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Prosecutor sums up arguments in trial at High Court in Inverness into murders of Renee and Andrew MacRae

By Ali Morrison

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Inverness Justice Centre. Picture: Gary Anthony.
Inverness Justice Centre. Picture: Gary Anthony.

The last utterance of Renee MacRae when she was alive was a "blood-curdling scream" in the dark.

These were the opening words of advocate depute Alex Prentice KC who asked a jury to convict 80 year old Bill MacDowell of the murders of Mrs MacRae and their son, Andrew on November 12, 1976.

Mr Prentice's last words to the jury in a speech on the 10th day of evidence at the High Court in Inverness: "When you retire to the jury room, ask yourselves this question - why get rid of the boot floor of a Volvo car?"

The prosecutor reminded the jury had already been told of the screech heard that night by a farmer's wife close to the Dalmagarry lay-by.

He reminded them that they had already been told that MacDowell had a company Volvo estate car.

There was Renee MacRae's blood in the boot, her light blue BMW car had been set on fire, and a man was seen pushing a pushchair with what looked like belongings piled on it.

The jury had earlier heard that Andrew had a pushchair which was similar.

READ MORE: RENEE AND ANDREW MACRAE: Man accused of murders will not give evidence in own defence

Mr Prentice recalled MacDowell had sought an urgent replacement for the Volvo boot floor which he had burnt two days after the disappearance.

He told the jury MacDowell had been seen "scrubbing" the floor and refused to immediately give the vehicle back to his employers - Renee's husband's firm, MacRae builders - because he hadn't finished cleaning.

The jury were asked to consider: "A sinister complexion is placed on this - getting rid of the lid on the Volvo floor. Inferences can be drawn."

The motive for murder, he suggested, was that Mrs MacRae was becoming demanding about MacDowell leaving his life. He had told her they would have a new life in Shetland.

"It is obvious. Life for Bill MacDowell would change dramatically if it all came out in the open. He would lose his job, his family, his home." Mr Prentice said.

The court heard how MacDowell's alibi changed several times, claiming he was never near the A9 that night and got home by 8.30.

His wife, Rosemary, backed this up in statements to the police. But in one of her statements, she said her husband didn't come home until after 10.15pm when a cowboy programme being watched by their two daughters finished.

"That undermines the alibi" - a special defence MacDowell had lodged.

She also hauled him out of an Inverness police station he had entered to provide information. "That hindered the investigation." Mr Prentice maintained.

Reference was made to an offer made to Inverness criminal Dennis Tyronney, now deceased who claimed MacDowell had offered to pay him to kill Renee and Andrew with acid and an alleged confession.

It was said that MacDowell told his handyman at the Crook Inn in Tweedsmuir which the MacDowell's once owned "I did and I didn't" when Mitchell Yuill asked him if he had killed them. Mr Prentice said the jury should treat these words with caution but were entitled to make of them what they would.

Evidence was given by a retired journalist who was told by MacDowell that Renee was still alive because he continued to receive coded phone calls from her after she went missing.

"When asked by Mr Lindsay why he didn't tell the police, MacDowell replied; 'it slipped my mind. His son was missing. Surely he would have concern about his son being missing." Mr Prentice added.

"Who would maintain that they were still alive. I suggest the person who knows they aren't." Mr Prentice went on.

Defence counsel Murray McAra will address the jury in the morning before Lord Armstrong gives instructions in law and his charge.

MacDowell denies murdering Renee and Andrew, disposing of their bodies, destroying evidence by burning the BMW and disposing of evidence like Andrew's pushchair, the Volvo boot hatch and the MacRae's belongings.

View our fact sheet on court reporting here

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