A couple dubbed as “nutty neighbours” who have been blamed for the closure of a local train station have revealed they feel they have been “bullied” over the dispute.
Altnabreac station, one of the UK’s most remote train stations, was mysteriously shut down by ScotRail earlier this month.
The train operator refused to provide a reason for the closure, however locals have blamed the current station house occupants.
Ian Appleby and his wife Liz Howe were branded “nutty neighbours” and accused of shouting at Network Rail workers and chaining themselves to a gate to deny access.
In April, Network Rail was granted an interim interdict preventing the pair from hindering rail staff working at the station
The couple have now hit back at the “lies” told about them, and have instead placed the blame on the previous owners of the station house, Tammy and Darren Bruce.
Appleby said: “This bullying campaign against us is just not right and the whole name-calling ‘nutty neighbours’ is beyond belief. The lies being spread about us are harmful.
“We do not support the closure of Altnabreac station. ScotRail never contacted us and if they had done we would have wholeheartedly objected to the closure. We are customers of ScotRail and Highland Railcard holders and want to use them.
“When we first moved in we were made aware of a ‘long and bitter land dispute’ between [the Bruces] and ScotRail and Network Rail. This is well known locally.
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“We were made aware by ScotRail staff that access to the station had been denied for two years. ScotRail didn’t close the station during that period.”
Appleby said that ScotRail’s station area manager told him about “an exchange of correspondence” between the Bruces and ScotRail.
He and his wife deny claims that they chained themselves to a gate. He said: “We decided to continue the interruption of access to the station when Network Rail and ScotRail became contentious with us.
“We never chained ourselves to a gate. I did put a chain on the gate.”
In April, Network Rail was granted an interim interdict preventing the pair from hindering rail staff working at the station.
The couple bought the cottage off from Darren Bruce after going on holiday in the Highlands.
The pair state they moved to the area for “peace and quiet”.
The former station house owners have blamed Howe and Appleby for the station’s sudden closure
Bruce told The Times he tries to avoid the pair when he sees them in public.
He said: “As soon as you go anywhere near, they are out roaring and shouting. They are always coming out with Bible stuff; hexing people … I don’t know what is wrong with them.”
“We thought they were lovely and then they turned strange. Oh, God, yes, they are religious,” he added.
In 2020, Howe made headlines after being reported as missing after “turning to God”.
After a UK-wide police hunt, she was safely located.
Relatives claimed that she had to cut herself off trying to “warn people” that “God was coming to take us away”.
Bruce batted away claims that he and his wife are the source of the problem: “The idea that we were the ones in dispute with ScotRail or Network Rail is ludicrous and pure fantasy. There are ample court documents which prove what the reality of the situation is.
“The sad truth is that people are scared to go near the area because of the downright bizarre behaviour being exhibited by Mr Appleby and Ms Howe.”
A close neighbour of the Applebys, who wished to remain anonymous, said the descriptions of the pair in the media was “nothing like” his perception of them.
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