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RENEE AND ANDREW MACRAE: Murder suspect 'confessed' to killing duo – before immediate retraction, hears High Court in Inverness

By Ali Morrison

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The man accused of murdering Renee MacRae and their son Andrew 'confessed' to killing her to his handyman – and then retracted it immediately.

The High Court in Inverness was hearing evidence from convicted Lanarkshire safe-cracker Mitchell Yuill, now deceased, who said when he asked Bill MacDowell if he had done it: "He replied I did – and I didn't."

Yuill had been employed by MacDowell in 1986 when the former Inverness man owned the Crook Inn, in Tweedsmuir.

MacDowell denies murdering the 36-year-old housewife and her three-year-old son at the Dalmagarry lay-by on that night.

He is also accused of disposing of their bodies, burning the car, destroying other evidence, and disposing of items including a pushchair and a Volvo estate boot hatch.

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.

Yuill's statement was read out by retired police officer George Gough who interviewed him.

Mr Yuill had travelled to Inverness to give police a statement in October 1987 about several conversations he had with the 80-year-old suspect around the 10th anniversary of the disappearance.

The handyman said he had got to know MacDowell well but fell out with him shortly before speaking to police after being accused of stealing MacDowell's car. He denied this.

Mr Yuill said he did not know of MacDowell being connected to the MacRae case until shortly before he was offered the job.

He told police that one morning around the end of October, beginning of November, in 1986 he was asked by his boss to go to Biggar and get two copies of a newspaper because there was an article about the 10th anniversary.

He said he returned with them, MacDowell read the article "and he was not too chuffed about it".

"He told me if anyone came making an enquiry about me, don't tell them anything. I was with him in the pool room and I said: 'I am going to ask you straight, was it you that done Renee MacRae.

"He wasn't surprised by the question but he just gave a big sigh or blow. A couple of weeks later, we had had a few drinks. He was drinking brandy and I asked him if Andrew was his son?

"I looked him in the face and tears were coming down it. He said to me there are one or two things I have to get off my mind. You will get to know about them sometime."

Yuill questioned the publican further about the relationship with Mrs MacRae. MacDowell told him: "I had a wee cottage that I would take her [Renee] there nobody knows about and I would be in trouble."

In a subsequent conversation, Mr Yuill said: "I asked him again if he did it – killed Renee MacRae. He said: 'I did and I didn't.' On a journey in his Mercedes horsebox to Inverness to get some furniture from his house, he drove three quarters of the way. Then out of the blue after we drove over a bridge, he asked me to drive. I said I had never driven anything like this.

"He moved on to the passenger seat and pretended to be asleep as if he was hiding from something. Then he directed me to stop and took over the driving again. There was something on that road he didn't want to see."

Before evidence got under way, prosecutor Alex Prentice KC and defence counsel Murray McAra KC agreed that blood found in Mrs MacRae's BMW boot was assumed to be hers as DNA analysis showed only one in 100 million had the same profile.

The trial continues.

View our fact sheet on court reporting here

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