The following is a comprehensive account of the events surrounding the death of Willie MacRae. It is an extract from the book, ‘Britain’s Secret War. Tartan Terrorism and the Anglo-American State’ by Andrew Murray Scott and Iain MacLeay, Mainstream Publishing (1990)





To my mind it is abundantly clear that Willie McRae was a well- established, dangerous and deadly enemy of a state which will go to apparently any lengths to sustain and protect itself.

Alan Clayton, Scotsman letters page, 9 April 1988



THE A87 road from Invergarry to Kyle of Lochalsh outwith the tourist season is a lonely road. It curves steeply up from Invergarry village on its 54 miles to the Skye ferry at Kyle. At the spur of Mullach Coire Ardachaidh (3,130 feet) just before the road turns due north, away from Loch Garry , there is a viewpoint and a lay-by at the height of 1,100 feet. The view is dramatic. Then the road plunges down to the south-eastern side of Loch Loyne, facing Meall Odhar (2,677 feet), a square buttressed monster. The road crosses two cattle grids but it is possible, knowing the road, to accelerate to a considerable speed. The road descends, winding around the mountain. Just about 100 yards after the sign "Inverness-shire" there is a rather sharp bend which has a lay-by on its lochside at the flattened-out top of a spur which careers down to the loch, and then the road straightens out at about 920 feet above sea-level. One hundred yards further downhill, there is another lay-by at another spur, about half a mile short of the dam at the north-eastern end of the loch. It is in this lay-by that a cairn has been built, and a flagpole erected, to commemorate the mysterious death of Scottish solicitor, Willie McRae, in April 1985.

McRae's importance to the nationalist movement dated from the 1940s. He was involved with other nationalist groups and his name has been mentioned in previous chapters of this book. His links with David Dinsmore had led to his being the subject of close police scrutiny and he was the subject of 24-hour surveillance by officers of Strathclyde Special Branch.

His crashed car was discovered on the hillside, about 100 yards below the road, at 10 a.m. on Saturday, 6 April, but the cause of death was later found to be due to a bullet lodged in his brain. It took the police
two days to find a gun. The circumstances, and what happened after the discovery of his body, remain highly suspicious, a complete mystery, yet demands for a fatal accident inquiry have been consistently rejected. Many people have been led to ask: who killed Willie McRae?

William McRae was born in 1923 in Carron, the son of an electrician. His life and career was truly outstanding. At the age of six he could recite the whole of
Tam O' Shanter and he became a brilliant elocutionist and school debater at Falkirk High School. It was while he was at school that he joined the SNP. In the school holidays Willie and his brother Ferguson spent time in Kintail, the ancestral lands of the McRae's, staying with numerous relations. He retained a love of the area all his life. Outstanding success at school led to a place at Glasgow University studying history .He also edited a local newspaper in Grangemouth. He graduated with first-class honours and received a commission as a lieutenant in the Seaforth Highlanders. He served in India and soon transferred to the Royal Indian Navy, learning Urdu and Hindi quickly. He soon became the youngest captain in the service and had some lucky escapes in sea combat, being for a time in command of a destroyer . His ability ensured a rapid rise through the ranks to Lieutenant- Commander and by the end of the war he was a full Commander . He remained in India, having transferred to Naval Intelligence. There his nationalist sympathies led him into collaboration with the Indian nationalist movement -treason, of course, for a British subject - reputedly assisting a clandestine liberation radio station to keep operating one step ahead of the military police in the New Delhi area. He joined the Congress Party, met Indira Ghandi and helped to prepare the way for Independence in 1948. At the time of his death he was arranging a Scottish visit for Mrs Ghandi who is, of course, now also dead. He took out Pakistani citizenship and for the rest of his life retained dual nationality.

He returned from India and studied for an LLB at Glasgow, winning every single law prize on offer and being regarded as one of the most outstanding law students of his time. He was involved with Glasgow University Nationalist Association and played a part in the “theft” of the Stone of Destiny in 1950, being one of the people who hid the stone. After graduation he became a solicitor in the office of Abraham Levy and developed an interest in the Jews. He lectured for a time in Haifa as Emeritus Professor and assisted the fledgling Israeli state with its mercantile law canon. He was on personal terms with David Ben Gurion and other Israeli leaders and there is a plaque to his memory at Migdal Ha'Emek in Gallilee -"In loving memory of a Scottish Patriot and faithful friend of Israel" - erected in 1986. He travelled widely on business and went to both China and the USSR.

Willie McRae was an outstanding lawyer and when he went into business for himself in 1981, he prospered. He had been able in 1966 to buy the house at Camuslongart in Dornie, Kintail, and used it as a weekend home. He was a decisive man, truthful almost to the point of tactlessness, very forthright. And yet, he was a man with a wicked sense of humour, able to laugh in the midst of the most adverse circumstances -and especially at himself. He was a man of contradictions: extremely modest and yet rather flamboyant, reticent about his own outstanding career, yet he stood for Parliament several times: in 1970 in Glasgow Provan, and in 1974 he came within a few hundred votes of unseating the Conservative Energy Minister in Ross and Cromarty .His naval intelligence background came in handy in 1972 when he represented inshore fishermen against the Ministry of Defence proposal to site a torpedo testing range in the Inner Sound of Raasay. He was also an expert on Highland land use and drafted the SNP's policy on the subject. But his notoriety, as far as the British State was concerned began with the methods he used in the 1980 public inquiry at Mullwharchar .

The first UK public inquiry on the question of burial of nuclear waste commenced in Ayr Town Hall on 19 February 1980. The UK Atomic Energy Authority was appealing against the decision of the local District Council to refuse permission to test-drill into the hill of Mullwharchar in the Galloway Hills, south of Loch Doon, an area of outstanding natural beauty. Mullwharchar was at the centre of a large mass of Caledonian granite, and the application was only the first of several projected sites, nearly all of which - were in Scotland. McRae attended the inquiry as legal adviser for the Scottish National Party. The objectors included Friends of the Earth, the Scottish Conservation Society, SCRAM, the NUM and various local councils and two MPs. The inquiry was expected to last several days and instead lasted almost one month. McRae's questioning was aimed at eliciting information from the AEA which they would have preferred to have kept secret, and at one point the refusal of an expert to reveal the source of his information led to a headline "Test Bore Witness Tight-Lipped" in the
Scotsman. McRae threatened that he would have a parliamentary question asked of the Minister for the Environment -and then he did receive the information on condition that he withdrew the parliamentary question. His readiness to take matters above the heads of the experts direct to Parliament had clearly worried the AEA. He was an expert in discovering loopholes and chinks in the armour, and his participation at the inquiry was authoritative.

