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Is remote Highland cottage resting place of Inverness murder victims Renee MacRae and son Andrew?

By Ali Morrison

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Andrew and Renee MacRae.
Andrew and Renee MacRae.

A remote cottage in the Highlands could be the final resting place of murdered Renee and Andrew MacRae and police are determined to find it.

Years before the conviction and subsequent death of their killer William MacDowell, he told a witness that if the building was found, it would lead to his downfall, police have revealed.

Therefore the team tasked to bring Renee's lover and Andrew's father to justice believe that if they can discover its location, it will hold vital clues or possibly the bodies.

Despite extensive enquiries, they have failed to trace it and therefore they now hope to enlist the public's help.

Detectives have continued working on the case which they say will never be closed until the pair are found and the search is poised to resume in the wake of a BBC documentary covering MacDowell's trial.

In the coming days and weeks, senior investigating officer DCI Brian Geddes's team will review all information held in respect of the area near to MacDowell's original home at Nairnside.

William MacDowell and Renee MacRae. Picture credit: Crown Office
William MacDowell and Renee MacRae. Picture credit: Crown Office

The outcome is less certain as DCI Geddes revealed: "MacDowell at one stage blurted out to a witness as they spoke about the case: 'I hope they don’t find the cottage. If they do I’m done'.

"Despite extensive enquiries including checking the Land Registry, we cannot find any cottage linked to MacDowell. But of course, he may not have owned it.

"It could have been a derelict property, an empty one he knew about or indeed an occupied cottage he was allowed to use.

"The time scale would be the early-to-mid 1970s while he was having his relationship with Renee.

"We are hoping someone may remember seeing her BMW car in an area perhaps with MacDowell's company Volvo or the family white Range Rover. He obviously had a fear over its discovery so it is logical to assume it holds something significant.

"We can identify a possible link with the Blackfold area above Loch Ness but that is tenuous. It would appear this may have been an area where MacDowell and Renee would meet, possibly parking within wooded areas. Other areas where they may have met are Inverfarigaig, and between Nairnside and Daviot. Our hopes are slim but this case will never be considered resolved until we find Renee and Andrew. We owe it to the family and friends."

The team are also reviewing the potential for the use of a range of existing and emerging technologies including drones in the search which will cover specific targets around the proximity of MacDowell's former home outside Inverness and elsewhere.

There are no current plans to break ground, but if the aerial and technological equipment or new evidence identifies any places of interest, then that is likely to change.

The pair were murdered by MacDowell on November 12, 1976 and their BMW car was found set alight at a lay-by at Dalmagarry on the A9.

Their bodies have never been found despite extensive searches over four decades. Last September, MacDowell was convicted by a jury's majority of their deaths and was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 30 years.

However, he died in February, aged 81, and took the secret of where they were to his grave.

DCI Brian Geddes at Leanach Quarry during investigation into the case.
DCI Brian Geddes at Leanach Quarry during investigation into the case.

DCI Geddes and his team have reviewed the case over a five-year period. They have been going over all the evidence and witness statements again to see if they may have missed something and have drawn up a list of potential deposition sites which they believe are worth closer scrutiny.

They also hope the BBC documentary will help them further with new suggestions of deposition sites or additional information to narrow down their new search. DCI Geddes confirmed yesterday that the response to the two episodes has been good and he thanked the public for their assistance.

DCI Geddes had hoped to interview MacDowell before his death and wrote him a letter which was never read. They have also re-interviewed some of his family, although MacDowell's wife Rosemary has not co-operated.

DCI Geddes added: "Since the airing of the TV documentary, we have received numerous calls regarding where Renee and Andrew’s remains may be and we will fully research any information we receive and progress matters accordingly, and where justified.

"I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to contact us and would urge anyone else with information, no matter how minor they might think it is, to contact us.

"Anyone who believes they can assist the police is asked to contact 101 or you can email SCDHOLMESInverness@scotland.police.uk. You can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111."

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