A HARBOUR master stalked a young schoolgirl weeks after he was appointed to the prestigious position.
Former police officer William Gary Lawson chatted up the 15-year-old girl, paying her compliments and touching her face during several encounters.
Described as “creepy”, Lawson, appointed harbour master at Dunbar last March, was spotted approaching the youngster on four separate occasions which left the girl “disgusted and sick”.
The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, made a “distressing” phone call to her mother last October, following the last encounter with the 56-year-old.
Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard from the girl’s mother yesterday that she had seen Lawson stroke the girl’s face on one occasion as she watched from a distance.
A cousin also gave evidence Lawson had “told her she was beautiful” and had “touched her on the face and shoulders” as the pair sat at the quayside.
The mother, 36, said: “I was sitting in my car waiting on partner when I saw him come across from his office and he came straight towards her and stroked her on the face. He did it just the once because he had seen us.
“She seemed edgy and didn’t seem herself. I didn’t think that was something he should have been doing. I felt sick at the thought of someone touching my daughter.”
The mother also said the girl “hid herself away” for weeks after, claiming Lawson had attempted to get her into his vehicle.
Brian Burns, a retired welder who worked near Dunbar Harbour at the time, also gave evidence he witnessed Lawson chat to the girl while he was in his car and began following her.
Mr Burns, 65, said: “I was on my lunch break and saw him in his van speaking to the girl. She walked away and he followed her in the van and began speaking to her again. I wondered why a man of that age would be showing an interest in such a young girl. It just didn’t look right, and she looked uncomfortable.
“She looked upset and it looked like she did not want to speak to him. I thought he was maybe trying to chat her up.”
Lawson, from North Berwick, was found guilty of engaging in a course of conduct which caused the girl fear and alarm for paying her compliments on her looks, placing a hand on her shoulder and repeatedly making inappropriate remarks to her on several occasions between July 1 last year and October 9 last year.
But Lawson was found not guilty of sexually assaulting the girl following a trial in front of Sheriff Nigel Ross yesterday.
Colm Dempsey, defending, said the case was “a strange and unusual” and his client’s behaviour had been “ill-advised or even creepy, but nothing more”.
Mr Dempsey added: “All the incidents were short in compass and the complainer did not show any distress to Mr Lawson.”
Sheriff Ross said he had “real difficulty” in finding Lawson guilty of sexual assault as there had been “no sexual touching or remarks or that you propositioned the girl”.
Sentence was deferred to next month.