After the decision had been taken -to uphold the planning decision and reject the test-drilling -the AEA were forced to reconsider their policy of burial of nuclear waste. The decision was a considerable setback to the nuclear industry and although they have now adopted the idea of vitrifying waste into blocks of glass and storing these at Sellafield for 50 years they have no further plans beyond that point. In effect, the Mullwharchar decision ended the policy of test-drilling in the UK (apart from drilling at a site on land at Altnabreac owned by Liberal peer, Lord Thurso) and the concept of burial of nuclear waste. It is alleged, however, that test-drilling was
not abandoned but was merely carried out without planning permission. Nationalists were later to claim that electron seismatic testing was conducted in Glen Etive in 1982. Whatever the truth of these allegations, the industry has been prevented from planning publicly for the long-term disposal of its by-product, a situation that has caused them considerable problems in long-term planning. Mullwharchar was a highly significant victory, described in the Glasgow Herald as "the most celebrated environmental crusade ever seen in Scotland".

Willie McRae took up the theme of the funding sources of University Geological Departments and the question of the impartiality of higher academic institutions in a series of letters in national newspapers and engaged in a furious correspondence war with leading geologists. He felt he had achieved a partial victory by alerting the public to the fact that the nuclear industry was funding many supposedly independent research bodies. While this battle was going on, there were a large number of "unexplained activities" going on throughout the country and McRae pioneered a very strong SNP line on the issue; the party was committed to direct action and civil disobedience to prevent nuclear dumping.

As has already been seen, McRae was orchestrating the increasingly militant activities of Siol Nan Gaidheal, who held a massive , demonstration and march at Ayr at the time of the inquiry and founded the "Oystercatcher" brigade and caravan in Glen Etive to "monitor and physically prevent the nuclear industry workers from test-drilling or sampling the rocks and soil. McRae had obtained documents that had been removed from a private meeting of the International Atomic Energy Forum held at Otaniemi near Helsinki in July 1979. One document, titled
The National Policy For The Underground Disposal Of Radioactive Wastes In The United Kingdom revealed the targeting of Glen Etive and listed a time scale for drilling test-bores prior to an application for planning permission! The Glen Etive campaign did serve to draw attention to the secrecy with which the nuclear industry sought to conduct its business and it did delay and ultimately end the geologists' activities. The SNP were also committed to fighting the nuclear industry's idea for the "European Demonstration Reprocessing Plant" (EDRP), which the Government wanted to site in Scotland to process fast reactor fuel from all of Europe. They thought that by siting it at Dounreay which was already a nuclear installation in a sparsely populated area, where many already depended for their livelihood on the nuclear industry, there would be little or no opposition. They were wrong. McRae was intending to take a full and active part in the public inquiry and his name was already on the list of objectors. The inquiry was scheduled to start in Thurso on 7 April 1986. This was to be, by mysterious coincidence, the anniversary of his death.

At about 6.30 p.m. on Good Friday, 5 Apri11985, McRae left his top-floor flat at 6 Balvicar Drive, Glasgow, to drive north to his holiday home at Dornie. He was planning to spend the weekend working on his book about the nuclear industry and he had also made plans to visit some friends in Plockton, about eight miles from his house. He needed to catch up on sleep. He had a busy week ahead of him in Glasgow and his sleep on the night before had been interrupted when, due to his habit of smoking in bed, his bedclothes caught fire in the early hours of the morning.

It had been an unfortunate incident. He had been visiting his godson, Howard Singerman, on the Thursday evening and had come home late and very tired. He had not been drinking, because Singerman did not drink, but had fallen asleep with a lit cigarette in his mouth. He was wakened by a considerable amount of smoke from the smouldering blankets. He jumped out of bed and took the blackened blankets to the bathroom, threw them into the bath and turned on the tap. Unfortunately, he had forgotten that the new bathroom suite was acrylic. It burst into flames and he was overcome with smoke and acrid fumes. Luckily, two tradesmen passing the house on their way to work saw the flames and while one rushed to phone the Fire Brigade, the other ran up the stairs and broke into the flat. He found Willie McRae unconscious on the floor in the hall.

The Fire Brigade arrived and there was chaos while the fire was put out. It was 8 a.m. by this time and Willie's neighbours attempted to console him in his smoke-damaged flat. He was covered in soot and suffering from shock. He had undoubtedly inhaled some of the smoke and acrid fumes but refused to be taken to a doctor. He was embarrassed at the fuss he had caused and annoyed at his own carelessness. He remained in the flat throughout Good Friday and his business partner, Ronnie Welsh, visited him. Gradually his good spirits returned. "I never did like that bathroom suite," he joked.

His next door neighbours, Mr and Mrs Stewart, retired Church missionaries, had been out for most of the day and when they returned about 5 p.m., Willie was alone. They could see him sitting in his lounge. Mr Stewart took him a bowl of soup and they chatted. Willie refused an offer of the use of the Stewarts' bathroom. "No, no, I know where I can get cleaned up," Willie said, indicating that he planned to drive north to Dornie. Mr Stewart returned to his own flat and at approximately 6.30 p.m., as another neighbour arrived at the house, Willie McRae was already in his car and driving away.

The drive from Glasgow to Dornie takes about four hours, depending on the traffic conditions, and McRae's maroon Volvo 244 had made the journey very often before. He used his holiday home as often as he could and knew the route to it very well. He took the A82 round the western side of Loch Lomond and continued through the Black Mountains into Glen Coe, to Fort William, Spean Bridge and by Lagganside to Invergarry where he joined the lonely A87 to Kyle of Lochalsh. It was a dry, moonlit night, ideal for such a drive. We can speculate that, with little traffic on the road, the drive was a soothing and pleasant experience, except that, a few miles past Invergarry McRae's car developed a puncture and he had to change the wheel in quite dark conditions, at about 9.30 pm. Once the wheel was changed and he had put the punctured wheel on the car on the back seat, he continued his journey. But it was a journey that was to last for only a couple of miles further.

Willie McRae never did reach his beloved "Camusty". The book he was working on, his files and briefcase, have disappeared as if they had never existed. At about 10 a.m. the next morning, 6 April -by coincidence the 665th anniversary of Scottish Independence and the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320 - Alan Crowe, aged 43, an Australian airline pilot on holiday with his wife, noticed McRae’s car. It was something of a fluke that he had seen the car for it was 100 yards beneath the road on the steep hillside. Crowe was travelling, north and drove on for a further three miles discussing with his wife what he thought he had seen, until they decided to turn the car and drive back to look for themselves. They stopped in a lay-by and looked down to the bank of the loch where the Volvo could be seen straddling a small burn. It was upright at an angle of about 45 degrees, facing south, with a dent in the roof; the back screen was partially smashed, the front windscreen was intact and a man was slumped in the driver's seat. He appeared to be dead. The door was jammed against the bank. The window was wound fully down. Crowe ran back up to the road and flagged down the next car that passed. It had just started to rain.

