Dig up past plea to solve 34-year mys­tery of Re­nee MacRae’s death

Are road­works on A9 key to record miss­ing per­son’s case?

The Herald - - News - DAVID ROSS HIGH­LAND COR­RE­SPON­DENT david.ross@the­herald.co.uk

IT IS a stretch of road that many are con­vinced holds the key to solv­ing Bri­tain’s long­est-run­ning miss­ing per­son’s case.

Re­nee MacRae, a mother of two, van­ished with her three-year-old son An­drew on Novem­ber 12, 1976 and her BMW car was found ablaze in a lay-by at Moy next to the A9, about 12 miles south of In­ver­ness.

Yes­ter­day, the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment an­nounced a £2.6 mil­lion con­tract had been awarded for an over­tak­ing lane at the lo­ca­tion, prompt­ing a farmer who has cam­paigned on the is­sue to re­new his call for the road to be ex­ca­vated at the spot where a radar sur­vey he com­mis­sioned found “anom­alies”.

There had been hopes road works would re­veal the re­mains of Mrs MacRae and her son.

Brian MacGre­gor, who owns Bog­bain Farm, told The Her­ald: “If they are re­mov­ing the sur­face of the road, it is an ideal op­por­tu­nity to probe deeper.”

Spec­u­la­tion over what ex­actly what hap­pened to the 35-year-old, from In­ver­ness, and her son that night has trou­bled the High­land cap­i­tal. Al­though po­lice have not closed the case files, they and mem­bers of her fam­ily be­lieve she was mur­dered.

Mrs MacRae, who was sep­a­rated from her hus­band Gor­don, told friends she was on her way to spend the week­end with her lover, Bill MacDow­ell, in Perth. She had talked about how they would start a new life to­gether.

Wit­nesses re­ported see­ing a man drag­ging some­thing they thought was a dead sheep not far from the car, while oth­ers saw a man with a pushchair near the quarry. Mrs MacRae was re­ported to have been wear­ing a sheep­skin coat when she dis­ap­peared.

In 2004, af­ter a cold case re­view had been or­dered by the North­ern Con­stab­u­lary chief con­sta­ble Ian La­timer, the quarry was ex­ca­vated at a cost of £122,000, in a re­newed ef­fort to find the bodies.

Re­tired po­lice sergeant John Cath­cart, who had worked on the orig­i­nal search, re­ported at the time smelling de­com­pos­ing flesh in the quarry but a full search had never been un­der­taken. De­spite the ex­ca­va­tion, noth­ing was found apart from two crisp pack­ets and a rab­bit bone.

How­ever, for more than 30 years lo­cal spec­u­la­tion has fo­cused on the bodies hav­ing been buried un­der the A9, which was in the mid­dle of a ma­jor pro­gramme of up­grad­ing at the time of the dis­ap­pear­ance.

De­spite Mr MacGre­gor’s com­ments, it is thought un­likely that the new pro- gramme of road works will re­veal much, as con­trac­tors will adopt a “crack and seat” ap­proach us­ing new high-strength ma­te­rial called EME2 (En­robe a Mod­ule Eleve) which can be laid in thin­ner lay­ers.

A spokesper­son for Trans­port Scot­land said only the top layer of the ex­ist­ing road would be re­moved.

Morag Go­vans, Mrs MacRae’s sis­ter, who still lives in In­ver­ness and has al­ways be­lieved her sis­ter and nephew were mur­dered, said: “I wasn’t aware that this work was due to be done. I don’t know what to make of it. I am sure if they are go­ing to be dig­ging up the road they will in­ves­ti­gate if the po­lice think there is some­thing worth in­ves­ti­gat­ing.”

How­ever, a spokes­woman for North­ern Con­stab­u­lary said that af­ter study­ing aerial pho­to­graphs taken by the RAF dur­ing the construction of the A9, they were sat­is­fied the bodies were not buried un­der the road.

MYS­TERY: Re­nee MacRae dis­ap­peared without a trace in 1976 along with her tod­dler son. Her car was found ablaze in a lay-by.

THE HUS­BAND: Gor­don MacRae.

THE LOVER: William McDow­ell.

THE CHILD: Three-year-old An­drew.

Pic­ture: Ste­wart Attwood

COLD CASE: A po­lice­man at the quarry that was ex­ca­vated in 2004 in a bid to find Mrs MacRae and her son and, above right, the shell of her burnt-out car.

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