Monday, 22 December 2014

Willie McRae Part 6: Final Look at Coutts


Welcome to the 6th post in my series in which I take a detailed and critical look at the death of Willie Macrae.> [Parts 1 to 4 are here; Part 5 is here]

In the 5th post we,
looked in great detail at all possible roadside features which could be close to the crash site,
saw the sites themselves in aerial and streetview mode,
checked if the Bunloyne dam was visible from the various roadside features,
saw old video of the two sites,
saw that there is no physical evidence to tie the Coutts site to the actual crash site,
saw the only physical evidence which indicates that the official site is the crash site,
showed that only Coutts himself of the witnesses claims his site to be correct,
saw how the official and Coutts site came to be and
posed two major questions (unanswered so far)

Let’s start with those two questions,
How can this be? [that the police photos don’t put an end to the speculation about the site]
and
How could anyone seeing the car in that position [on the side of the large layby at the official site] ever be in any doubt, at a later date, about the exact position?

My take on the first question is simplistic but may still be correct.


The prominence of Macrae in public life and the circumstances of his crash, shooting and death were always likely to lead to speculation about the real cause.  The refusal to hold a Fatal Accident Inquiry was key.  This, and the decision to withhold the release of detailed police information until 2005, allowed a 20 year free space for fact, fiction and speculation to flow and meld.  By the time police photos were released in 2005 their power was diminished.  The twenty-year-old questions remained and the photos simply begged more questions.

The still on-going refusal of the police to answer apparently straightforward questions adds to the suspicion.

It is into this world that I have come, knowing now of the doubts of others.  Can I plot my way through to come to a settled position? 

This series is my attempt to find that settled position but, until then, I have no position other than ‘doubt and question everything’.

Do not take my questions as showing I favour one tack over another.  I am confused.  I can’t reconcile the information.  Only by looking, reading and questioning can I hope to come to a clear view …. and even then, even if I find a clear view, I may be wrong!

Come into my confused world and look with me.

No doubt, I’ll keep coming back to the first question but, for today, let’s concentrate on the second question.

How could anyone seeing the car in that position [on the side of the large layby at the official site] ever be in any doubt, at a later date, about the exact position?

Let’s walk through what we know and don’t know.


We do not know where Macrae’s car crashed.
We know David Coutts states the official site is not the actual site.
We know that the police photos show a Volvo at the official site.
We do not know when these photos were taken: neither day nor time.
We do not know if these photos show the car in its original and untouched crashed position.
We do not know if Macrae’s car was removed from the scene and returned for the photos.

If the car was removed from the scene and returned, we do not know if it was returned to the same site and position.

In this post we’ll concentrate on the evidence, such as it is, suggesting either the site is wrong and/or the distance from the road is wrong.

My looking carefully at the possible sites is not just a case of checking out every alley in the sure knowledge that most will be blind.   It’s more.

Callum Macrae in Part 3 of his Scottish Eye documentary tantalises us with a simple comment but with no proper explanation.

Let’s look at the same clip I showed in my last post,

Also we will hear that David Coutts and another key witness claim the actual site was further from the road than is shown in the police photos.

Scottish Eye Part 3                3m 40s to 4m 50s


Scottish Eye 3 Partial Transcription 3A
Why mention the different districts and the different legal authorities?  Surely, there is a purpose in flagging this up and so why leave it so flimsy?   A different legal authority might act differently but so might a different police force?  Why mention this unless it has significance?  Did he believe that Thomas Aitchison in inverness was more compliant than his Lochaber counterpart?  Did he believe something different?  We don’t know: Callum Macrae leaves us with nothing but these few words.
Callum wasn’t alone.  Dave Leadbetter, in an article published here, wrote,

SRSM Invisible Gun Extract 1A

Not only does Leadbetter support the Coutts site, although he doesn’t explain why, he too mentions that another fiscal might have made a difference.

And there’s more.

John MacLeod in his Herald article of 27 March 1995 raises the same issue of Lochaber versus Inverness districts:

Herald 27 March 1995 Extract 4 Macleod

but the issue is not developed.

Like so much in this case we are tantalised but ultimately left disappointed. 

And so I don’t feel too badly about continuing on the theme of the Coutts site today.

Now let’s look at some more words spoken by the Scottish Eye reporter, Callum Macrae.

Scottish Eye P3 Partial Transcript A
Both say the car was much further off the road than the police claim and their photographs show.
 
If we assume that David Coutts and Allan Crowe actually said the words attributed to them then the official site does not fit their words. 

How can a witness mistake 25 yards off road for more than 100 yards?  The views are irreconcilable.

