Armed siege sparks anger over Royal Mile drug use

Hostages leave the pharmacy after their ordeal. Picture: Jane Barlow
Hostages leave the pharmacy after their ordeal. Picture: Jane Barlow
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ROYAL Mile retailers have spoken of their shock following an armed siege of a local chemist – and said the daily stream of methadone handouts from the pharmacy have been causing a significant problem.

Local shopkeepers said over 50 drug users regularly huddle outside the Royal Mile Pharmacy for their heroin substitute fix, while just yards away sight-seers stroll blissfully along the city’s main tourist drag.

They spoke out after armed police officers were called to the High Street store on Wednesday after a man, who was seen brandishing a Stanley knife, and a woman took six people hostage shortly before 6pm.

Commuters and tourists watched in disbelief as the Royal Mile was closed off for over three hours as police negotiated a peaceful 
resolution to the drama.

Royal Mile Pharmacy owner Peter Tinkler, who was among the hostages, said the situation had “escalated very, very quickly” before police entered the shop and tasered the 
hostage taker.

He said: “We had realised that eventually the police would come in and I had said to them that if somebody does come in to get down on the floor. So when I saw the police come in from behind me we got down on the floor, so we didn’t see the tasering but we heard it.”

Shopkeepers today said the supply of methadone from the chemists had led them to wage a daily battle against 
shoplifters and drug addicts.

John Webster, manager of kiltmakers Geoffrey (Tailor), just three doors down from the Royal Mile Pharmacy, said: “There’s a lot of shoplifting goes on along the street.

“I’ve seen the police called to the chemist’s on a number of occasions in the past due to that and other stuff, it happens quite a lot.

“This is a tourist hotspot and it doesn’t look the best to have a load of drug users milling about the place.”

Barbara Buckley, of the PDSA charity shop, said she and her staff can spend up to an hour a day following 
shoplifters around her store.

She said: “They’re in and out all the time looking to lift stuff.

“There’s an old red phone box on the street that they also use to ring their dealers and top up their methadone, and there’s a nearby close they use for shooting up or 
whatever.

“This is supposed to be one of the city’s main tourists attractions yet we’re dishing out drugs to junkies on it.”

n A 32-year old man at Edinburgh Sheriff Court was yesterday charged with assault and robbery and abduction in connection with an incident on the Royal Mile.

Russell Irvine made a brief appearance in private before Sheriff Fiona Reith QC. No plea or declaration was made on his behalf and he was remanded in custody.

A woman, who is also believed to have been involved, is currently being treated at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after she took ill.

david.oleary@edinburghnews.com