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Murders of mother and son that haunted Highland community

THEY were the murders that shocked a highland town and had a significant impact on the people of Inverness for decades.

Renee MacRae adored her sons Andrew and his elder brother Gordon who were her life, which is why it made it all the harder to comprehend how Mrs MacRae and three-year-old Andrew could have simply disappeared 46 years ago.

Read more: Renee MacRae case: Killer urged to reveal where bodies are buried
At the time of her disappearance, she was separated from her husband of 12 years, Gordon MacRae. He was a construction company boss and the father of her eldest boy, nine-year-old Gordon.

Renee and Andrew MacRae murders: a crime that haunted a town for decadesWilliam MacDowell and Renee MacRae
She had been in an affair for four years with William MacDowell, a 34-year-old married man who was her husband’s company secretary.
As her former lover MacDowell was yesterday found guilty of the pair’s murders and sentenced to life, there is one thing that still haunts her family and officers involved in the case.

Renee and Andrew MacRae murders: a crime that haunted a town for decadesRenee MacRae and Andrew left for their trip in her blue BMW
Reacting to the guilty verdict at the High Court in Inverness, Detective Chief Inspector Brian Geddes said: “Renee and Andrew’s family, and friends, have waited decades for justice and I hope that the outcome in court today can provide some form of closure for them.”

Renee and Andrew MacRae murders: a crime that haunted a town for decadesRenee MacRae with her three-year-old son Andrew – their bodies have never been found
He said although justice had now been done, the mother and son’s bodies have not been found.
DCI Geddes added: “I would urge anyone who may have information about where they are to come forward so they can be provided with the dignity they deserve.
“In particular I would appeal directly to William MacDowell to speak to us and allow to bring closure to their family.”

Renee and Andrew MacRae murders: a crime that haunted a town for decadesA photofit which was issued at the time of a man police wanted to trace
The investigation into the disappearances has been one of Scotland’s longest running and enduring cases and has been subject to an ongoing police investigation since the events of November 1976.
An extensive review, Operation Abermule, led by detectives from Police Scotland’s Major Investigations Team in 2017 a re-investigation started the following year.
Officers looked at all the available material gathered over more than four decades, reviewing previous witness statements and where possible re-interviewing people who had given information about the case. 
The enquiry also involved a major operation in 2019 to drain and forensically search Leanach Quarry near Inverness for evidence. This involved removing more than 100,000 tonnes of material, with more than 5,000 tonnes subject to a thorough search by specialist officers over a five month period. Even though no evidence was found at Leanach Quarry, this was a significant line of enquiry which had to be exhausted. MacDowell was ultimately arrested in Cumbria in September 2019.

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