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RENEE AND ANDREW MACRAE: Murderer Bill MacDowell to die behind bars after being found guilty of mother and son's 'execution' style killings at trial at High Court in Inverness

By Ali Morrison

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Bill MacDowell heading in to court. Picture: Staff photographer.
Bill MacDowell heading in to court. Picture: Staff photographer.

A COLD-hearted callous psychopath - the words of a murderer's own defence counsel if his client killed his own son.

And that is exactly what eight women and seven men concluded at the end of 80 year old Bill MacDowell's 13 day trial.

After 224 minutes of deliberation, they found him guilty by a majority of killing three year old Andrew MacRae and his 36 year old mother Renee who was also MacDowell's secret lover and of attempting to pervert the course of justice by disposing of the bodies, their belongings and setting the car on fire.

Sentencing MacDowell to the mandatory life sentence with a minimum 30 years, Lord Armstrong told the double murderer: "These murders appear to have been premeditated and planned in a most calculating way.

"These appear to be in effect executions. You murdered your victims and disposed of their bodies and you took various steps to avoid detection."

Renee's sister, Morag Govans prepared a statement which was read out by advocate depute Alex Prentice.

"The pain of losing Renee and Andrew doesn't ease. Not a day passes when both are not in our thoughts. Andrew's life was cruelly and brutally cut short at such a young age, just three years old and I often wonder what he would be doing now.

"The passage of time has not eased the anguish. We have not been allowed to grieve properly. Not knowing how Renee and Andrew died and where there remains lie compounds the anguish. I have never stopped trying to find justice for Renee and Andrew who deserve to rest in peace.

"Thinking of the terror they must have felt when they died in such a calculated and callous was continues to haunt me."

MacDowell tried to blame her estranged husband and his ex-boss, former building company owner, Gordon and his wife, Rosemary, gave him a false alibi. But the jury rejected that lie as well as the alibi he put forward that he was elsewhere at the time they were killed.

However just like the web of lies he spun throughout his affair with Mrs MacRae, the jury saw through them and returned a guilty verdict.

Sadly, besotted Renee believed MacDowell's deceit and it cost her her life and that of her son on the cold, wet night of November 12, 1976. He then burned her light blue BMW to try and destroy evidence.

But the whole car did not succumb to the flames. The boot survived and a large spot of Renee's blood was found in it. His Volvo estate was also seen nearby by three different witnesses at a time he said he was on his way home from Inverness city centre, several miles away.

He refused to return the company car on the Monday - the day he was sacked by Mr MacRae who had just found out his company secretary had been sleeping with his wife for over five years.

MacDowell was seen scrubbing out the boot and when it was put back to MacRae Builders at Harbour Road, the boot hatch lid had been replaced after an urgent request by MacDowell. He said it had been damaged and he burnt it,

The trial was unusual because around two dozen statements were read out from people who had since died. It was also rare because no bodies had ever been found.

So that part of the 46 year old mystery will endure unless MacDowell decides to clear his conscience and reveal their whereabouts.

Renee's sister, 82 year old Morag Govans urged him to come clean. But she is doubtful he will. "He has kept quiet for this long. I can't see him telling us what we have wanted to know for 46 years. I hope he will."

The man tasked with reinvestigating the murders back in 2018 was Detective Chief Inspector Brian Geddes. Codenamed Operation Abermule, he said his job was only half done.

"Our instruction was to find the killer and find the bodies. We have still to recover the remains of Renee and Andrew and we will continue to look for them if we get new information. I appeal to anyone who has information to come forward.

" I hope that the outcome in court today can provide some form of closure for them. They have carried themselves with absolute dignity through aid and they are very much in my thoughts today. The murders of Renee and Andrew have had a significant impact on the people of Inverness and beyond for decades now. But it's fitting to know that despite the passage of time, Justice has finally been served." DCI Geddes went on.

He added: "I would appeal directly to William MacDowell, to speak to us and allow us to bring closure to the family."

He also paid tribute to Val Steventon, Renee's close friend and confidante.

"Without her coming forward we would not have got here. It was difficult for her to break her friend's confidence.

"But she was so worried that something dreadful had befallen mother and child, she came to the police."

It was clear from the evidence MacDowell had been trying for some time to free himself from his illicit liaison and was planning their demise.

The jury heard that he had offered an Inverness criminal at least £500 to carry out an acid attack on Renee and Andrew. The man, now dead, refused.

He told Renee that he had a new job in Shetland where they would move to start a new life.

Although Renee doubted that, MacDowell, who had told her several times he would never leave his wife and two daughters, wanted to go away that fateful weekend to get to know his son better before the move the following week-end.

He insisted that the boy come with them, despite Renee's best pal, Val Steventon offering to keep Andrew.

The jury also heard of a partial but cryptic confession MacDowell gave to his handyman who asked him in 1986 if he had done it?

MacDowell replied: "I did and I didn't."

Now MacDowell who is so ill, he will die in prison where he will serve a life sentence.

View our fact sheet on court reporting here

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