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Trial date for the case against Inverness man William MacDowell accused of murdering mother Renee MacRae and her young son three-year-old Andrew in 1976 further delayed

By Ali Morrison

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Renee MacRae.
Renee MacRae.

A trial date has been further delayed for the case against an Inverness man accused of murdering a mother and her young son in 1976.

A hearing was scheduled for the High Court in Inverness today when it was hoped it would be announced when and where 79 year old William MacDowell, now of Penrith, would be tried by jury.

However it didn't call as the hearing was "administratively discharged", a High Court spokesman said.

It has now been fixed for the High Court in Livingston for November 23 before Lord Armstrong.

The case has previously been delayed on several occasions for procedural reasons and investigations into whether MacDowell is fit enough to sit through a lengthy trial.

But last month, as it was anticipated a final decision would be made, MacDowell fell off a wall and injured his neck. He was hospitalised for treatment.

His counsel Murray McAra QC described it as a "bizarre incident". A further hearing was set for Inverness but did not take place.

Mr McAra told the judge last month: "He was sitting on a wall at the house he is living in and for some reason came off the wall, whether he lost consciousness or fell asleep.

"He fractured a vertebrae on his neck and remains in hospital.

"I spoke to him yesterday and he isn't being operated on but is in a neck brace and requires to wear a collar for six weeks."

A Crown Office spokesman refused to elaborate on why the hearing was rescheduled.

However it is believed the reason is related to MacDowell, whose presence has been regularly excused for the preliminary hearings, not having fully recovered from his injury.

MacDowell has denied killing Renee MacRae, 36, of Inverness, and three-year-old Andrew before allegedly disposing of their bodies.

The two murder charges claim Mr MacDowell assaulted 36-year-old Mrs MacRae and Andrew "by means unknown" causing both injury resulting in their death on November 12, 1976.

Prosecutors allege he had previously shown "malice and ill will" towards the mother and son.

Mr MacDowell faces a separate charge of then attempting to defeat the ends of justice.

This includes a claim Mr MacDowell – then aged 35 – disposed of the bodies and personal effects.

It is also alleged he set fire to a BMW car, got rid of a boot hatch from a Volvo car and a pushchair.

This was allegedly all done to conceal the murders in a bid to avoid arrest and prosecution.

View our fact sheet on court reporting here

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