By another of those coincidences that seem to happen more frequently than statistics would allow, the next car to appear was driven by a doctor -Dr Dorothy Messer -and contained her fiancé, George Lochhead, and David Coutts, a Dundee District Councillor and his wife, Alison. The party were on their way to Skye. By an even greater coincidence, Coutts, an SNP activist, actually knew McRae, although only very slightly, and had, only minutes before at the Invergarry Post Office, struck up a conversation with local ex-Councillor Fred McCallum (whom he had not previously met, but who was wearing an SNP badge, leading to their conversation on the outstanding qualities of McRae as parliamentary candidate for the area.

The first thing that Coutts actually noticed when he scrambled down the steep hillside was the SNP sticker on the window of the car. "My God! It's a nationalist!" he'd remarked to his wife, then he got a shock when he looked into the car and saw that the slumped figure in the driving seat was Willie McRae.

McRae's hands were folded in his lap, on which also lay the car keys. His head was leaning on his right shoulder and there was a considerable amount of blood on his temple, reaching up to the hairline. Everyone assumed McRae had been the victim of a car accident.

Alan Crowe suggested that Dr Messer drive for assistance since neither of the Coutts could drive, and there was a brief discussion over who should go to phone for an ambulance and the police. The problem was solved by another motorist agreeing to drive to the nearest telephone. By this time several cars had stopped and, in fact, several cars went off on this same errand. Meanwhile, introducing herself as a doctor, Dorothy Messer pulled McRae upright and took his pulse. Her initial impression, which she subsequently retracted several days later, was that McRae was already dead. This was the recollection of those other persons present but the doctor now states that she knew that he was still alive, since his chest was moving and he was still breathing. She noticed that one pupil was dilated, the sign of extensive brain damage. She estimated that he had been in that position for about ten hours, placing the time of the "accident" at around midnight.

When an ambulance arrived from Fort Augustus, driven by a one-man freelance ambulance man, the small group of Coutts, Messer, Lochhead, Crowe and the ambulance man, Mr Douglas, began the slow task of extricating Willie McRae from the car - an extremely difficult job. The ambulance driver recalled: "I don't remember whether he had his belt on, but I guess if he hadn't he wouldn't still have been in his seat. He was slumped down on his right-hand side against the door. I do remember the window was open. The car was lying at about 45 degrees and it was a hell of a job getting him out, he was a big bloke and I can't see him clambering out through the windscreen." The ambulance driver's testimony differs from that of the other witnesses in several important respects, one of which is his recollection that the front windscreen was missing, though he and all the others agree there were no pieces of glass either in the car or on McRae.

A young policeman, PC McBeth, arrived from Fort William and assisted in lifting McRae into the ambulance. It was now raining very heavily and since everyone was of the opinion that McRae had been the victim of a car accident, there seemed no reason to linger at the scene. The policeman handed Coutts the holdall from the car and asked him to collect up all the personal effects. Coutts obliged, putting his hand into the smashed rear window to collect some papers inside. He looked around to check that he had collected everything and it was then that he saw a small pile of papers "meticulously ripped up " together with a credit card, the bill for a new distributor cap from a garage in Kyle and McRae's watch with smashed face -all in a neat pile about 15 yards north-east of the car, up the hill towards the road. Coutts informed the policeman of this and showed him the bill. PC McBeth finally accepted that the victim
was McRae because the bill had his name on it. Coutts put all the bits and pieces in the bag; a couple of books, a bible and a half-consumed half-bottle of whisky. There was no sign of a briefcase, nor any canons of cigarettes in the car. McRae took his briefcase with him everywhere and certainly would have had it on a working weekend at Camuslongan. Likewise, he always had a large canon of packets of his favourite Gold Flake in the car -he was a chain smoker.

Dr Messer travelled in the ambulance with McRae's body to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness. There it was decided that brain surgery was the only hope and he was transferred to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary -standard procedure in cases involving any type of head injury .He was put on a life-support machine and his head X-rayed. The bullet wound was then discovered, and the single bullet was revealed to have macerated his brain, undoubtedly, destroying all motor function instantaneously. Willie McRae's brother, Dr Ferguson McRae, and his wife Moira travelled to Aberdeen and after a discussion with the consultant neurologist and a telephone conversation with Ronnie Welsh, It was decided to switch off the life-support machine. Formal time of death was given as 3.30 p.m. on Sunday, 7 April.





The body was returned to Raigmore after the formal pronouncement of death and a post-mortem was conducted by consultant pathologist, Dr Henry Richmond. There are very few cases of death by gunshot in Scotland -an average of one per year and even fewer where a handgun is involved. This means that medical staff and pathologists are not experienced in dealing with such injuries and deaths caused by these means are invariably investigated by forensic specialists. Forensic medicine is a highly specialised field and there' are few experienced specialists in Scotland. Aberdeen Royal Infirmary had, until his retirement in December 1988, a very experienced forensic pathologist, Dr W. T. Hendry, who would have been very well qualified to carry out an autopsy once the body had been pronounced dead. Dr Hendry had dealt with a number of gunshot cases in his lengthy career. Dr Hendry, however, did not see or hear of the case until he read about it in the newspapers. Instead, the body was returned to Raigmore. Dr Richmond will not comment on whether he was dealing with his first gunshot case, but a check with the Scottish Information Office and the Registrar-General reveals that there has been only one handgun death (McRae's) in the Highland area during the last 20 years. Apparently the procurator-fiscal at Inverness had requested that the body be examined at Inverness. Surely a post-mortem should have been carried out at the earliest opportunity and surely the particular experience of Dr Hendry could have been utilised by having that examination in Aberdeen?

Cases of unexplained sudden death are examined by forensic specialists in terms of the inter-related factors of (a) body, (b) scene, and (c) personal history .By examining these factors closely it is possible to arrive at a conclusion. Often, however, this is merely based or a balance of opinion and a more definitive statement is not possible. In the McRae case the forensic specialists were able only to make a speculative deduction on the manner of death although this has been interpreted by the Lord Advocate as conclusive enough to ride roughshod over all demands from all quarters for a fatal accident inquiry. Clearly, their examination proved that the manner of death was "undetermined" as opposed to being clearly the result of "natural causes", "homicide" or "suicide".

