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'Loving and kind' Renee MacRae remembered in BBC documentary examining case of missing Inverness mother and son

By Gregor White

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Renee MacRae with Andrew.
Renee MacRae with Andrew.

Murder Trial: The Disappearance of Renee and Andrew MacRae will run over two nights on the BBC.

The documentary includes extensive footage of the trial of William MacDowell who was found guilty at the High Court in Inverness last year of murdering his lover, Renee MacRae, and their son Andrew (3) in November 1976.

Their bodies have never been found and MacDowell died in prison in February, just months after being handed a life term for the killings.

Alongside the court footage the documentary also gives those who were closest to Renee and Andrew MacRae the chance to speak, often very movingly, about their memoires of the mother and son and how much they are missed.

Renee's sister Morag Govans recalls knowing immediately that something "drastic" had happened when Renee and Andrew went missing.

Evidence was heard in the trial of how Renee had told people she and Andrew were going to spend the weekend with Morag, who live in Kilmarnock.

Really, however, she had arranged to spend time with MacDowell as Morag said she had no expectation of a visit from her sister at that time.

Morag Govans, pictured in court, speaks of how she misses her sister.
Morag Govans, pictured in court, speaks of how she misses her sister.

She tells the documentary: "I knew that something drastic had happened. I knew that Renee would never have gone away, she just wouldn't have done that to us and she certainly wouldn't have gone away without Gordon, her other son. She was devoted to the two boys."

On the night of Renee and Andrew's disappearance Gordon Jnr (her son with her husband, also Gordon) was staying with his father.

Morag also recalls: "Renee was very loving and kind and she was a Highland dancer – we went to Highland games and she had won quite a lot of medals. We went to the local school and she was very clever Renee. She was supposed to go on to university but none of her friends were going so she didn't go.

"I wish her life had taken that path, it might have been different for her today."

Poignantly she thinks of the life they may have been able to emjoy as sisters too if Renee was stil alive: "As you get older it's actually harder because I feel that, you know, our families have grown up and we could go for coffee, go shopping, and we don't have that. And I miss that."

The documentary also includes archive footage of Margaret Ross, now deceased, who worked in the canteen of the building firm owned by Renee's husband Gordon and as a "home help" for Renee.

As well as remembering Renee as a "very kind, considerate and fair employer...a bit shy...sentimental" she speaks warmly of Andrew.

"He was a lovely little boy, Andrew," she says. "Full of life, would run about all day – you just couldn't take your eyes off him.

"He was always happy and he loved to get a record on – he loved to dance. He used to dance to Scotch on the Rocks. It was great to watch him."

Valerie Steventon was Renee MacRae's best friend.
Valerie Steventon was Renee MacRae's best friend.

Renee's friend Valerie Steventon – who testified how Renee had confided in her that she and Andrew were going away with MacDowell before her disappearance – had similar memories of the little boy.

"It's never ever gone away and I never ever forget about them," she says.

"I can see Andrew there. He was a lovely little boy, full of devilment. I used to watch him all the time. He was up to mischief all the time.

"He was gorgeous, as most babies are, but he was lovely. He was a super wee boy."

She remembers Renee as "one of the best...a very gentle person."

"She was part of the family," she says. "We grew up together. We were all in Beauly and there wasn't a lot to do then in the village and Gordon (MacRae) used to come upand be there as well and we'd stand at a corner talking, talking, talking all the time.

"I think they fancied each other from the very start and Renee used to be shy about it, but things just went on and on. They got together, got married, had little Gordon.

"They had a nice life, a comfortable life, and they got on quite well.

"Obviously over the years things didn't work out, the marriage broke up with Gordon.

"These things happen and you don't know why they happen."

The first part of Murder Trial: The Disappearance of Renee and Andrew MacRae is due to be broadcast on BBC Scotland at 10pm on Tuesday and will be repeated on BBC Two on Monday, August 28 at 9pm

Both episodes will also be available on BBC iPlayer from this Tuesday.

The documentary will screen in two parts on the BBC.
The documentary will screen in two parts on the BBC.

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