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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 August, 2003, 19:03 GMT 20:03 UK
Bottled SOS saves man's life
Besler and Ben
Brian Besler, with his dog Ben, who alerted the emergency services
A vagrant's life was saved after his message in a bottle pleading for help was found by a sheepdog.

Robert Sinclair had fallen ill while sleeping rough and had not eaten or drunk for a week when a farmer's Border Collie came to the rescue by finding the message and taking it to his master.

The 55-year-old was left helpless at the deserted Lethallan farm, near Falkirk when he suffered an asthma attack.

Mr Sinclair, who has lived wild in the Stirlingshire countryside for 27 years, scribbled a note on a piece of cardboard, put it in an old plastic water bottle and dropped it out of a window.

Help came after 15-month-old sheepdog Ben, from a farm three fields away, picked up the container and took it to his master, Brian Besler, 56, who alerted police.

Mr Besler, who has 200 sheep on 60 acres of land in Rumford, said: "Ben found this bottle and came running up to me with it in his mouth.

'Begging for help'

"There was a message in it asking for help, it said Robert had been lying there for more than two weeks, he was ill, he couldn't breathe right, his chest was clogged up and he'd run out of food and water.

"He said he was fed up with this life and wanted to die but didn't want to die like this, there, and was begging for help.

"I thought it was a wind-up until I saw the name - Robert's well-known round here as a bit of a recluse - and went to the police."

Mr Besler went looking through the fields shouting out Mr Sinclair's name and his search took him to Lethalian farm, where he knew the drifter sometimes slept rough.

water bottle
The message was pushed inside a plastic water bottle
Police officers and fire-fighters arrived and rescued Mr Sinclair from the first-floor window of the farmhouse.

He was taken to Falkirk Royal Infirmary, where he was treated and later discharged after making a recovery.

Mr Besler said he hoped Mr Sinclair's rescue had restored his faith in humanity and that he would get help from social services.

"When the ambulance came up and took him out on a stretcher he was saying 'thanks Brian, thanks for coming to get me'," he said.

"They reckon he wouldn't have lasted another two days."

Police praised Mr Besler's prompt action and said he and Ben had undoubtedly saved Mr Sinclair's life.

Inspector Alistair Tate, of Maddison Police Station, said: "This is exceptional, it's very unusual for someone to be found in this way - a message in a bottle.

"It was really a great stroke of luck for Robert Sinclair that the dog found his note and Mr Besler came looking or we would be looking at a very different outcome."

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