Since the post-mortem report has not been made publicly available -and it should be pointed out that even Dr Fergus McRae did not receive a printed copy of it- several important facts of the case cannot be disputed. The gun which was found, after two days of searching, under an overhang of a narrow, deep burn was McRae's own, a Smith & Wesson 45 revolver (not as rumour suggested a hand-made Afghan gun). Two shots had been fired. The only fingerprints on the revolver were McRae's. The bullet in McRae's head was from his revolver. These factors cannot be disputed. Equally, the fact that the gun's location was more than 20 yards from the site of the car
(which had been removed prior to the finding of the gun) is not in dispute either. Indeed, in an off-the-record interview with TV journalist Roger Cook (12 March 1987), Mr Peter Fraser, the then Solicitor-General and now Lord Advocate said: "I don't think the gun was found 40 to 50 feet away, although it was certainly further away than it would have been if it had just fallen from his grasp and it is unlikely, given his head injury, that he could have thrown it. I agree that the angle he was lying at and the recoil from the gun is, far more likely to have resulted in his arm being found outside the window." Another fact is that McRae's body had no alcohol in the bloodstream. Coutts was told this by the procurator-fiscal and the Solicitor-General later confirmed this, as he also confirmed the existence of the "neat pile" of papers.

In cases of gunshot death, the body should be removed from the scene with as little handling as possible to avoid loss of trace evidence. The hands of those lifting the body should be paper- bagged and the body should be moved in clear plastic sheeting to avoid contamination. None of these precautions had been taken, because McRae was still alive when he was moved. The sheer effort required to move him from his inaccessible place meant that the body had been handled a great deal before his wounds were even examined. Not only that, but his wounds had been washed and dressed at Raigmore and undoubtedly again in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. So, by the time his body was examined by Dr Richmond at Raigmore, much- if not most -of the vital forensic evidence had already been removed.

Before a post-mortem is carried out, an X-ray is taken, prior to removing clothing, which is examined separately. Residues are recovered from the victim's hands with swabs soaked in dilute nitric acid and the presence or lack of trace evidence; soot and propellant grains is noted. A handgun leaves distinct traces of these in the palms when it is fired, and, in cases of handgun suicide, there are usually traces of blood "spatter" on the index finger and thumb and the back of the hand -particularly if the shot was to the head -and 80 per cent of gun suicides are to the head (15 per cent to chest and 5 per cent to abdomen). The wounds are photographed and correlated with the clothing then both are examined minutely with a dissecting microscope. The body is cleaned and photographed, the wounds listed and described, the bullet wounds are traced and the bullet removed. Bullet wounds are three-dimensional. There is the injury mark on the surface of the skin and a "track " inside the body and generally an abrasion "ring" and often "searing" around the wound edge. The length of the gun barrel of the revolver used is directly related to the presence of all these features. Typically, a Smith & Wesson 45 produces considerable amounts of propellant powder and soot on the surface of the skin and inside the "track". If the gun is available at the post-mortem which it wasn't in this case, the muzzle imprint on the head can be compared with the weapon's muzzle. Whenever a bullet enters the body, it displaces the skin around its entry point, causing a crease, the skin being pushed imperceptibly outwards around the entry hole.

The nightmare for the pathologist in this case was that almost certainly all traces of soot, propellant powder and blood were already removed. Then there is the peculiar effect known as "tattooing" which is very obvious to the naked eye. This is actually the body's reaction to, or rejection of, the implanting of propellant grains, and it produces a grainy red-brown or orange-red effect like a rash. Tattooing cannot be removed, but this very obvious feature does not appear to have been seen by any of the witnesses, including Dr Messer, and the paramedic, or by the medical staff at Raigmore, raising serious grounds for doubt as to whether any tattooing existed. Tattooing is a definite feature for all close-range shots -which includes shots fired from a few centimetres to one metre from the body -but may exist in both contact wounds (where the muzzle is pressed against the body) and in long-range (i.e. over one metre away) wounds. The existence of tattooing would almost certainly be expected in a gunshot suicide. The lack of it, which we must presume and a nurse on duty in ward 40 of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary when McRae was brought in has confirmed that there did not appear to be powder burns. This seriously weakens the presumption of suicide as far as the pathologist is concerned.

Contact wounds are typically, but not always, self-inflicted. The crucial point is that they include hard contact to the body. In such cases, the bullet rarely exits and internal ricochet is common. Generally there is an absence of wound-edge tearing but often several concentric circles of soot and propellant "baked" into the skin and, of course, the tattooing. Soot, propellant, vapourised bullet, primer and cartridge case metals and carbon oxide appear in and along the wound track. It would appear that there were no large rings of soot around the wound when Willie McRae's body was discovered. Certainly, there was no soot by the time the body was examined by Dr Richmond. And if it
had been present when McRae's body was discovered, surely someone would have seen it and mentioned it. After all, no one at the scene was aware of the fire at his flat or that there might be an "innocent" reason for his being covered in soot - if he was.

The ammunition which went with Willie McRae's Smith & Wesson was of the same age as the revolver itself, dating from 1948, if not earlier: 29 gramme solid or 27 to 29 gramme 0.223 inch hollow point lead bullet, unjacketed, with a standard velocity powder loading. The gun itself was of a low muzzle velocity type -relatively inefficient -and would undoubtedly produce a large quantity of powder and propellant on the skin. So why, had this not been remarked by any of the witnesses at the
scene? Clearly, the kind of detailed forensic examination required in the post-mortem conducted by Dr Richmond must have been almost impossible under the circumstances. Apart from the internal injuries and the wound "track" details which he was presumably able to elicit, he must have been entirely unable to decide with any certainty whether the wound was a contact one or caused by a close-range shot. The gun was not available so muzzle imprint -one of the most vital pointers to a contact wound -could not be confirmed. It would appear that there were no visible soot marks, abrasions or tattooing visible on the skin, all features which playa major part in establishing the range of the shot. He would have had to build a case based on generalities: a presumption of suicide based on the statistic that 80 per cent of handgun suicides are caused by shots to the temple, the fact that "test-firing" is common in suicide, that suicide notes are rarely left, that in 80 per cent of suicides the gun is not found in the victim's hand. ... But perhaps not that last, because the sheer distance of the gun from the position of the victim is the most baffling enigma of the whole case. Nor can an explanation be provided for tile presence of the neat pile of papers, watch and credit card found 15 yards from the crashed car, whose driver was unable to get out of the car because of the angle at which it lay, whose driver was brain dead from a shot which had instantly terminated all possibilities of bodily movement...



At a commemoration ceremony organised by the Willie McRae Society (the Society formed to fight for a fatal accident inquiry) at the cairn, in 1987, there was the start of a remarkable controversy as to where exactly McRae's car had been found! Approximately one hundred people attended this ceremony. The Scotsman's Alex Main reported the controversy:

...before the formalities could take place the issue facing those who had braved the cold easterly wind was to establish where the incident had occurred. Mr John Farquhar Munro, an old friend of Mr McRae, had earlier pinpointed an outcrop overlooking the loch. There, in preparation for the ceremony, he had raised a flagstaff from which the Saltire flew at half-mast.

