Masked man threatened woman with acid attack outside Leith gym

Sarah Hawkins, front, with several members of Projekt 42 at Newkirkgate Shopping Centre where they have introduced a buddy system for going to and from the gym. Picture: Greg Macvean
Sarah Hawkins, front, with several members of Projekt 42 at Newkirkgate Shopping Centre where they have introduced a buddy system for going to and from the gym. Picture: Greg Macvean
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MEMBERS of a Leith gym have rallied together after a masked man threatened a young woman with an acid attack outside its premises.

The woman, who had just left the Projekt 42 gym in Newkirkgate Shopping Centre, was forced to run from a balaclava-clad man riding a bicycle.

Police are investigating after the man was seen “riding around in circles” and “shouting about attacking her with acid”.

The cyclist is believed to be a hoaxer trying to scare innocent passers-by, with officers saying they do not believe that the public are at risk.

Witness Amy King, who lives nearby, described the incident as “really frightening”.

She said: “I shop at Newkirkgate fairly regularly and would use it as a shortcut to get 
home.

“After hearing about that incident, I won’t walk through there at night if I’m alone.”

Staff at the gym, which was set up this summer as a not-for-profit enterprise, have encouraged members to swap numbers and walk together after dark.

Spokeswoman for the gym, Nicki Sturzaker, said: “The member messaged the gym after the incident last Wednesday and, as a result, staff have increased their hours.

“A buddy support system has been offered to take people in cars.

“The incident has brought the community together.

“Projekt 42 wants to make sure it’s a safe environment for members of the community and we hope it’s just an unfortunate, one-off event.”

Several people have reported similar incidents involving a man matching the description. One user of the social media site Reddit with the pseudonym “greyjackal” said: “I wonder if this was the same bloke I encountered at Murano Place/Albert St a few weeks back.

“Balaclava, on bike, just whizzing through the pedestrians shouting ‘Big bad wolf – whoo – Edinburgh’s gonna get it’.”

Another user named “childrenovmen” said: “This guy was spitting at people outside my girlfriend’s work in Cannonmills. He was really aggressive to her manager as well when he went to see what was going on.”

Projekt 42 intends to open a purpose-built gym on Halmyre Street in January, but is based in Newkirkgate as a “test zone” until then.

The centre was opened this summer by Sara Hawkins, who was motivated to set up the gym after suffering a tough battle with PTSD.

Classes at the gym are intended for people of all ages including parents, children and the elderly.

Commenting on the incident, a police spokeswoman said: “Police in Edinburgh are continuing to investigate a report that a woman was threatened in the Newkirkgate area around 7pm on Wednesday, October 4.

“Officers are following a positive line of inquiry in connection with this incident and there is not currently believed to be any risk to the public.”