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November 17, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:47am

Glasgow crime weekly The Digger hit by arson attack and newsagent intimidation

By Charlotte Tobitt

The publisher of a Glasgow crime magazine had his car set ablaze outside his house in an apparent act of intimidation.

On the same night, thugs visited about 30 of the 750 shops that stock The Digger in the Glasgow area to try to intimidate them to stop selling it – two succumbed but the rest held strong.

James Cruickshank told Press Gazette he was home with his partner at about 1am on Sunday 1 November when he heard popping noises coming from outside.

“I looked out the window and the whole back yard was ablaze,” he said. “It was just horrendous.

“We were really lucky the house didn’t go on fire because the vehicle was parked close to the house. Everyone’s surprised the house never got a mark apart from smoke damage.”

A second car parked close by also went up in flames. Police Scotland appealed for information as they described the fire as “wilful”.

On the same night, Cruickshank said, “some gangsters went round the shops where we sell the magazine and put pressure on the shops to stop selling them”.

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“We know who went round the two shops who stopped selling it, that’s a really big gangster in Scotland because we were writing about him. Apparently he wasn’t aggressive but [with] these high-end gangsters, you just have to see them and you do what they want.”

Cruickshank is now installing CCTV and motion sensors at his home.

“I knew it was coming at some point. I was waiting for it to come. But you never expect it to come. What I fear now is when’s it going to happen again?” he said.

Cruickshank was left particularly unsettled as the firebombing took place just days after he was quizzed by police over his connection to a source who had been arrested and charged with murder.

“It’s not a great place when you’ve got police all over you trying to squeeze information from you about a source,” he said. “It’s like the Hippocratic oath.

“You don’t tell anyone about a source, particularly in my business because if you tell someone about a source they might get hurt.”

The firebombing was the second serious attack on a Digger member of staff after a delivery driver was ambushed by four hooded men armed with a baseball bat and a machete two years ago.

According to Cruickshank, they smashed his car window, sprayed petrol on him, hit him with the machete and ran away after he jumped out of the car fearing he would be set on fire.

“I think they thought it was me but at the same time they don’t really care, they just want to intimidate you to stop doing what you’re doing,” Cruickshank said.

Cruickshank founded The Digger in 2004 to focus on Glasgow organised crime and alleged corruption. He currently has a staff of five.

The magazine, which is sold in 750 shops in the Glasgow area, saw circulation fall to about 3,800 at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March which meant it was only just breaking even. But sales are now back up to about 6,000 per week, with a cover price of £1.25.

Cruickshank said criminals “absolutely hate” being exposed in the magazine and they are “more scared of me than they are the police because criminals can only operate in the dark”.

“The closer you get to these gangsters and what they’re doing, the higher sales go, but the closer you get to the gangsters the more annoyed they get,” he said.

“These gangsters have got a lot of people working for them. They might not do anything but they’ve got an army of people who will do anything for £20.”

Cruickshank said his job has risks but also “thrills and spills” and hopes more journalists will launch crime magazines in other cities as it has become a niche market.

“It’s an exciting job. I love it. I couldn’t do anything else.”

Picture: James Cruickshank

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