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Courts in Moray: Teacher threatened partner's family with an axe

By Ali Morrison

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A teacher picked up an axe and made threats to kill after learning his partner's jailbird son was coming to stay with them.

Elgin Sheriff Court was told that Dr Michael Close's partner had kept her plans a secret from him.

Instead, the 60-year-old only found out on overhearing a phone call in which she was giving directions to Moray.

After discovering what was going on Close flew into a rage and began waving an axe about in the living room.

This happened in front of both his partner and a 10-year-old child.

The court heard that the 21-year-old son was being driven 500 miles north from Northampton by his grandfather and his grandfather's girlfriend.

Procurator Fiscal Karen Poke stated that the defendant shouted: "I'm going to kill your dad and kill [the son's name]."

She added: "He stated the relationship was over. He then left the property in his car.

"The family arrived at the address. A short time later the defendant returned.

"Still brandishing an axe he began shouting and screaming at all of them.

"The grandfather's girlfriend was so concerned that she locked herself in the car."

Ms Poke stated that the witnesses went to stay somewhere else as they didn't feel safe at the property.

Close was arrested in Dunphail, near Forres, and held in custody overnight.

The teacher whose address was given in court papers as Burnside Terrace, Gairloch, admitted acting in a threatening and abusive manner.

Defence solicitor Erin Monaghan stated that, on the day of the offence, the partner's 21-year-old son had just been released from a four-year prison sentence which had been imposed for offences related to class-A drugs.

She added that, within two or three weeks of coming to stay with his mother, issues arose and the son is currently in prison once more.

Ms Monaghan continued: "This is so completely out of character for Dr Close. He realises he over-reacted but he felt so betrayed."

She stated that although her client did not dispute he'd acted in the way alleged, he had no memory of the episode.

The upshot of this failure was that he had since undergone a psychiatric evaluation.

The defence solicitor then went on to highlight Close's work with young people over the years, including getting many through their Duke of Edinburgh awards.

Ms Monaghan said: "This is the first time he has appeared in a court."

Sheriff Gordon Fleetwood said: "As far as I'm concerned if you choose to pick up a weapon, particularly in the presence of a child, that is behaviour that leads to the prison door.

"However, I will take into account your previous good behaviour."

Close, a former science teacher at Gairloch High School, was ordered to carry out 108 hours of unpaid work for the community within the next six months.

A non-harassment order was not imposed as, the court was told, he and his partner are now back together again.

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