Edinburgh woman claims neighbours labelled her ‘grass’ and ‘dirty snake’ and threatened to stab her for giving witness statement that woman assaulted child

An Edinburgh woman claims neighbours labelled her a “grass” and threatened to stab her because she gave a witness statement to police that a woman assaulted a child.

Monday, 10th May 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Monday, 10th May 2021, 8:07 am

Donna Ganson, of North Bughtlin Brae in East Craigs, says her family were forced to flee their home because they were “living in fear” due to an escalation in threats since the case went to court at the end of March.

The woman, who we are not naming for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to engaging in a physical altercation with a man and a child and behaving in a threatening and abusive manner by acting aggressively towards them. She also admitted assaulting the man and spitting at him. Her sentence has been deferred.

She was initially charged with assaulting and spitting at the child, seizing them by the body and placing them in a headlock - but a not guilty plea was accepted by prosecutors.

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Donna Ganson (right) says her family were forced to flee their home because they were “living in fear” due to an escalation in threats since the case went to court at the end of March. The image on the left shows police called out during one incident.
Donna Ganson (right) says her family were forced to flee their home because they were “living in fear” due to an escalation in threats since the case went to court at the end of March. The image on the left shows police called out during one incident.

Home CCTV and mobile phone video footage, seen by the Edinburgh Evening News, showed one neighbour last month gesturing and shouting “your day is coming” during a tirade against Ms Ganson, and in another exchange a different neighbour could be heard telling her everyone knows someone who has guns and machetes.

In one incident last month, Ms Ganson claimed police took two hours to respond to a 999 call despite them having an at risk ‘marker’ on her address in their computer system. This followed a call to police earlier that day about verbal abuse. Ms Ganson had also been pleading with her housing association, Castle Rock Edinvar, to relocate to a new home.

The 34-year-old mum of two told the Edinburgh Evening News her family have now been placed in emergency housing by Edinburgh City Council.

Ms Ganson said: “I installed CCTV because of the intimidation, which escalated more recently since the court case. We were living in fear.

“It’s been nearly a year of them all going past and sneering and saying things like ‘you’re a grass’ and a ‘dirty snake.’ I haven’t done anything wrong.”

Last summer, Ms Ganson said she was in her garden in North Bughtlin Brae when she heard a “commotion” involving a man, woman and child on an area of grass on the street known locally as ‘the green.’

Ms Ganson said she saw two adults involved in an altercation and that the woman grabbed the child on the shoulder by the t-shirt and “swung” them round, causing the clothing to rip. She said that, after the incident, the child was unhurt but tearful.

Ms Ganson said police attended a short time later and she gave them a statement and agreed she would be willing to testify in court if required. She says she attended court in anticipation of testifying but was told that guilty pleas had been accepted.

Ms Ganson, who had lived in the street for about six years, continued: “Since then my life on that street has been a living hell.

“It’s just been horrendous. There have been points where we have not wanted to be here and felt trapped and felt I can not protect my family from other people’s actions. It’s taken a heavy toll on my mental health. We were prisoners in our own home and did not feel safe, even when the doors were locked.

“I could not even go out my door without being shouted at with ‘your day is coming’ and ‘you are getting stabbed.’ It was happening daily and had been getting worse since the court date.”

As well as verbal abuse, she claimed a man also spat on her face in the street in early March and that his incident was reported to police.

Effects on children

A recent educational psychologist’s report, seen by this newspaper, states the witnessing of regular threats and harassment have “caused a regression” in the development of Ms Ganson's two children - boys aged five and six who both have autism.

Ms Ganson said her eldest son has been displaying physical outbursts in recent months and that his speech has also deteriorated and his behaviour is causing his younger brother to flinch and withdraw. She added: “I think that’s what upsets me most, how the kids are affected, and I am really upset.”

These specific concerns are also stated in the psychologist’s report, which highlighted that the family’s fear of going outside into their own garden means the boys are missing out on valuable developmental opportunities.

The report concluded there is an “urgent need for the family to move house to a place of safety to prevent further damage” to the boys’ development.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We are fully aware of the ongoing situation and are, along with partners, working to address the concerns being raised.

“We are also acutely aware of issues which can affect the peace and wellbeing of our local communities and when concerns are reported to us we will endeavour to tackle them head on. Our aim is to ensure that no-one has to endure behaviour which can affect the quality of life of those living in any community.”

Councillor Kate Campbell, the housing, homelessness and fair work convener, said: “We take the safety and wellbeing of our residents very seriously, particularly in circumstances where people are in vulnerable situations or need specialist care and help.

“We work closely with key partners to respond swiftly and responsively to support our citizens in a number of ways including the provision of temporary accommodation, housing options and support services where there is a particular need or welfare issue.”

A Castle Rock Edinvar Housing Association spokesperson said they were fully aware of the situation but would not comment on an individual’s circumstances.

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