The official site cannot be the actual crash site unless both Crowe and Coutts are mistaken.

Perhaps they are.  It seems the most logical explanation …. but would you expect to confuse these two scenes below?

Official StreetView C
Coutts Streetview to Loch C

In the Coutts picture we must make allowance for 25 years of conifer growth but the views are different as are the heights above, and distances from, the loch.  Also in the Official streetview the large roadside layby makes its presence known.  There is no equivalent feature at the Coutts site.

macrae-64
macrae-94

How could witnesses, who must have spent a considerable time at the site, not see and remember that the car was on the side of one of the most obvious roadside features on the entire Loch Loyne stretch  …. unless the car wasn’t on the side of that layby!

But then why should their powers of observation and recollection be better than the policeman who first attended the site? 

We have no words from him but, according to police records, we know that the same police constable (Crawford) attended the site when first the crash was reported and prepared the measured ‘sketch of the locus’
MOD 2 macrae b syn
macrae t map of accident EXTRACT A
To my eye, and I think to yours, the signed name above ‘POLICE CONSTABLE 252’ is ‘K S Crawford’.  Note: both images above are a small part of two images released by the police.  We’ll look at the full documents later.

If Coutts and Crowe are right, then the site PC Crawford attended was the Coutts site.  Would he not notice later that his sketch was of the wrong site?

So we have
Coutts and Crowe or Crawford
We have an absolute split. 

Crawford must believe that the crashed car was about 25 yards off the road on the side of a layby
and
Coutts and Crowe must believe that the crashed car was much more than 25 yards off the road and Coutts that the correct site was more than 1 mile away.

I mentioned in Part 5 that Scott and MacLeay  found the two sites so similar that one needed to look for external markers (eg an island in the loch when at the official site) but from the satellite maps and streetview I find the sites and their views utterly different. [Scott and MacLeay:  ‘Britain’s Secret War. Tartan Terrorism and the Anglo-American State ’ by Andrew Murray Scott and Iain MacLeay, Mainstream Publishing (1990); the relevant chapter is available here

I cannot envisage anyone who attended a crash scene at the official site ever not knowing that the car was on the side of a layby

but

I cannot envisage anyone who attended a crash at the Coutts site ever thinking later that a car on the side of a layby was the scene they attended.

I find the evidence of Coutts and Crowe credible but do I believe that Coutts is right about the crash site? I don’t know.  Their evidence is only a part of the total evidence package about the site and there’s a long way between seeing their evidence as credible and actually believing they are right about the crash site.  Being credible doesn’t mean being right

Coutts, Crowe and Crawford are not all correct.  That’s the only certainty I can get from this.

I want to spend just a little more time looking at reports that the police themselves were confused about the location of the crash site although I say here, even before I lay out this additional evidence, that I find its credibility to be significantly less than that of Crowe and Coutts.  Of course, this evidence may still be correct.

John MacLeod in the extract used slightly higher up in this post writes about police confusion.  Have a look at the highlighted part of the extract.

Herald 27 March 1995 Extract 4A Macleod

This is fuel to the doubters’ fire: the police not knowing where the crash site lay. 
In the Daily Record, Reg McKay wrote,
Herald Reg McKay Extract 1
Clearly the car had been removed but yet apparently clueless as to where they should be.

Where did they first stop?  Was it North of the Official site and were they then directed to the Official site?  Was it at the Official site and were they directed to Coutts?

How accurate is the mile?  Surely it an only be an estimate not a measurement.

Mile to Official E

This pic makes an allowance for an estimated mile, showing 0.5, 1.0 and 1.5 mile distances from the official site.  Therefore, if the police first stopped incorrectly on the North side of the crash then it is likely they stopped somewhere between the two outermost arrows. 

In the absence of more solid information I put this in for completeness only.

If, however, the police stopped incorrectly at the official site and were then directed southwards by a mile the graphic below shows the position.

Mile to Coutts C

Where did the police stop?  We don’t know.

Did the police stop at the incorrect site?  We don’t know.

Without more information the ‘evidence’ isn’t credible.  We won’t forget about it but we don’t put it up front.

We don’t know and can’t know unless the civilian who directed them is identified and states clearly what happened.  This is a straw but no more.  No detail, unsupported.

Scotsman 4 Dec 2010 Extract 1A
[Note: the second claim I’ll look at in a later post]

There’s an interesting claim herein: that Macrae’s car was removed from the crash site and then returned later to be photographed.  Many questions are begged.
Was it returned to the correct site?
Was it moved from Coutts and returned to the official site? 
Even if returned to the correct site, was it returned to the correct position?

