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HIGH COURT IN INVERNESS: Bill MacDowell trial hears of 'blood-curdling scream' on night Renee and Andrew MacRae disappeared in 1976

By Ali Morrison

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Renee MacRae.
Renee MacRae.

Evidence has begun to be heard in the murder trial.

Inverness woman Catherine Johnstone (68) was giving evidence in the trial of 80-year-old Bill MacDowell, formerly from Inverness, who denies the murders of Renee MacRae and her son, Andrew, on November 12, 1976.

Mrs Johnstone then lived with her parents at a farm opposite the Dalmagarry lay-by on the A9 near Tomatin where Mrs MacRae's blue BMW was found ablaze.

Mrs Johnstone was asked by advocate depute Alex Prentice KC Mr Prentice: "Did your mother ever make any reference to something that night?"

Mrs Johnstone replied: "She said she heard a blood-curdling scream that night. She couldn't detect where it came from. She said it was about 730pm-8pm."

She told the jury of eight women and seven men at the High Court in Inverness that her now deceased mother, Eva MacQueen, "made reference to it often in her lifetime."

Mrs Johnstone also spoke of seeing a car with no lights sitting in a lay-by near the Meallmore Lodge Hotel and remembered a "4x4" type vehicle travelling south at speed as she drove into Inverness that night between 7.30pm and 8pm.

Her passenger commented: "That's in a hurry,", the court heard.

Mrs MacRae's son Andrew.
Mrs MacRae's son Andrew.

However when Detective Chief Inspector Brian Geddes of Police Scotland's Specialist Crime Division gave evidence about Mrs MacQueen's statement, given to police just days after the incident, Mrs MacQueen said: "I heard a distinct screech coming from the east side.

"Hens roost in this area but I couldn't associate it with hens.

"I saw nothing that would arouse my suspicions."

Former roads department worker, 84-year-old Donald MacAskill, from Tomatin, told the jury that he saw a blue BMW parked in the Meallmore lay-by about 7pm that night with its side lights on.

He couldn't see if anyone was inside.

The High Court in Inverness.
The High Court in Inverness.

He added he went into the hotel to pick up ceilidh tickets and left about 8pm, but the car wasn't there.

Mr MacAskill said he also saw the BMW burning in the Dalmagarry lay-by when he returned to the hotel in a taxi about 10pm.

The jury was selected earlier today and Lord Armstrong is presiding over the trial which is expected to last four weeks.

View our fact sheet on court reporting here

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