Want to rent our apartment? Provide a urine sample first 018

The Brook-mesiter

By Lauren Crooks, Deadline Press & Picture Agency


A HORRIFIED house hunter was told she would have to submit a urine sample before she could rent a flat.


Nicola Ward, 23, was left humiliated when one Edinburgh firm demanded the sample for drug testing before they would consider her as a tenant.


Last night she said: ““I was made to feel like a criminal. That kind of test is meant for drug addicts, not for genuine flat-hunters. It was completely unprofessional of them. 


Unsuspecting  Nicola was searching for a one-bedroom flat within her £600 per month budget and had registered her details at a number of well-known letting agents, including Umega in the capital’s Gilmore Place.


However, shortly after leaving the firm’s offices she received a bombshell text message which read: “Hi Nicola, forgot to mention earlier that we also require a urine sample from all of our tenants for random drugs testing before they move into one of our properties. Regards, Umega Lettings.”


She added: “I was totally shocked when I was told that, I had never heard anything like it. But the more I thought about it the more annoyed I got, it was completely out of line. I was really embarrassed and insulted. I can’t believe anyone would treat their customers this way.”


Last night Umega was criticised by the UK’s professional body for letting agents after bosses admitted the incident was an “ill advised” hoax and the manager responsible had been disciplined.


The company claimed staff thought Nicola was a snooping rival and intended the text message as “competitive banter”.


However, upset Nicola had never met any of the Umega staff and her efforts to contact them and find out if it was a joke were ignored. She added: “My initial impression of the place was good, the staff were helpful. But unfortunately they didn’t have what we were looking for. When I left, they said they would call if anything came up.


 “When I got the text at first, I thought they were serious. Then I figured it had to be some sort of joke, so I replied asking them if it was – but I never got a response.”


The next day, she telephoned the offices of Umega Lettings to demand an explanation and was met with an unapologetic response from the manager.


She added: “Eventually he admitted that it had all been a practical joke. I demanded an apology, but all I got was a sarcastic response and a half-hearted sorry.”


Last year Nicola quit he job with letting agency Alba Residential to more to Norway with her boyfriend, Stephen Murphy, who is a professional ice hockey player and the goal tender with the Great Britain national team.


When the couple returned to Scotland, Nicola moved back in to her family home in Dundee. She was facing a daily commute to Edinburgh after winning back her former job at Alba Residential and started flat hunting in the capital.


Because the credit crunch has sent demand for rental property soaring, her own firm had nothing suitable on its books and she registered with a number of other letting agencies.


Neil McInnes, manager of Umega, admitted his staff recognised the striking redhead as the employee of a rival firm.


He added: “Nicola works for one of our competitors and when she walked into the shop our staff recognised her.  From what I have been told she wasn’t interested in any of the properties we offered her, and then began asking for information about financial structures and things – she was looking for information about our company.


“The text was sent by one of our managers. It was an ill-advised joke which shows a complete error of judgement and the member of staff has been disciplined. We accept that although it was meant as a joke, it wasn’t funny. This is nothing but a case of competitive bantering.”


But Nicola’s boss, Paul Dickens, managing director of Alba Residential, said: “When Nicola told me what had happened she was clearly upset and I was so furious I phoned the company to let them know my thoughts.


“The boss of Umega Letting told me it was a joke that backfired because his staff recognised Nicola as an Alba Residential employee and assumed she was doing a ‘mystery shopper’ exercise.


“But that is a thin excuse for something like this – especially since Nicola was a genuine flat hunter with a £600 per month budget to spend. Even if she had been a mystery shopper treating someone in this way is appalling and the whole thing stinks. It is the kind of action that could give everyone in the letting sector a bad name.”


Malcolm Harrison, from the Association of Residential Letting Agencies – a self-regulating body which does not count Umega Lettings among its membership – said: “This is far from professional behaviour.


“We would always recommend that prospective tenants only use ARLA registered agents. That way they are with ARLA trained staff who are adhering to a strict code of conduct. If anything goes wrong or tenants feel they are mistreated they can ask us to look into it for them.”


Nicola and Stephen have since found a suitable home in the Murrayfield area and are due to move in later this month.

Deadline scoops national news award 017

DEADLINE Press and Picture Agency scooped a prestigious award in a UK wide competition.  

News Editor Brian Lewis and Reporter Douglas Walker were 1st placed runners up in the most prestigious category at the National Association of Press Agencies (NAPA) Awards 2008. 

The duo received their 2nd place prize for their story on the imminent police search and dig to take place at convicted killer Peter Tobin’s previous home in Bathgate, West Lothian, which was hoped to solve the 16 year mystery of what happened to missing schoolgirl Vicky Hamilton.

Deadline were not only the first media group to discover that the high profile forensic search was to take place, but also the actual address it was to take place.  

