Glasgow Council leader breaks down over ‘death threat’

Susan Aitken. Picture: John Devlin
Susan Aitken. Picture: John Devlin

The leader of Glasgow City Council broke down in court as she described being shown a letter which she interpreted as a death threat and that she has stopped using public transport.

Susan Aitken, 46, told of receiving a “disturbing” letter from a woman detailing a problem with her housing who said “I was wondering if you had a death wish”.

She said the letter, signed from an Amanda McCutcheon, also held Ms Aitken responsible from the problem and included the phrase “you can run but you can’t hide”.

Ms Aitken talked of her growing concern after hearing two further incidents had occurred and that last that lead to her stopping using transport amid fears.

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She wept in court as she said: “I think I’m realising now as I”m talking about it that it has been very tense.”

She was giving evidence at Glasgow Sheriff Court, at the trial of Miss McCutcheon, 46, from Dennistoun, in the east of the city, who is accused of stalking Ms Aitken between January and March this year.

Ms Aitken told the court that on January 30 she was shown a letter by a member of her staff.

She said: “I was quite disturbed, I was taken aback, it wasn’t like any letter that I received before.

“I think there had been a discussion about whether to show it to me or not because they had been shocked by it.”

Procurator fiscal depute John Bedford asked “Was there any particular terms or phrases that disturbed you?”

Ms Aitken replied: “The immediate phrase that jumped out in the first paragraph was a phrase that said ‘do you have a death wish’, ‘you must have a death wish’ something along those lines.”

She added that she thought it also said “I hold you personally responsible”.

The court heard the letter, signed by an Amanda McCutcheon, referenced problems she had with the house she lived in and not being given suitable alternatives.

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And it included the phrase “I was wondering if you have a death wish”.

She said her and her staff didn’t see any other way of interpreting it except as a death threat, and said “it was definitely an implicit threat”. Ms Aitken said the complaint was something she could bring to the attention of the appropriate officer dealing with the issue of housing but she wouldn’t direct anyone how do deal with operational matters.

She told the court of hearing of a second incident in February, and said she “witnessed the impact of it on people” when she returned to the City Chambers building at George Square.

Asked what was running through her mind at that point she said it “became clear it wasn’t a one-off” and said it “appeared” to involve the same person as had written the letter.

Ms Aitken then spoke of hearing about a third incident in February when she was on her way back to Glasgow on the train.

She said she was asked by a member of her staff what time her train was due to arrive because she was being met from it and told “don’t go anywhere on your own”.

She added that was “very upsetting” and it was “not something that ever happened before”.

The court heard she hasn’t travelled on pubic transport since, only by taxi or a council car, and has had colleagues attend her councillor surgeries with her.

She said she she was made aware of social media posts made by McCutcheon and read some of the comments.

Ms Aitken said:“It was very personal, it was very clear this person seemed to have never met me, never had any contact with, seemed to hate me in a very personal way and to wish me harm.”

Mr Bedford asked how she has coped since seeing the letter, until now.

She wiped tears and cried as she said: “I think I have tried very much to remain calm, to not think about it too much, to continue get on with my job, to continue to work with my colleagues and get on with the job I have to do.

“However, it has been very tense, it has been a difficult period for all of us. We have supported each other quite a bit, I think realising I’m realising now as I’m talking about it that it has been very tense.”

McCutcheon denies the charge and the trial before sheriff Lindsay Wood continues.