Man who accused Muslims of carrying bomb escapes prison because he was ‘suffering from stress’

A father-of-three working at the Torness nuclear plant sparked a security alert at Waverley Station by telling fellow travellers that two 
Muslim men were carrying a bomb.

David Rothenburg claimed innocent passengers Mohammed Shobair and Zaithoon Akhtar were terrorists as he hurled racial abuse at them. The 36-year-old, who had drunk seven pints of Guinness, followed the men around the station making the insults before being arrested by British Transport Police officers.

Rothenburg avoided a prison sentence yesterday at Edinburgh Sheriff Court after his lawyer made a “compelling argument” that his client was suffering from work-related stress. Instead, Sheriff Gordon Liddle ordered Rothenburg to carry out 200 hours of community service and pay a compensation order of £1500.

Rothenburg, of Cleethorpes, Yorkshire, earlier pleaded guilty to committing a racially aggravated breach of the peace on February 20.

The court heard that Rothenburg had been working at Torness, in East Lothian, and was staying at city hotel to see his partner before travelling to work at another power station. Defence solicitor Mark Harrower told the court that his client had argued with his partner the night before about the stress of his workload.

Mr Harrower said: “On the morning that the offence was committed, the accused went to Waverley Station at around 8am to buy a train ticket. He went to the bar and had his first drink and did not get on the train immediately. His partner works nearby and she was coming and going to the station to try and patch things up. He had seven pints of Guinness during the morning.”

Mr Harrower said that he was duty solicitor that day and found first offender Rothenburg “devastated” when he visited him in custody and told him what had happened.

The lawyer added: “He completely understands the effect his behaviour would have had on his victims. It was always his intention to plead guilty. He has written a letter of 
apology to the complainers. He is full of remorse. It was a terrible mistake by someone who is normally a decent, law-abiding individual.”

Mr Harrower said that his client had not had a holiday for 12 months before the incident. He added: “His job produces a lot of pressure. He works long hours for days on end.”

Sentence had been deferred to obtain reports.

Sheriff Liddle said that the offence could attract a “fairly considerable custodial sentence” but said that a “compelling argument” had been made about the stress Rothenburg had been under.

Edinburgh Evening News, 2 November 2012