The article complete with pictures was sold exclusively to the Daily Mail who combined it with another story about Tobin that came from the High court on the same day, giving them an extremely strong package.

The exclusive story was followed by a number of stories regarding the search at the house.  

Vicky Hamilton’s DNA was found at the house and this led cops to another of Tobin’s former houses in Margate where her body and the corpse of another missing teenager were eventually unearthed. He is trial is due to take place later this year.

The full version of the award winning article is below and images of the Daily Mail spread on May 23rd 2007 can be seen next to this post. 



THIS is the house that Angelika killer Peter Tobin used to live in sixteen years ago, around the same time a teenage girl went missing from the area.

Police have been coming and going from the house in recent weeks and are planning to dig up the back garden as they continue their investigation to find missing teenager Vicky Hamilton.

Evil Tobin lived in Bathgate, West Lothian in 1991 when 15-year-old Vicky was last seen alive in the town.

Following his sentencing earlier this month Lothian and Borders Police confirmed detectives would attempt to question him over the disappearance of schoolgirl Vicky Hamilton.


Now, police have confirmed they plan to carry out a full forensic investigation of the end-terraced house in a desperate search for clues to help solve the mystery of Vicky’s disappearance.

As well as carrying out experiments inside the house cops will excavate the 40-square-metre area in the next few weeks.

A police source said: “Our determination is to find out what happened to 15-year-old Vicky Hamilton and therefore we are prepared to do whatever it takes. 

“There is a meticulously detailed plan of the work to be carried out at the location, which will be performed by experts.

“The likelihood is the search will be contained to the internal house and the external gardens, but this may extend further.”

In scenes sure to bear chilling echoes from the Fred and Rose West case, a forensics police tent will be erected over the area as officers carefully dig up the garden.

The house address, 11 Robertson Avenue, could soon become as infamous as 25 Cromwell Street.

The house’s garden is partly paved with the rest covered in grass, which the young children of the house are regularly seen playing on.

Its current occupants, Gary and Jacqueline Dyet and their children, will be re-housed during the investigation and have not been given any timescale for the length of time this may take.

The middle-aged couple only moved in to the house in 2006, unaware of the previous owner who left the area around 1993. 

Last night the couple refused to comment on the matter. The women who answered the door, believed to be Mrs Dyet, looked disturbed at the very mention of Tobin’s name and hastily retreated back into the house.

Neighbours have also revealed officers carried out door-to-door investigations in the area after it was revealed Tobin had lived in the area with then wife Cathy Wilson and son Daniel in 1991.

Shocked Caroline Radka, a 26-year-old mother of one, whose back green backs directly on to Tobin’s former garden has been questioned by cops.

She said: “The police have been round a couple of times asking questions about Tobin and whether I remembered him living in the neighbourhood.

“I have only been in the house for five years so it’s way before my time.

“I did live in Bathgate when Vicky went missing though and remember the massive police search.

“It’s frightening to think something like that could have happened on my door step – it’s even scarier to think there may be a body buried just yards from my house.”

Caroline’s next-door neighbour is Elizabeth Barr, 80.  She said: “I have lived here for almost 20 years and only found out a couple of weeks ago that the house behind was Peter Tobin’s. I got the shock of my life when I heard.


“I do remember the family when they lived there, but all I knew about it was there was a man and a woman who had a young kiddy.


“I didn’t know them, they were the kind of people that you pass in the street and say hello to, but that was all.


“You could have knocked me down with a feather when I found out that he lived right there behind me.


“I didn’t even realise the investigation was still going on.”


Although the prospect of the garden being dug up is a frightening one, Mrs Barr realises it must be done.


She added: “If the police think there is something to find then they have to dig up the garden.


“The doors and windows will be locked if I am going to be here myself though.”


Police have not yet scheduled a date to begin their search of the house and are currently waiting to have the equipment and expertise in place to do so.


A spokeswoman said: “We are currently carrying out a review and re-investigation of the disappearance of Vicky Hamilton.


“As this is an ongoing matter it would not be appropriate to comment any further.”


Vicky, who would now be 32, was last seen in Bathgate on February 10 1991 waiting for a bus to Falkirk.


A few weeks later her purse was found at Edinburgh’s main bus station but this was the last ever trace of her.


In November last year, a cold case police squad announced they were now treating the case as a murder enquiry.

Monster Tobin was jailed for 21 years for the murder and rape of pretty 23-year-old Polish student, Angelika Kluk in the grounds of St Patrick’s Church, Glasgow.

In delivering his sentence, Judge Lord Menzies told him: “What you did to Angelika was inhuman.  You are, in my view, an evil man.”

During the trial it was also revealed Tobin was sentenced for 14 years in 1994 after violently raping a 14-year-old girl and indecently assaulting another one in Hampshire.

He was released four years early in 2004, if he had been made to serve his full term, he would still have been behind bars at the time of Angelika’s murder.