THE owner of the Royal Mile Pharmacy has said the emotion of seeing his staff in distress kept him focused during a three-hour armed siege.
Peter Tinkler, 51, was one of six hostages trapped inside the chemist on Wednesday night in a tense stand-off that ended when police stormed the store and tasered a 32-year-old man wielding a Stanley knife.
In an exclusive interview with the Evening News, Mr Tinkler said he had no intention of selling off his business despite the terrifying ordeal.
The manager, who has owned the pharmacy for 22 years, said he been the subject of hold-ups on five occasions, but realised during the siege’s early stages that it was a “more serious” situation.
Mr Tinkler said: “There’s nothing worse than seeing people you know so well look so distraught. That focused me.”
“All six of us were very shaken. My members of staff have been highly traumatised by the incident. They’ve taken time off.
“It’s just an awkward process. I’m not sure how long it’s going to take. There’s no pressure or time limit on them. It’s an ongoing situation.
“Hopefully, they’ll feel in a position that they can recover from this.”
The pharmacy reopened its doors less than 24 hours after the siege had been lifted.
And despite the incident, and the previous robberies, he insisted he had no intention of giving up the job.
“This sort of incident hasn’t dissuaded me. It wouldn’t alter my feelings or stop us providing services. I accept working in something like retail, and particularly pharmacy, that we are a target for drugs and, being retail, for having cash around.
“But to be perfectly honest, in cities like Edinburgh you can just buy the drugs.”
It is believed the pharmacy already has CCTV and a panic button, but Mr Tinkler said he would never consider installing more extreme security measures like a Perspex screen to protect staff despite being trapped in the hostage situation.
He said: “If it gets to that stage, then it’s not the game for me to be in. I can assure you there’s been a deluge of well wishers. Ninety-nine point nine per cent of the population are really decent people and I don’t think one episode warrants an alteration in how we treat all of them.
“We are open for our patients – that’s going to continue.”
Nearby shopkeepers yesterday said the supply of methadone from the Royal Mile Pharmacy had led to a daily battle along the popular Old Town thoroughfare with drug addicts and shoplifters.
But Mr Tinkler said the incident had left him as determined as ever for his store to help drug mis-users.
“People who get methadone are still patients,” he said. “We’ve tried to treat them with the courtesy and respect that we would treat anybody else. In terms of what I think personally about the methadone programme, I actually think if correctly used it works very well.
“I’m disappointed at some of the political comments that have been made about trying to curtail this when there seems to be far less attention on treating the cause.”
Mr Tinkler added: “To be prescribing methadone to people who I’ve also provided methadone to their parents is shocking. We know it’s a problem. We’ve just chosen to shove it under the carpet.”
Mr Tinkler labelled the actions of police as “absolutely faultless”. He said: “They gave us confidence by the way they handled it.”
Demand for security measures
THE Pharmacists’ Defence Association [PDA] Union have called for mandatory requirements on all pharmacies to introduce extra security measures.
Independent pharmacies providing methadone prescriptions currently have no requirement to install security measures. CCTV, a panic alarm and custom-built facilities for substance abusers are among suggested measures. PDA general secretary John Murphy said: “Pharmacies that supply authorised medication to substance mis-users are operating at higher risk of violence towards its staff than those that do not.”
Charged man rushed to ERI with injuries
A MAN charged with abduction and robbery over an armed stand-off at a Royal Mile chemist was rushed to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after allegedly attempting to injure himself.
Russell Irvine, 32, was being held overnight at HMP Edinburgh when the incident occurred. He had earlier been remanded in custody after being arrested following a three-hour siege at the Royal Mile Pharmacy on Wednesday night. It is believed the man cut himself yesterday and required immediate treatment.
A Scottish Prison Service spokeswoman said: “I can confirm that an incident occurred at HMP Edinburgh in the early hours of this morning. However, we cannot comment on individual prisoners.”
Irvine, whose address has been given as Edinburgh, has also been charged with assault and having an offensive weapon.
He made no plea or declaration when he appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Thursday.
Six hostages, including a pregnant woman, escaped to safety at the end of the siege after police broke into the pharmacy.
A woman, who was also involved in the incident, was still being treated at ERI yesterday.