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Scots police warn a possible murder victim every day

A SCOTTISH police force is sending out almost nine letters a week warning Scots they are the target of a murder plot.

More than 500 people living in the Strathclyde area received official warnings from police that their lives were at risk since 2011.

The so-called “Osman letters” or “threats to life” are sent out when police have evidence of a murder plot but not enough to make an arrest.

Strathclyde police hand out nine warnings a week.


Official stats, released through Freedom of Information, show that the number of ‘Osman’ warnings handed out by Strathclyde police rose from 336 in 2009-10, to 506 in 2011-12, an increase of more than 50%.

Strathclyde, which has a population of 2.5 million, issued the equivalent of one warning per 5,000 people last year.

Despite the number of official warnings increasing, the number of murders in the area actually rose, from 44 in 2009-10 to 54 murders last year.

Lothian and Borders, with a population of just under one million, issued 36 warning between 2009 and September 2012 – the equivalent of one warning for every 30,000 people.

Central Scotland handed out 66 warnings to people in mortal danger since 2010.

Tayside police issued 19 warnings in 2012, and only another one other since 2009.

Since 2007, Fife police have issued 99 warnings.

Grampian police refused the FOI as they only have not issued any warnings.

Dumfries and Galloway also refused it, claiming they do not hold a record of these warnings.


A spokeswoman for Mothers Against Murder and Aggression (MAMAA), a charity that supports individuals affected by violence, said: “Firstly, intelligence gathering is obviously thorough and informative and secondly the risk highlighted during investigations is being taken seriously and acted upon.

“Strathclyde Police’ Violence Reduction Unit works consistently to reduce the levels of violent crime and is achieving real and impressive results, when compared nationally.

“It is now up to those involved in these types of crimes, and communities in general, to work with the police and local authorities in attempts to reduce incidences of violence even further.”

Edinburgh councillor Iain Whyte, the police board convener, said: “It’s certainly a question every chief constable should be asking and comparing practices with each other.

“People should certainly be warned if their life is at risk.

“You wouldn’t think Strathclyde is almost ten times more than the rest of Scotland though.

“You’d expect other police forces to now check to make sure they are doing all they can to ensure people’s safety.”


The warnings are known as ‘Osman letters’ after a court case where the family of a murder victim argued his human rights had been breached because police didn’t warn him about his killer.

Ali Osman was shot dead in London in 1988 by Paul Paget-Lewis, who had warned police he was a danger.

Mr Osman’s family argued the case in the European Court of Human Rights, and in 1998 the court decided police would be legally responsible for failings during an investigation.

A spokeswoman for Strathclyde police said: “There are excellent well established intelligence structures in place supported by the experience of officers in the management of threat and risk that places Strathclyde Police at the forefront of the management of this critical area of work.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government added: “This is an operational matter for individual police forces.”

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