can maybe get away with it if you’re 14, but as an adult it’s completely unacceptable and I can’t understand why someone would want to do that. But maybe although I did feel anger, I just feel sympathy for them because people who do these types of things must feel so low and bitter inside about themselves and their own family.”
A ‘brilliant man’
Miss Gibson recalled that the disappearance of her grandfather was especially difficult at the time as it happened over Christmas, which they always spent together.
On Christmas Day in 2018, while he was reported missing, the family set a place mat for him with his favourite cider drink and a party hat at the table.
It was to be their last Christmas Day together, but Miss Gibson still cherishes a sealed 30th birthday card which her grandpa had written in advance. She says she will forever keep it sealed as a lasting memory of him.
She also spoke of how “exceptionally close” she was to her grandpa, who was born in Leith, and said the family regularly cooked him meals and took them to his home at sheltered housing in Chesser.
Miss Gibson, who lives in Oxgangs, described her grandpa as a “brilliant man” who was well known by many and loved to travel on the bus and spend time looking at the plaques of old ships in Leith. She said he spent time at sea in his younger days, and in later life loved to help folk out by cleaning their windows.
She added: “You would not believe the age he was. He was up ladders cleaning people’s windows and he would always run to catch a bus. He walked every day come rain or shine. He adored his grandkids too.
“We miss him lots but the main thing is knowing he is at peace now and that, when we and Edinburgh were all worried, he was at peace already.”
It remains unclear exactly how Mr Scott ended up in the water but his granddaughter says it was likely dark at the time and that he could not swim. He had been spotted on CCTV on December 11 passing the Finn and Bear pub at The Shore a short time after 4pm.