Mr Munro, a Wester Ross contractor and Alliance chairman of Skye & Lochalsh District Council, had also arranged for one of his lorries to tip a load of rocks as a foundation for a commemorative cairn.
Pointing to where the heather sloped steeply towards the loch, Mr Munro said: "There is no doubt but that it is the spot. I was here the day after it happened and I know this area like the back of my hand."

But Dr [
sic!] David Coutts, the SNP district councillor who was on holiday with his wife Alison when they were among the first to come across Mr McRae's crashed car, insisted that it had happened at a similar spot more than a mile along the road towards Invergarry.

Mr Coutts led a group of less than a dozen down "his" slope while the remainder of the gathering and a bewildered television crew from England debated which location they should attend. The majority decided to join those at Mr Munro's site.

Embarrassment was avoided when Mr Coutts and his friends made a symbolic stone-laying gesture at what they believed was the spot before joining the main group. Mr Coutts conceded: "This is certainly a more convenient spot for the public to visit and pay their respects, even if it isn't where it all actually happened." The site which he believed to be the locus is 1.4 miles further south -in Lochaber District.

The dispute over the precise site was undoubtedly a factor in the postponing, indefinitely, of a TV documentary programme on McRae's death. David Coutts also found himself at the receiving end of a considerable amount of criticism by his refusal to accept Mr Munro's site. He. subsequently wrote to the procurator-fiscal at Inverness: "… as there is dubiety, unfounded in my opinion, as to the exact location of the accident, could you please give me exact details of this and specifically with regard to how far the car was off the main road at the time it came to rest. Could you tell me if a reconstruction did take place and if that was the case, was it in the correct place?"

Coutts's theory was that a reconstruction had led, by some error, to the adoption of the wrong location and had created its own car debris in a different locus. The fiscal did not reply. Instead, Coutts received a lecture from the Solicitor-General, Peter Fraser, on the advantages of the Scottish legal system over the English system, and the support which various SNP figures had given it over the years. There was no reference whatsoever to the subjects of Coutts's inquiry .The tone of the letter is hectoring and aggressive. "I am only surprised," it ends, "that you are not prepared to accept the views of your own chairman."

Coutts claimed that he had been told by the fiscal that a reconstruction was to take place. Chief Superintendent Andrew Lester, Northern Counties Commander CID, denies this. "There was no need to do a reconstruction as far as we were concerned." Chief Superintendent Lester took over the investigation personally ; after the discovery of the bullet wound. Coutts was later shown a large number of photographs by the police, and found it impossible to confirm that they had been taken at the spot where he had found the car. These photographs clearly showed the car in its correct position relative to the ground; upright, slightly on its side, door
jammed into the earth etc, and had been taken early on the Sunday prior to the removal of the car about midday. On some of the photographs there was a cross marked to reveal the position of the gun which had been found subsequent to the car's removal. The new Northern Counties Commander, Chief Constable Hugh C. MacMillan has refused access to the photographs, on the grounds that they are "confidential to the Crown and the police", thus direct and definitive evidence as to which site the police and the - fiscal regard as the correct locus cannot be obtained. It was claimed that marks on the soft verge between the two lay-bys revealed that the car had left the road at an approximate angle of 30 degrees. Two persons who had been fishing in the loch on the Easter Monday (or the Tuesday) came up to the road and substantiated the marks on the soft verge and glass on the road approximately 50 yards south of the marks. One of the men was Councillor John Farquhar Munro. This is odd, since the car was recovered up the section of hillside to the north of the locus for its journey to Inverness. The glass was, in fact, according to the allegation, at the lay-by. One of Willie McRae's friends, Donnie Blair, was at the scene on the Sunday about 3 p.m. and took photographs of the site and later of the car in the garage in Inverness. He was able to substantiate the tyre tracks on tile verge and marks where the car had "ploughed" over the grass as if, he felt, the brakes were being applied as it went over. As to how the car's final positioning could be explained, it has been assumed that the car's speed was in excess of 50 mph. McRae was a fast driver and knew the road very well. The stretch prior to the corner allows for build-up of considerable speed.

The car may have left tile road and careered down the steep bank. What may be a tiny fragment of rusty undersill has been found. The car's progress was alt4~red by the presence of a line of stones and heathery bushes, and possibly by the brakes of the vehicle itself. Quantities of windscreen glass are still visible in the roots of the heather which grows around tile rocks. Interestingly, while the ambulance driver claims the windscreen was completely removed, and Coutts recalls that it was intact, all the witnesses agree there was no glass either inside the car or on McRae. There is also the statement of John Munro and his friend of the large amount of glass on the road 50 yards south of the locus, at the lay-by, which implies a windscreen shattered in the course of the incident, but not the crash.

Blair's photographs reveal some crumpling of the roof but relatively low levels of damage to the car and do not clearly imply a somersault. Surprisingly, none of the small rocks show any signs of being scraped. Such violent action would cause considerable damage to the car, yet there is the testimony of the witnesses that there was not much damage. "Not much damage," was also the verdict of Donnie Blair. The photographs which he took apparently also show bloodstained marks on the bulkhead above the driver's door. He had not been able to test these marks and feels that they may possibly have been rust. There was a "clean" new wheel on the rear offside. The amount of damage is inconsistent with somersaulting or violent collision, yet the car had come to rest in an upright position, facing back the way it had come... logistically, it is difficult to explain.

Surely Coutts and his wife Alison must be wrong! Why would the police turn the matter over to the Inverness procurator if the death had occurred within Lochaber? The Fort Augustus police "beat" spans both Inverness-shire and Lochaber and they deal with investigations on behalf of both procurator-fiscals at Inverness and at Fort William, and they are aware of the boundaries.

