Scotland's oldest detainee facing attempted murder charges

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

A man thought to be the oldest person ever held in custody in Scotland is facing charges of attempted murder. Sylvester 'Eddie' Nowak, 98, is imprisoned in hospital for psychiatric evaluation after a court appearence; it is alleged he used a knife and axe to attack two police officers.

Nowak had been alone in his home in Scone, Perthshire on Tuesday after leaving hospital on Monday. A carer became alarmed for his well-being and summoned police. Tayside Police said in a statement two officers attended "which would be deemed appropriate. This incident happened upon their arrival and then a number of further officers attended at the scene to assist."

It is claimed Nowak attacked WPC Shona Beattie, 42, with a knife and WPC Katie Deas, 23, with both an axe and a knife. Beattie was wounded in the arm and hospitalised after an ambulance trip, and underwent surgery on Wednesday. Deas was uninjured.

Polish World War Two veteran Nowak has extreme hearing difficulty, his initial court appearance before Perth Sheriff Court delayed to move the case to a second courtroom with equipment catering for hearing aids. Two more hours of delay followed when Nowak remained unable to hear and Wednesday's hearing ultimately took place in the original room. He was helped by guards from security firm Reliance as he walked.

Nowak is an ex-prisoner of the Nazis but escaped to Italy before settling in the UK. Previously living in Dundee, he has lived in his Scone home since the 1960s. He has no relatives in Scotland. 81-year-old friend and neighbour Jim Grant paints a picture of a highly independant individual.

"Eddie keeps himself to himself... He never wanted any help and turned down all offers from the social services. He never answered the door or his phone to anyone, carers included. I had a secret knock on his window which is how he knew to let me in." Grant says all Nowak's family live in Poland.

Following the private court appearance, Sheriff Peter Hammond sent Nowak to the Murray Royal, a mental hospital, for assessment. The order lasts 28 days, and Nowak is anticipated to be back in court later.