The father of Samuel Barlow, the 16-year-old who brought Lerwick to a standstill with an airgun and came close to being shot by police, has paid tribute to the way the community has rallied round his son and the Barlow family.
Paul Barlow lives in Wester Skeld along with his wife and three other children, who are part of a family of six.
He said he was very impressed with the wonderful people who were supporting the Barlows and have written character references for Samuel to the court.
Mr Barlow said that his son was a caring, helpful and considerate young man whom he had recently learned was autistic and had fallen foul of internet manipulators, which had ultimately triggered his showdown with armed police.
Mr Barlow said: “Samuel is really, really deeply upset with what he has done. He never intended to hurt people and never intended to scare anyone. His mind was confused and twisted at the time.
“This has not been pleasant for us. It has not been good for Samuel. It has not been good for the family and not good for society. It is just fortunate that no-one was hurt.”
Samuel, he said, could also remember little of the incidents of the 23rd September as his mind had entered a “hyper-sensitive state”, although he could recall pointing the airgun at police in Lerwick.
Mr Barlow said that Samuel, in custody at Polmont Young Offenders Institute until his appearance for sentence in Lerwick on 7th January, had sought to have himself killed by police after a girl he met on the internet had said she was going to commit suicide the same day.
He said that Samuel was very vulnerable and naive and had also been targeted by two others online.
Samuel had “met” all three people on websites he had joined to try to help people with mental health and self-harming issues. Because of his caring and naive nature he was open to exploitation from outside sources.
His internet “girlfriend” was someone he had not even met personally, but, because he had become emotionally attached to her, when she threatened to kill herself it had pushed him over the edge, said Mr Barlow.
He added that once Samuel got something in his mind, because of his autism, he tended to become fixated with it.
A psychological report prepared for the court, and seen by Mr Barlow, had described Samuel as autistic, something the family had long suspected, but which had never been officially confirmed.
He had been diagnosed as having problems as long ago as nursery school and had been classed as dyspractic and dyslexic, both of which can tie to autism, but the education authorities had, said Mr Barlow, been reluctant to confirm him as autistic.
Whatever the outcome of the sentencing hearing, Mr Barlow says his son must receive treatment for his autism for any good to come of the whole incident.
He said that Samuel was getting assistance and support in custody and was being well looked after. He had become a trustee and did work for the cell block, where he was helping with meals, cleaning and doing laundry.
“He gets on well with the prisoners and prison guards. He was stable before the incidents and is stable again,” he said.
There was nothing he liked more than helping people and helping with boats in the marina. He was also a member of the Red Cross.
He added: “It’s true to say that he is very well liked and is willing to go an extra mile for anyone that asks him. He’s just exceptionally naive.”
Mr Barlow also paid tribute to the local police who had refrained from shooting his son. He said that he had warned police sometime between 4pm and 5pm in the afternoon that Samuel was just armed with an air rifle and that they’d had a pretty good idea that he was not armed with a firearm.
Nonetheless they had displayed real bravery in refraining from shooting and in eventually arresting Samuel without anyone getting hurt.
He also said that he was pretty certain that Samuel would have been shot if the firearms squad flown in from Inverness had been engaged. “We were very fortunate that it was the local armed police who were involved”.