Both the fiscals, Mr Aitchison (now retired) at Inverness and Mr McGillveray at Fort William knew McRae slightly, both having worked at Dingwall Sheriff Court when McRae was a prospective parliamentary candidate at two general elections. But this was a professional acquaintance and they were hardly close. The local rumour that the investigation was handled by Mr Aitchison who was a "friend" so as to give the impression of a fair and rigorous investigation while a cover-up was being perpetrated is a slur on the integrity of both fiscals and, of course, utter nonsense. If the investigation was handled out of jurisdiction this was because of some error or mistake over the site. It had nothing to do with either fiscal. But what would be the motivation for the Coutts's refusal to accept the other site if not a simple belief that it was wrong and , "their" site was right? They had no reason to lie. It would have been easier for them to have gone along with the crowd -after all they are only witnesses and are not interested in trying to prove anything. It is hardly fair that Coutts should have been blamed for causing discord when, in fact, the cairn which everyone else seems to have accepted so readily was erected without consultation! One wonders what could have prompted Mr Munro to take such a precipitate action one year after the incident, and why he did not consult with the eye-witnesses with regard to the site. He was one of the fishermen who came up from the Loch on the Easter Monday ( or the Tuesday --he cannot recall) and confirmed the glass on the road and the mark:; on the verge, but he did not see the car itself at all. He was not present, as he claimed, "the day after it happened" because the car was found on the Saturday, removed on the Sunday and he didn't arrive on the scene until Monday or perhaps even Tuesday.

An examination of both sites is clearly necessary for the purposes of this book. One of the first impressions obtained after such an examination is the
similarity of both sites in all essential features. The hillside above Loch Loyne is rugged and steep and, really, for someone who did not know the area well, one place could be confused with another. The only way to orientate yourself in such a place is to judge your position relative to prominent natural features. Clearly, the loch with its two small islands was the most prominent feature in view from the hillside. There is, however, one essential difference between the sites. At Coutts's site you see the loch -but at the other site you see the dam. Standing beneath Mr Munro's cairn you cannot fail to notice that you are near the end of the loch. You also see an island directly opposite you and another about halfway to the dam. At Coutts's site, 1.4 miles south-east, all you notice is the loch, the end of which you cannot see, and neither of the small islands are visible. None of the witnesses present on that day mentioned the dam, and Dr Messer (now Lochhead) and her husband, when specifically questioned on this point, remembered that the site was "about the middle of the loch". The most auspicious feature of the "Munro site" itself is the concrete culvert, which no one could fail to notice. Yet no one present at the locus of the crashed car seems to have remembered it! The compelling feature of the "Lochaber site" is its distance from the road. It will be remembered that the initial statements of the witnesses, of the mechanic and the police was that the car was at least 100 yards from the road. The problem of the "Munro site" is that the locus of the car is only 35 yards from the road.

It is difficult to prove something without evidence. The "Munro site" has a large amount of evidence in its favour. Mr Michael Strathern and his son, Lachlan, friends of Mr McRae, have a large amount of parts of a car, or cars, which they collected from this site one full year after the incident. We are asked to believe that the police investigation was conducted in such a sloppy manner that a large amount of important physical evidence remained at the site unexamined, despite the clamour of the press, despite the pressure on the authorities to produce results. Clearly, the car parts collected by Mr Strathern must be from several cars, though what person or persons would add such "evidence" to the site is a matter for psychiatrists. There have been several such incidents. A car-load of persons disembarked for a photo-session at the site. Prior to taking the photos they carefully placed a Volvo hub-cap on the verge; a hub-cap they had brought with them! Of course, if the car parts collected by the Stratherns
are from McRae's car, then questions need to be asked about the thoroughness of the police investigation.

It might be supposed that the garage mechanic could assist with the question of the site. Unfortunately, the evidence which he has supplied seems so contradictory as to support neither case, and creates an enigma all of its own!

The mechanic recalls "very vividly" the operation to retrieve McRae's vehicle on Sunday, 7 April 1985. This is partly because of the practical difficulties which he had to overcome. He remembers that the car was "at least 100 yards off the road" near the head of Loch Cluanie The mechanic, who lives in Inverness and is not very well acquainted with the area, could have made such an error. However, he recalls that he had to reverse very slowly down a side road past rocks the size of cars, and attach a winch. He then pulled the Volvo on to this old road. He did this because he did not want his operation to block the main road. Unfortunately, there are only two side roads on the hillside above Loch Loyne; one is just above the bridge and runs back to the dam, used only by Hydro-Electric engineers and is nowhere near either site, and the other, with a steel boom gate, is at the other end, about 35 yards south of Coutts's lay-by, but offers no access to the slope for that site. A check of the area around the head of Loch Cluanie reveals one side road to a house just beneath the dam, but no rocks of the size which he describes, and not even a slope. ... What are we to make of his testimony? Is it simply all wrong, the product of a faulty memory? What are we to make of Mr Douglas, the one-man ambulance service who initially claimed that the distance was 100 feet, which might seem to favour the "Munro site", then became converted under questioning to 100 yards, which favours the "Coutts site". He too, remembered a very rocky environment, which simply isn't the case at either site. Despite the fact that the "Coutts site" is logistically more favourable, the corroboration by Donnie Blair of John Munro's testimony, and the finding of material evidence at the other site must mean that David Coutts and his wife are mistaken. The large amount of car parts left at the site cannot be a deliberate attempt to confuse, nor could the car possibly have been moved from one site to the other for any reason by the police. That calls for a very high degree of collusion throughout the police force to ordinary constable level -and that is plainly nonsense. We still regard the explanation as to how the car achieved its final position at the "Munro site" as unsatisfactory Since the car had been found there, there must be a way to explain its positioning. And, simply, we believe that the speed of the car was much less than proposed. The testimony concerning what could be seen at the locus -the loch, dam, islands, culvert- was collected five years after the initial questioning. These questions were not asked at the time and, while interesting, can in no way be considered conclusive evidence. The material evidence of the marks on the verges and the glass and car parts cannot be over-ruled. The police photographs, when finally revealed in the course of a public inquiry, will show that the incident occurred beneath the cairn, about half a mile from the end of the loch.

Quite apart from the debate over the site, there is an extraordinary amount of disagreement over the extent of the damage to the car. The garage mechanic recalls that the car was "a write-off". Chief Superintendent Lester refers to "considerable damage", "definitely consistent" with the car rolling over, though he concedes that this occurred largely on moss. Both David Coutts, Mr Gillespie (the McRae & Dick garage manager) and Donnie Blair, who took photographs of the car in the garage on the Tuesday, testify that there was relatively little damage. "Simply not enough evidence of roof damage to suggest the car somersaulted," said one. "The pictures made that quite clear. " Blair felt that the damage was not extensive enough to conclude that the car had been travelling very fast, although he felt that it had probably rolled as it came off the road.

And what about that half bottle of whisky in the glove compartment that didn't smash ? The holdall and the wheel with the puncture which remained on the back seat until the car was found ? McRae had remained in the driving seat despite his safety belt being unfastened. Or had he unfastened it later, after the car had come to a halt?

