Murderer found guilty of killing lover will appeal against conviction

Murderer, 81, found guilty of killing his lover and their young son more than 45 years ago in Scotland’s longest-running missing person case will appeal against his conviction

  • William MacDowell was convicted of killing Renee and Andrew MacRae in 1976 
  • He was guilty of attempting to defeat the ends of justice by disposing of bodies
  • A notice to appeal against his conviction and sentence has now been lodged 

An 81-year-old man jailed for life for murdering his lover and their young son more than 45 years ago intends to appeal against his conviction.

William MacDowell was sentenced to life in prison last week with a recommendation that he serves a minimum of 30 years for killing Renee and Andrew MacRae in November 1976.

Following a trial at the High Court in Inverness, he was also found guilty of attempting to defeat the ends of justice by disposing of their bodies and personal effects.

Police have never found the bodies of the 36-year-old mother or her three-year-old son.

A notice to appeal against MacDowell’s conviction and sentence has now been lodged at the appeal court in Edinburgh, a court official confirmed.

William MacDowell with his wife Rosemary at Inverness court before he was sentenced to serve at least 30 years in jail

MacDowell, 80, was found guilty of murdering 36-year-old Renee MacRae (left) and their son Andrew (right) at a layby south of Inverness on November 12, 1976

During the trial, the court heard MacDowell, of Penrith, Cumbria, killed or abducted Mrs MacRae and their son in a layby on the A9 near Dalmagarry, south of Inverness, on November 12, 1976.

Their disappearance was one of the longest unsolved murder cases in Scottish criminal history.

MacDowell had lodged two special defences – one of alibi and the other of incrimination.

It comes after Mrs MacRae’s sister, Morag Govans, appealed directly to MacDowell to break his silence.

‘The passage of time has not eased the anguish we feel, we have never been able to lay Renee and Andrew to rest or properly mourn their loss. Not knowing where their remains lie only compounds the pain.

‘Thinking of the terror they both must have felt before they died continues to haunt us.

A Northern Police appeal poster from late 1976. For decades the case was Scotland’s most baffling unsolved murder mystery

‘We will never comprehend why their lives had to be taken in such a calculated and callous manner by William MacDowell. If he has a shred of decency in his body, he will now reveal where they both lie.’

MacDowell was arrested in September 2019 after an extensive review and re-investigation carried out by detectives from Police Scotland’s Major Investigation Team and local officers, building on decades of work carried out since 1976.

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.

However, no evidence was found at the site.

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