July 2019

Sex offender, 19 admits starting devastating Aberdeen wildfires

A convicted sex offender who targeted underage girls has admitted starting a string of devastating wildfires in Aberdeen.

Ryan Smith, 19, appeared at the city’s sheriff court yesterday and pled guilty to wilful fireraising at the Gramps nature reserve.

He is already serving three years in detention after being convicted, during a High Court trial earlier this month, of having sex with two teenage girls, a sexual assault and sending lewd photographs.

Emergency crews dealt with a series of significant blazes at the nature reserve and Nigg Bay Golf Club in Torry between September 9 and 22 last year.

Firefighters were called to the area 30 times in just 10 days due to the constant reigniting of its grass and moorland.

Appliances were drafted in from across the city to tackle the blaze, with teams using beaters, knapsacks and an all-terrain forestry vehicle to keep the flames at bay.

The fires finally came to an end on September 22, when police confirmed a teenager had been charged with wilful fireraising.

With security officers on either side of him, Smith stood in the dock yesterday wearing a green t-shirt with the phrase “breaking limits” in white block capitals on the back.

Depute fiscal Katy Begg told the court Smith had been on an evening stroll through the Gramps with a friend on September 9 when he lit the first fire.

“She was walking slightly ahead of him and she heard the sound of a lighter,” Ms Begg said.

“She turned and saw the accused running towards her, but after challenging him they continued on the walk.

“He then kneeled to tie his shoelace and she once again heard the sound of a lighter and saw him setting fire to a bush.” The court was told that in the following days, Smith walked the same route time and again, setting fire to plants along the way.

He was apprehended just before 8pm on September 22 after a member of the public spotted him in the area.

After being cautioned by police he was searched and officers found a large kitchen knife and two lighters in a compartment of the bag he was carrying.

Smith admitted carrying the blade without reasonable excuse.

Solicitor Peter Keene asked Sheriff Morag McLaughlin to order more social work reports before sentencing him.

He said the dossier compiled for his High Court trial gave “a very valuable insight into the young man and his problems” but asked for a supplementary document focusing on the fireraising charges.

Smith, of Northfield Place, will be sentenced next month.