The discovery that McRae's car had had a puncture during the fatal drive, only a couple of miles from where he met his death, at such a late stage gives grounds for serious doubt about the extent and thoroughness of the original investigation. What, for example, had caused the puncture in the first place? Why had McRae put the punctured wheel in the back seat instead of in the voluminous boot? The new wheel, which
was brand new, on the rear offside, had been changed only a mile or two before the crash and was still extremely clean when seen in the garage on the Tuesday. The fact that he had had to change the wheel and had done so, in very dark conditions, says important things about his mental state. If, as some have suggested, a puncture was "the last straw" and had triggered violent anger in an admittedly irascible man, why calmly change the wheel, drive on for a couple of miles and then shoot oneself?

The Australian tourist/ airline pilot, Alan Crowe, first on the scene of death on 6 April, is not now contactable. There is no Crowe listed in Bracknell, Berks, and mail addressed to him at his address has been returned marked "not known here -return to sender". It may be that Crowe's holiday simply ended and he left the country entirely naturally -after all, investigations were complete and no one had requested he stay for official reasons. He collaborated entirely freely with the fiscal's investigations although he had little contact with press reporters, and neither of the other principal witnesses spoke to him after 6 April. He seems to have left behind two separate addresses where he could be contacted; 8 Birch Grove, Bracknell, Berks., and, jotted on a postcard at the scene and handed to David Coutts, another address, 8 Church Way , Aldgrove. Here is a further mystery. There is no " Aldgrove" anywhere in the UK. The nearest to it is" Aldergrove" -which is of course an airport, near Belfast. None of the pilots there -and it is a relatively small airport- had ever heard of him and the British Airline Pilots Association has no record of his ever having worked in the UK.

It is little satisfaction to know that the police photographs-definite proof which still exists -could solve the dispute over the site and the amount of damage to McRae's car. And, with Mr Crowe summoned as a witness in a public inquiry , there would be no room for dispute on such crucial factors.



Several times in the weeks before his death Willie McRae had confided to close friends including Ian Watt, a retired educationalist whom he had known since his days at University, in a tone of elation, "I've got them! I've got them!", though he did not specify what this meant. Why did he feel the need to have his revolver with him on all occasions ? He was certainly under surveillance by Strathclyde Special Branch. This was originally confirmed several months after his death but is now denied. A list of number plates of cars allegedly involved in "tailing" Willie McRae was checked on the police network computer and while one belongs to a car that apparently doesn't exist -a small light-blue car BGS 4255 - another, a Triumph with a black vinyl top and registration PSJ 136X, is a "blocked vehicle" (making it either a Special Branch or MI5 vehicle) and the third, XSJ 432T, belonged to a man from Telford, Shropshire. This third car, brown in colour, was following McRae at least up to and including the day before his trip to Dornie. The list was originally supplied to a BBC Scotland journalist by David Dinsmore. McRae's links with Dinsmore and other members of the nationalist fringe groups have been covered in previous chapters and it is clear that he was a thorn in the flesh of Special Branch. He had had more than one angry altercation with Special Branch officers in Glasgow concerning the release of SNG activists and in one episode had nearly come to blows with one senior officer. Yet McRae does not appear to have been interviewed or arrested in connection with their investigations. McRae himself was certainly aware of the recent Special Branch interest in him and aware also that he had been "tailed" on a previous trip to his holiday home, as he confided to several friends.

There are several other peculiar circumstances which should be mentioned. His house was "attacked and heavily vandalised " in mid- August 1984 -four months before his death and five months after the "burglary" of Hilda Murrell's Shropshire home. Nothing was stolen but his papers had been quite systematically rifled. Secondly, there was the story which came to light in the
Oban Times as a front-page article after a police "leak". Less than one hour before the discovery of Willie McRae's body a group of hikers at Creag Bhan on the shores of Loch Eilt, 20 miles to the south of Loch Loyne, reported an incident which had startled them. They had watched a red Ford Escort estate car pull up on the road, a man had got out and began shooting a high velocity rifle up the hillside almost directly at the hikers, who were clearly visible. The police were at first disinterested in this story but later became very interested, so much so that they tracked the hikers around all the pubs in Fort William that evening to get further information. The crucial point is that this proves the police did not entirely believe the "suicide theory", even although they had been pointed in that direction by Dr Ferguson McRae. Another coincidence might be the red Ford Escort car. A car of this type was seen seven times in the vicinity of Hilda Murrell's house prior to her murdered body being found in nearby woods. This fact was highlighted by Graham Swift in his book Death of a Rose-Grower (1985). He also mentions the existence of Section AlA, the MI5, "burglars" and their assumption that they may disregard all laws with impunity. Swift believes that Murrell was murdered by the secret police and, before his book was in print, his house and his publishers' houses were broken into, and though nothing was stolen his papers had clearly been disturbed.

The second, and most important, police "leak" was made to Joe Donnelly of the
Sunday Mail. A police officer involved in the investigation -whose identity was withheld -claimed to Donnelly that the gun had been fired twice, but not from point-blank range and that the rear window had been shattered by a bullet. This leak may not be entirely unconnected to a second, internal, inquiry that was conducted within the police force itself relative to the conduct of the McRae case. This internal inquiry was kept highly secret and has never been publicly admitted.

There have been persistent allegations that there is a "witness" to the events of 5 or 6 April at Loch Loyne and local residents, former estates managers, persons acquainted with the poaching fraternity and the Freemasons (very prevalent in the area) have been consulted in an effort to get to the truth of these allegations. They remain allegations and unsubstantiated rumours, similar to allegations that Willie McRae had homosexual tendencies. Several close friends, relatives and women who knew him -at least one of whom he proposed marriage to -deny that he ever exhibited such tendencies.




The extraordinary conduct of the Solicitor-General must be remarked. While frankly admitting in private that the case remains a mystery , in public he continued to deny requests for information on this highly mysterious death of a senior politician and public figure. Then, in an extraordinary about-turn, on 13 April 1990, he "reluctantly" revealed that the post-mortem had proved that the single gunshot wound to the head had been a contact wound -and that the revolver had been found directly beneath where the car door had been. This completely contradicts his earlier private statement. The Scottish National Party made an official request to Mr Fraser, now Lord Carmyllie, in which Mrs Winifred Ewing, a personal friend of Willie McRae, and also a solicitor, could have confidential access to the case papers in return for an oath that she would not reveal the contents of the file. This was refused -on the grounds of Dr. Ferguson McRae's wish not to have a public inquiry! It is extremely hard to see how Mrs Ewing's request for private and confidential scrutiny of the papers could have been construed as being contrary to Dr McRae's wishes. Other members of the McRae family have indicated their disquiet over the situation and have suggested that Dr McRae's motives are almost purely in the interests of keeping the story quiet, of letting the matter rest, which is of course entirely understandable.

