In cold blood

Ev­ery week seems to bring new clues in un­solved mur­ders across the coun­try. We in­ves­ti­gate the most no­to­ri­ous cold cases in Scot­tish crim­i­nal his­tory

The Herald on Sunday - - THE BIG READ - Writer At Large By Neil Mackay

COLD case of­fi­cers never give up. This week brought new signs that mur­der squad de­tec­tives in­ves­ti­gat­ing Scot­land’s most in­fa­mous un­solved crime – the dis­ap­pear­ance of Re­nee MacRae and her three-year-old son An­drew – were get­ting closer to the truth. It is 42 years since MacRae went miss­ing, but po­lice is­sued ap­peals this week for a suit­case the In­ver­ness woman had with her on the night she van­ished – the suit­case is be­lieved to be cen­tral to crack­ing the crime.

One of the se­nior team in­volved in the MacRae cold case, De­tec­tive In­spec­tor Brian Ged­des be­lieves mod­ern sci­ence, es­pe­cially ad­vances in DNA, will help crack the case, as it has done with so many oth­ers. “We are ap­ply­ing the most mod­ern in­ves­tiga­tive tech­niques in a bid to progress the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and this will in­clude util­is­ing ad­vances in foren­sic sci­ence,” he says.

As well as ap­peal­ing for in­for­ma­tion about the miss­ing suit­case, de­tec­tives also say they are in­ter­ested in Leanach Quarry, near Cul­lo­den, and a lay-by on the A9 where MacRae’s car was found burned out. Last month, around the same time po­lice put out an ap­peal for An­drew MacRae’s Brenda Page THE bru­tal mur­der of Dr Brenda Page re­mains one of Scot­land’s most no­to­ri­ous un­solved cold cases.

It is 40 years since the bril­liant ge­neti­cist was found beaten to death in her flat in Aberdeen. It later emerged that Page, 32, also worked as an es­cort – fu­elling spec­u­la­tion her mur­derer was one of her clients.

In early July 1978, Page had din­ner with Wil­liam Austin, who ran the Cap­i­tal Es­cort Agency. Austin re­called that Page seemed fright­ened and “con­cerned about her safety”.

On July 13, she went as an es­cort to the Tree­tops Ho­tel in Aberdeen to meet two busi­ness­men. Page was spot­ted leav­ing the ho­tel at 2.30am – the last time she was seen alive. She failed to show up for work the next day, and her body was found when a col­league called at her home look­ing for “ma­te­rial for a re­search pro­gramme”.

She had been work­ing at Aberdeen Univer­sity on a project in­ves­ti­gat­ing dan­gers fac­ing divers in the North Sea oil in­dus­try. There have been claims her death could have been linked to her re­search.

How­ever, a more pro­saic ex­pla­na­tion for her death than in­dus­try con­spir­acy or es­cort­ing, is that she was mur­dered af­ter dis­turb­ing a bur­glar.

By the end of July po­lice ruled out Austin, the miss­ing pushchair, of­fi­cers from the ma­jor in­ves­ti­ga­tions team and the ma­rine in­ves­ti­ga­tions team spent sev­eral days at the quarry. Po­lice have not ruled out drain­ing the quarry.

No mat­ter how old or dif­fi­cult a case may be, there is al­ways hope – whether through old-fash­ioned po­lice work, cut­ting-edge sci­ence, or the end­ing of the dou­ble jeop­ardy rule, which now al­lows pros­e­cu­tors to put a sus­pect on trial for a crime even if they have been ac­quit­ted pre­vi­ously.

In Lon­don, a man is cur­rently be­ing tried in an in­fa­mous cold case in­volv­ing the al­leged mur­der to two nine-year-old girls. Rus­sell Bishop is on trial for a sec­ond time charged with killing Karen Had­away and Nicola Fel­lows in Brighton in 1986. He was ini­tially cleared of the girls’ mur­der in 1987. The Court of Ap­peal or­dered a fresh trial in light of new DNA ev­i­dence. Bishop de­nies the two charges of mur­der.

In Scot­land, there are dozens, if not hun­dreds of cases wait­ing to be cracked, some stretch­ing back a cen­tury and more. Here are five of the most no­to­ri­ous: es­cort agency boss, as well as the two men she had met prior to her death, and her ex-hus­band Dr Christopher Har­ri­son, who later left Scot­land.

A cold case re­view was launched in 2015, and has so far gath­ered 800 new pieces of in­for­ma­tion.

Ear­lier this year her sis­ter Rita, 84, said: “Not a day goes by when we don’t think about Brenda and the hor­ren­dous or­deal she must have suf­fered. Brenda was an ex­tremely in­tel­li­gent woman with her whole life ahead of her. It pains us to think of the great things she would un­doubt­edly have achieved.”

De­tec­tive In­spec­tor Gary Win­ter, of Po­lice Scot­land’s ma­jor in­ves­ti­ga­tion team, said of Page’s time as an es­cort: “Most peo­ple’s ac­cepted def­i­ni­tion of be­ing an es­cort in 2018 is very dif­fer­ent to what it was 40 years ago. Nowa­days, if we use that word, peo­ple as­sume the per­son is in­volved in the sex in­dus­try – that was not the case in 1978. It was a means for Brenda to meet peo­ple, get com­pan­ion­ship and go out so­cial­is­ing in an era be­fore the in­ter­net and dat­ing web­sites.

