Body of well-known Lerwick man found in snow after car fire north of Tingwall

A man’s body was found a short distance from the burnt-out remains of his hire car north of Tingwall 10 hours after fire crews were called to the scene to extinguish the blaze on Saturday.

The remains of Lerwick man James John Leask, 66, well known locally as “Jimmy Coal”, were discovered in heavy snow 300 yards away from the burnt-out Renault Clio on the unclassified road between Laxfirth and Vatster.

Fire crews from Scalloway were called shortly before 6am on Saturday morning. They used one hose-reel jet and two breathing apparatus sets but a spokesman said the car was “totally destroyed” by the fire.

Police launched an extensive search for the driver in blizzard conditions and also carried out door-to-door enquiries in the area.

Checks were made at the bus and ferry terminals before Shetland Coastguard was contacted at 2.45pm and the Sumburgh-based search and rescue helicopter was launched to fly over the area.

A two-man ground team also searched the area surrounding where the car was found, although the men later decided they would have benefited from a fully-fledged search team on the ground.

In the meantime the helicopter crew spotted Mr Leask lying near the Loch of Vatster at around 4pm. His body had been covered by drifting snow.

The helicopter landed and Mr Leask was taken to the Clickimin landing site in Lerwick before being transferred to the Gilbert Bain Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Police are continuing their enquiries although they say there do not appear to be any suspicious circumstances surrounding the death. A post mortem will be carried out and a report is being prepared for the procurator fiscal in Lerwick.

Mr Leask used to live with his parents at the house known as “The Matchbox” on Lerwick’s South Road. He drove delivery vans and was an avid country music fan, travelling to Nashville on occasions.

Latterly he lived alone in supported accommodation in Lerwick’s Leog sheltered housing scheme. It is understood he regularly hired cars to drive around the isles.


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