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RENEE AND ANDREW MACRAE: High Court in Inverness hears from wife of William MacDowell

By Ali Morrison

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

A murder suspect's wife blurted out to police 'I never stabbed her or whatever happened to her'.

The High Court in Inverness heard those were the words of Rosemary MacDowell when she was detained by officers in her Borders home around the 10th anniversary of the disappearance of mother and child Renee and Andrew MacRae.

A jury also heard that Mrs MacDowell removed her husband from an Inverness police station while he was being spoken to by detectives, just a few weeks after the pair went missing in 1976.

Mrs MacDowell (80) was giving evidence in the High Court trial at Inverness of her husband, whom she referred to as Billy.

Renee MacRae.
Renee MacRae.

MacDowell denies murdering his lover, 36-year-old Renee MacRae and their three year old son, Andrew at a lay-by on the A9 near Dalmagarry Farm on November 12, 1976.

It has been accepted he was the toddler's father.

MacDowell also denies disposing of their bodies, a pushchair and luggage at an unknown location, and destroying evidence by setting Mrs MacRae's blue BMW alight and disposing of the boot hatch of his Volvo.

MacDowell has lodged special defences of alibi, claiming he was home by 8.15pm on the night of November 12, 1976 after driving through Inverness.

He has also named Mrs MacRae's husband Gordon, who was his boss at the time, and unknown others of being responsible for the crimes.

Mrs MacDowell was being questioned by advocate depute Alex Prentice about a statement she gave to a Detective Sergeant Peter Black in November 1986.

The jury was told that both her and her husband had been detained by murder enquiry officers while they were staying at the Crook Inn in Tweedsmuir with Mrs MacDowell being suspected of attempting to pervert or defeat the ends of justice.

DS Black put to her discrepancies in previous statements about the time she said her husband got home. Earlier statements had indicated between 8pm and 8.30pm.

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

In her statement – some of which was put to Mrs MacDowell – she told DS Black: "I honestly can't remember when Billy got home. It was very definitely before midnight.

"While I was making the curry, the girls were watching a cowboy film which had two words in the title. It was on every Friday. After it finished, my two girls went up to their beds."

Mr Prentice showed her the TV guide for that night which indicated the series started at 9.25pm and the next programme was at 10.15pm. The image also displayed other programmes including The New Avengers.

Mrs MacDowell told the prosecutor: "It was not that programme – not at that late hour. It was probably The New Avengers. I was confused. They wouldn't have been up at 9.25pm. I was very strict about that."

She admitted she got angry with DS Black who queried the discrepancies in her times.

Mrs MacDowell said to DS Black: "I don't know what you are getting on to me for. I never stabbed her or whatever happened to her."

Asked by Mr Prentice why she had said that, she responded: "It just came out that way in the spur of the moment. There was nothing meant by it.

Mr Prentice asked her: "Did you know she had been stabbed? "

Mrs MacDowell replied: "No, I did not. It just came out when one gets annoyed."

She then denied that she would prevent her husband from co-operating with the police.

Mr Prentice asked her about an evening on December 20, 1976 when she went into Inverness Police Station, asked a police cadet to take her to her husband and demanded that her husband leave immediately.

"Why did you go there?" Mr Prentice asked her.

"I was probably getting annoyed that they were keeping him there because he had nothing to do with it, Mrs MacDowell said.

Earlier the trial had heard from witnesses who placed Mrs MacRae's car in lay-bys at Dalmagarry and nearby Meallmore between 7pm and 8pm.

Retired engineer, 65-year-old Martin Shand said he saw two people, whom he thought might have been men, talking outside a BMW and a Volvo in the Dalmagarry lay-by.

Another witness, 90-year-old Nan MacDougall said she saw a person in a "gleaming raincoat" pushing a pushchair along the A9 near the location.

She said: "I thought it unusual that anyone would be out on such a night with a child. It was atrocious."

She couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman.

The trial ended for the day when MacDowell's defence agent, Murray McAra KC, told the court that his client, who is in a wheelchair was "struggling."

The trial is expected to continue for the next three weeks.

View our fact sheet on court reporting here

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