“Es­cort­ing was some­thing Brenda spoke about widely with friends and col­leagues – it was no se­cret. Peo­ple con­nected to that part of Brenda’s life have spo­ken to us and what that has un­earthed is that it wasn’t a seedy busi­ness.” Re­nee and An­drew MacRae IT was a case that both scan­dalised and shocked the High­lands in the 1970s – and has con­tin­ued to baf­fle and ob­sess the na­tion ever since.

The story be­gins on Fri­day, Novem­ber 12, 1976, when Re­nee MacRae left her home in In­ver­ness with her sons Gor­don, 9, and An­drew, 3. Re­nee, 36, was sep­a­rated but left her old­est son with her hus­band, Gor­don, be­fore trav­el­ling south on the A9 to­wards Perth – ap­par­ently to visit her sis­ter. She and her son An­drew were never seen again.

Later that night, a train driver saw Re­nee’s car, a BMW, burn­ing in a lay-by. Po­lice were no­ti­fied and when they got to the smoul­der­ing wreck, there was noth­ing to be found apart from a rug stained with blood match­ing Re­nee’s.

A huge hunt launched for Re­nee and An­drew

was un­suc­cess­ful. Wit­nesses re­ported see­ing man drag­ging some­thing de­scribed as a dead heep, not far from where the car was found. On the night of her death, Re­nee was wear­ing sheep­skin coat. Wit­nesses also said they had een a man with a pushchair near a lo­cal quarry. De­tec­tives soon dis­cov­ered Re­nee had com­pli­cated pri­vate life. She had been hav­ing n af­fair with a man called Bill MacDow­ell – he was mar­ried with two chil­dren and worked for enee’s hus­band Gor­don. He was also the io­log­i­cal fa­ther of An­drew.

The only per­son who knew about the af­fair was Re­nee’s best friend Va­lerie Steven­ton. She aid Re­nee had, in fact, not been on the way to isit her sis­ter on the night of her dis­ap­pear­ance, ut was go­ing to meet MacDow­ell.

Re­nee was “be­sot­ted” with MacDow­ell, ac­cord­ing to Steven­ton. He had told her he had got a job with an oil firm in Shet­land and found a house for them all to live to­gether. This, how­ever, turned out to be a “pack of lies”. MacDow­ell has ve­he­mently de­nied any in­volve­ment in the case.

How the case was in­ves­ti­gated be­came as bizarre as the dis­ap­pear­ances. Of­fi­cers search­ing Dal­ma­garry quarry came across a strong smell. Dig­ging be­gan but was stopped when po­lice ran out of funds for the hire of a bull­dozer.

Dig­ging restarted in 2004. Some 20,000 tonnes of earth were re­moved at a cost of £122,000, but all that was found were some crisp pack­ets, men’s cloth­ing and rab­bit bones.

Po­lice have also fol­lowed lines of in­quiry that the bod­ies may be buried un­der the A9 – the road was get­ting a ma­jor up­grade at the time. An 80-year-old farmer even used di­vin­ing rods to search for the bod­ies. He marked a spot on the A9 that he be­lieved to be a grave.

This week, of­fi­cers said they were search­ing for the brown suit­case Re­nee had with her on the night she van­ished, and de­scribed it as a “sig­nif­i­cant” piece of ev­i­dence. Last month, on what would have been An­drew’s 45th birth­day, cold case de­tec­tives ap­pealed for in­for­ma­tion on the where­abouts of his pushchair. Moira An­der­son SHE would be 73 to­day but, in­stead, Scot­land re­mem­bers her as a smil­ing child of 12, for­ever frozen in time on the day of her dis­ap­pear­ance .

Moira An­der­son left her grand­mother’s home on Fe­bru­ary 23, 1957, to buy some but­ter for her fam­ily at the lo­cal shop in Coat­bridge. The shop was 10 min­utes away but Moira never made it, nor did she ever come home.

As is so of­ten seen with the dis­ap­pear­ance of chil­dren, a huge search party swept the lo­cal area. Cin­e­mas were asked to check their premises in case Moira had ac­ci­den­tally be­come locked in overnight. Strik­ing coun­cil work­ers called off their protest to help with the search.

There were re­ports of Moira be­ing seen on a bus near her home not long af­ter she left her grand­mother’s house. But the claims led nowhere. How­ever, if po­lice had fol­lowed the lead up, they would have found out that the driver of the bus was a man called Alexan­der Gartshore, on bail for rap­ing his chil­dren’s

Top row, left to right: Brenda Page, Jemima McDon­ald, Emma Cald­well and Pa­tri­cia Docker Mid­dle row: Caro­line Glachan, Re­nee and An­drew MacRae, Moira An­der­son and the po­lice photofit of “Bi­ble John” Bot­tom row: Alis­tair Wil­son, pic­tured with his wife Veron­ica, mur­derer Peter Tobin, He­len Put­tock and Vicky Hamil­ton

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