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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 February 2006, 18:36 GMT
Man jailed over bus depot fires
Inverness Sheriff Court
The court heard there was friction between the two bus companies
A bus driver has been jailed for eight months after setting fire to four minibuses in Inverness in a bus feud.

Stephen Walkden, 47, from Auldearn, Nairnshire, told police he was fed up with "aggravation" he had been getting from rival company drivers.

Walkden, who was working for Scotbus, walked into Stagecoach's Inverness depot and lit rolls of tickets inside four vehicles on 16 October last year.

The married father-of-three was also banned from driving for 12 months.

Sheriff Alexander Pollock sentenced Walkden at Inverness Sheriff Court.

The court heard claims of friction and bad blood between drivers at Inverness-based Scotbus and Stagecoach over certain routes in the Highland capital.

Two fires

It was alleged Stagecoach and Scotbus had a disagreement over services from the Black Isle, near Inverness, to the city's Raigmore Hospital and Aquadome leisure centre.

The court heard that Stagecoach drivers goaded Scotbus staff by making a zero sign with their hands to signify they had no passengers.

Fiscal depute Ron Phillips said Walkden was drinking with friends before he carried out the crimes.

A Stagecoach worker at the Burnett Road depot noticed that one of the vehicles was on fire at about 0115 GMT and a driver who had just finished his shift could see flames coming from another bus.

Mr Phillips said: "Between them, the two men contacted the fire brigade and in the meantime tried to tackle the two blazes with fire extinguishers."

'Drunken mayhem'

Fire investigators later found attempts had been made to start a blaze in the glove compartments of two other minibuses.

Walkden then went to a nearby Rapsons yard and drove off with one of the company's Volvo coaches before dumping it in a lay-by.

Mr Phillips said the cost of replacing the two destroyed vehicles was 160,000 and the bill to repair the other two ran to 2,160.

Walkden's solicitor Duncan Henderson said his client's actions were a "drunken wish to cause mayhem" rather than a carefully laid plan.

Mr Henderson said Scotbus had complained twice to the Office of Fair Trade about Stagecoach and there were problems about the Raigmore and Aquadome routes.

Walkden pleaded guilty to four charges of wilfully starting fires and a fifth charge of taking a coach without consent or lawful authority.

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