16 September 2022

Man accused of 1976 murder seen scrubbing out car, trial told

16 September 2022

A man accused of murdering a woman and their three-year-old son was “scrubbing” his company car when a worker went to his house to retrieve it, a court has heard.

William MacDowell, of Penrith in Cumbria, is accused of killing his son Andrew MacRae and the child’s 36-year-old mother Renee MacRae in November 1976.

The High Court in Inverness was on Friday read a statement from the late Kenneth Rock, who looked after the cars at Hugh Macrae Builders Limited, and shown a video interview with him.

He said that after MacDowell was sacked by Mrs MacRae’s estranged husband Gordon MacRae, he was tasked with retrieving the company car.

In the statement, Mr Rock had said: “I got there and he refused to bring it in. He was actually cleaning it. He was cleaning it out and said he would return it when he finished.”

Renee MacRae, 36, disappeared with her three-year-old son Andrew in November 1976 (Police Scotland/PA) (PA Media)

Mr Rock said MacDowell was “scrubbing” the car out, and it looked like he had the boot up.

He told a police officer in the video interview: “I think he returned it the next day. Then, I think it was handed over to your people.”

The court was told Mr Rock did not think it was unusual for him to be cleaning his car.

MacDowell, now 80, is charged with assaulting Mrs MacRae and Andrew at the Dalmagarry layby on the A9 trunk road south of Inverness, or elsewhere, by means unknown, and as a result murdering them.

He is also charged with disposing of their bodies and belongings by means unknown.

He denies the charges against him and has lodged a special defence of incrimination and alibi.

The trial continues.

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