The statement by Peter Fraser that he did not wish to "capitalise from the sad death in questionable circumstances of apolitical opponent" by holding a fatal accident inquiry must also be deplored. While this may seem, on the surface, laudable, Peter Fraser has been hard at work behind the scenes suggesting a range of lurid possibilities for McRae's death: Archie Kirkwood MP was told that McRae had had "his own sexual preferences", a history of drunkenness, treatment for drying-out, an extensive debt problem, was seeing a psychotherapist, facing a major bust-up of his business, facing the prospect of a jail sentence for a drink-driving offence. Mr Fraser also consulted SNP leader Gordon Wilson, who apparently accepted that there was no need for an FAI in the case. It is inaccurate to suggest that it was Wilson who decided that an inquiry be not held. He had no power in the matter. To Roger Cook, TV journalist, Fraser suggested that McRae was depressed, a "dissipated old drunk" and "a dissipated and disillusioned man
inclined to fantasise ...". Such disgraceful slanders, peddled in such a way that they cannot be refuted, have undoubtedly damaged Willie McRae far more than any public inquiry ever could. Nor does the "reluctant" revealing of details of the case improve the situation. The case, and its handling, has been described by the Scottish Council For Civil Liberties as a "glaring anomaly" and "very disturbing", revealing the lack of accountability to the public of Scotland s highly political senior Judges.




If Willie McRae was under surveillance, and it is almost certain that he was, and if he had already been "tailed" to his holiday home in Dornie, probably under the belief that he might lead them to Dinsmore -and he had given Dinsmore the keys previously to his holiday home -then it is probable that he was not alone on the A87 road to Kyle. It would be unlikely for surveillance to stop simply because McRae left Glasgow. We can only speculate at the circumstances of 5 April 1985 at Loch Loyne which led to the death of Willie McRae, but it would seem ,from an examination of such evidence that is available that not only is the death highly suspicious, but that there are clear grounds for the belief that McRae did not die willingly, or as a result of his q own actions.

While people die in car crashes and people do shoot themselves in cars in remote places, it is not even remotely credible that a man involved in an accidental car crash would then decide to commit suicide -unless, of course, the car crash was a deliberate suicide attempt. And, if it
had been, why, knowing the road well, had he not chosen a steeper place where a clean death was more likely ? "If I was going to do away with myself I'd have found a better spot. Along that road there are lots of gullies where you could put the car over and vanish for days," concluded the local ambulance driver.

The problem with the case is not the
lack of clues but that there are simply too many clues: the car crash that didn't kill him; the gunshot which didn't kill cleanly; the gun itself being at least 20 yards from the car and yet McRae's hands being on his lap; the "neat pile" of papers where they could not have- been put if the driver was unable to leave the car; the half-consumed half-bottle of whisky which had not smashed; no trace of alcohol -so often a feature of suicides -in McRae's bloodstream; the missing briefcase and the missing cigarettes -all clues pointing in different directions, all inconsistent with anyone theory. It is the very combination of all these clues which points inescapably to the conclusion that his death was planned -at least in part.

The planners, however, not being intelligent enough to see that the clues were inconsistent with each other. It was a tableau left to be found by the
paparazzi who would seize on the gory details and create ever wilder speculative theories. But it is the evidence of McRae's lengthy involvement with the Scottish nationalist movement and particularly with the fringe groups documented in this book which confirm that he was regarded as "a subversive" and therefore likely to be a target of surveillance. A consideration of Willie McRae's activities and significance in this context provides the most telling evidence against the "secret police" -or the Special Branch.

Only after Invergarry would it have become obvious to McRae that he was being tailed. The headlights of the pursuing car would have become monotonous and McRae was driving fast on a road he knew well, which the other driver almost certainly wouldn't have been so sure of. Most drivers experience irritation when a car follows closely but refuses to pass and McRae was an especially irascible man. He might well have stopped to "have it out" with them. After all, he was tired and his threshold of anger would be lower. Or perhaps he
had to stop when his tyre punctured ? What would they do in that circumstance? They could have passed by. They may have stopped short. McRae and the officers became embroiled in an embarrassing confrontation, which wasn't meant to happen - and would be embarrassing in their reports. During the altercation, McRae may have produced his revolver, may even have fired a shot before he was disarmed. He would be more easily disarmed if the altercation took place with McRae out of his car. The men whom McRae was facing were certainly of a breed which regards itself as above and beyond the reach of the criminal law -essentially violent men. What happened next resulted in the near death of McRae. Most likely they rolled him in the car down the hill to make it seem like an accident then decided to make it look like a gunshot suicide.

The investigating police would quickly have identified Special Branch interest in McRae and were told that this interest had lapsed several days before his death. While the policemen had their suspicions, and evidently they did, McRae's death was almost certainly not officially sanctioned -it was more likely to have been the result of an unexpected confrontation, entirely unpremeditated, thus no one was "covering up" anything. The only person(s) who knew the truth were the perpetrators -for whom the incident was an embarrassment. Thus, they "sharpened up" the suicide motive, hastily and rather clumsily, by setting up the cache of torn papers (entirely inconsequential, and of no importance whatsoever -why was McRae supposed to have wasted time shredding them ?), putting his smashed watch on top of the pile. They had already taken the briefcase and could not resist purloining the large carton of cigarettes and the hundred pound Bank of Scotland note- McRae's first fee as a lawyer -the personal memento which went with him everywhere. They possibly also emptied half of the bottle of whisky.

The suggestion has been made- the "leak" from the Northern Counties policeman -that Fiscal Aitchison conducted a second investigation -into the misconduct of two police officers involved in the case. Aitchison made two remarks on 16 June 1985 when he agreed to conduct this second investigation: he said that there were no suspicious circumstances, but that was "before other matters were raised", and also that "all sorts of factors were coming into this". These remarks were made more than two months
after he had declared to the press (9 April) that "the death has been fully investigated. There is no suspicious circumstance in this case." The statement made by the Lord Advocate on 31 July that "no grounds had been found to warrant criminal procedures" almost certainly related to this second investigation. Something was going on behind the scenes. A senior police officer involved in the investigation has made a vague hint to the authors that "it would all come out in an inquiry", without saying what would come out.

Dinsmore is still a fugitive, so whether or not Willie McRae was questioned about his whereabouts in the lay-by at Loch Loyne on Friday, 5 April 1985, he did not reveal, if he knew, Dinsmore's hiding place. Surely this is afar more compelling motive for his death than any theory of sudden suicidal depression? Disputation of these deductions, or any of the facts on which they are based, from the authorities concerned is to be welcomed.

In a sense, Willie McRae lives on, in the memories of his friends and comrades, and he continues to assist the SNP through his Memorial Trust Fund which donates over £580 each year to party campaigns.

END




Return to top