Renee MacRae murder trial – mum ‘planned a new life in Shetland’

A missing mother believed she and her two sons were going to start a new life in Shetland with her secret lover, a court has heard.

But 36-year-old Renee MacRae never got the chance as she disappeared with her three-year-old son, Andrew, on 12th November 1976, the High Court in Inverness was told.

They have not been seen since.

Her lover, Bill MacDowell, now aged 80, stands accused of their murders, disposing of their bodies at an unknown location in the Highlands.

He denies murdering the pair, and also denies destroying evidence by burning her blue BMW car, which was discovered in an A9 lay-by, 12 miles south of Inverness.

MacDowell has lodged special defences of alibi that he was elsewhere at the time and that Renee’s estranged husband, Gordon MacRae, along with unknown others, were responsible for the crimes.

The High Court in Inverness heard that Mrs MacRae had begun packing in her home in Inverness’s Cradlehall estate ready for the move, allegedly promised by Andrew’s father, building company secretary MacDowell, who worked for Mrs MacRae’s husband’s firm.

He was a married man with two daughters and lived in a luxury bungalow a short distance away from Mrs MacRae’s house.

Retired Beauly hairdresser, 80-year-old Sheila Fraser told the court that Renee had come to see her about two weeks before she disappeared.

She said she had heard that MacDowell was Andrew’s father and that Renee told her they were going away to Shetland to have a new life with him.

“I had lost contact with her and it was a shock when she came into my salon with Andrew, who I had never met. I was so pleased to see her.

“She said she was living with three of everything and was all packed.

“But she didn’t say when but it was soon. She looked very well and very happy.

“She left after half an hour and I have never seen them since,” Mrs Fraser added.

The trial, expected to last four weeks, continues.


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