Police probe blaze death of man at protest camp


POLICE are investigating the mysterious death of a man in a blaze at a camp occupied by environmental activists.

The victim is believed to have burned to death inside a ramshackle wooden hut on the site in Midlothian.

A woman who was badly burned in the same incident early this morning (mon) took herself to hospital before being transferred to a specialist burns unit.

Investigators said they were not treating the man’s death as suspicious but refused to indicate whether a bizarre accident or even suicide was suspected.

The blaze broke out at 3.30am at Bilston Glen, near Loanhead, in a site occupied by campaigners fighting plans for a bypass in the area.

At least half a dozen homes constructed from wood and tarpaulin dot the camp, some of them built 20ft up trees.

The fire is believed to have happened inside one of the huts built at ground level. Investigators put up a large white sheet around the scene, where the man’s body still lay.

A Lothian and Borders Police spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that a man in his 20s has died following a fire at a campsite at Bilston Glen in Midlothian earlier today.

“A woman is being treated in hospital at Livingston for injuries she suffered in the fire, which police were alerted to around 3.30am.

“Police, fire service and ambulance attended at the campsite, which belongs to environmental activists.

“A joint inquiry with the fire service is being carried out into the circumstances.”

Specialist fire investigation officers were seen carrying out detailed examination of the scene for most of the day.

A spokeswoman from Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service, said that fire crews had to walk to the scene of the fire.

She added: “We received the call at around three in the morning and when we got to the site it was quite obvious that the man on scene was dead.

“The decision was taken not to do too much to extinguish the fire so as not to damage the scene and no-one was in danger from the flames.”

She also said that the female casualty was not on scene when fire crews arrived.

It is understood the woman, who is also in her 20s, sought treatment at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. She is now at St John’s Hospital, Livingston, which has a specialist burns unit.

The camp, known as Bilston Glen Anti Bypass Protest Site, has been occupied since June 2002 by the activists who are intent on blocking any attempts to build a road through it.

They have protested against road construction workers and Midlothian Council.