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RENEE AND ANDREW MACRAE: William MacDowell trial told of figure seen by car near to where mother and son disappeared

By Ali Morrison

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The High Court in Inverness.
The High Court in Inverness.

The High Court in Inverness has heard a figure was seen trying to hide behind a Volvo estate car.

A jury trial has been told by retired civil engineer John Bissett that he was driving with a work colleague, Pat Coyne, along the Shenachie single track road which borders the A9 below the Dalmagarry lay-by where Renee MacRae's blue BMW was found burnt out on November 12, 1976.

Mr Bissett told the court he and Mr Coyne were going to meet their girlfriends in the nearby Freeburn Hotel in Tomatin at about 7.30pm to 7.45pm.

He said: "It was unusual to see other traffic on that road at that time of night.

"There was a small bridge over a stream and in the distance we saw a light. There was a small passing place 300 yards from the junction and a car was in it.

"As we approached we saw a person or persons at the back of the car and (they) seemed to be hiding. They didn't want us to see what they were doing.

Renee MacRae.
Renee MacRae.

"We assumed it was poachers but one thing that struck us was that it was a smart car. It was fairly new.

"We couldn't tell if it was a male or female but we got the impression that it was a man because of the size.

"The person was at the front of the car. He ducked down and then moved to the side. It (the car) had a badge on the boot."

Mr Bissett said that at first he thought it was a BMW. However police took him to several car parks in Carrbridge and Inverness to look at cars to try and determine the make.

He agreed with advocate depute Alex Prentice KC that he confirmed to the officers that it was a Volvo estate when he was shown a similar vehicle.

The court has already been told 80-year-old William MacDowell owned a two year old Volvo estate.

He denies murdering Rennie MacRae (36) and Andrew (3).

He also denies disposing of their bodies and other evidence, including a Volvo estate boot hatch.

Mrs MacRae's son Andrew.
Mrs MacRae's son Andrew.

MacDowell has lodged special defences of alibi claiming he was elsewhere in Inverness that night and blames Mrs MacRae's building company director husband Gordon for the murders.

The court previously heard that MacDowell went to a local garage wanting an urgent replacement boot hatch which he said had been damaged and he had had burnt.

Garage boss Fergus Ewart told the jury that this occurred after the pair went missing and an invoice for December 8, 1976 was produced.

Mr Ewart clarified that the replacement was fitted from a forecourt car on the weekend MacDowell requested it and then replaced when the substitute arrived some time later, hence the December date for payment.

The trial before Lord Armstrong continues.

View our fact sheet on court reporting here

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