But does the claim itself stand up to scrutiny?  There’s a lack of anything definitive in the claim.
Who has made the claim? 
What exactly does the ‘witness’ say?

The witness may be telling the truth but there’s nothing we can hold onto which gives us confidence and without that we have to ’park’ this, but not forget it.  We’ll put it with other unsubstantiated ‘evidence’ just in case the corroboration comes.

I feel I’ve given the Coutts site a good chance.  I’ve stared at it, shaken it, magnified it and looked every which way at it and I can’t find a solid base onto which I can place it.  It’s like a lovely jigsaw piece, lovely picture and colours but it doesn’t fit any other pieces I have.  Perhaps it’s from another jigsaw.  Perhaps it will never fit.

Perhaps!  But I’m holding onto to it.  Perhaps someday I’ll find the perfect fit.

In a later post, once I’ve worked my way through the evidence, I may come back to look at the case with the starting assumption that the Coutts site is the actual site of the ‘crash’.  The view might be quite different.  So far I’ve tried to fit the Coutts site in to the other evidence and I’ve failed.  But looking at the other evidence in the light of the Coutts site being correct will be interesting.

Fear not, those who think already that I’ve given the Coutts site too much time, that day is some distance away.

Next time we will see what we can glean from police records.  I’m planning to publish that post, Part 7, on Monday, 5th January, at 10.00.
__________________________________________________________________

If you have thoughts, or more, feel free to:
email me at calumsblogATgmailDOTcom or
tweet me at @calumcarr
 
© CalumCarr 2014
__________________________________________________________________
COPYRIGHT
Copyright over this article is retained by me, CalumCarr.
Please feel free to reproduce extracts and images provided you attribute the words and images to me taking into account the provisos below.
If you wish to use more than one quarter of the article then contact me for permission at calumsblogATgmailDOTcom.
Five images images in this article have been modified by me by the addition of relevant text.  I retain copyright [© CalumCarr 2014] over these modified images.
Copyright of the original unmodified images is retained by their respective original owners and to this end I name: Police Scotland, the Herald, the Scotsman, Daily Record, Google.com, Bing and Scottish Eye. 

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Our World This Christmas

 

Nothing else needed.

 

Capitalist Crime                                                                    Yew Choob

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Part 6 due Monday 22 Dec @ 10.00



The Part 6 of my series on Willie Macrae will be published next Monday, 22nd December, at 10.00.

I’ll probably take a wee break over Christmas and I plan to publish Part 7 on Monday 5th January at 10am.

If you have thoughts, or more, feel free to email me at
calumsblogATgmailDOTcom
or tweet me at @calumcarr

Monday, 15 December 2014

Willie McRae: Part 5 – Which Site?


[See here for the first 4 posts]
Strange as it may seem there is even doubt about where Willie Macrae’s car came off the road.

In this 5th post, but first post of any real depth, we shall

- look in great detail at all possible roadside features which could be close to the crash site,
- see the sites themselves in aerial and streetview mode,
- see old video of the two sites,
- see what physical evidence there is to tie each site to the actual crash site,
- seen how the official and Coutts site came to be
- pose two major questions
- and a wee bit more

and I will be only scratching the surface of this mystery.

Before we start we should probably take a little detour to see how the official and Coutts site came to be.

Alex Main in the Scotsman wrote about this [highlighted area] on 7 April 1987.

Scotsman April 87 Whch Site BG Mod 1
and thus the official and Coutts’ sites were born …..

…. and still we talk of them!

Again I must stress that I come to this with no agenda.  I don’t know what happened to Willie Macrae: this and subsequent posts are my journey of exploration. 

I apologise in advance because this is a long post with many images.  I can’t write in the detail I need without doing so.

In 1990, Scott and MacLeay wrote a chapter on the death of Willie Macrae. [‘Britain’s Secret War. Tartan Terrorism and the Anglo-American State ’ by Andrew Murray Scott and Iain MacLeay, Mainstream Publishing (1990); the relevant chapter is available hereThey went into considerable detail about the merits of each site, having clearly visited the sites. 

Please read their chapter but do not take all they write as accurate.

To them, there are reasons to doubt both sites but eventually they come down in favour of the official site (what they call the ‘Munro’ site). They write,

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.

That is their view.  I don’t hold to that, not because I disagree with them but, because I have still to work my way through the evidence.

Police photographs are available – we’ll look at them later – and still there has been no public or Fatal Accident inquiry.

We saw previously that Macrae was on a journey from his home in Glasgow to Dornie where he had a holiday home and his car came off the road at Loch Loyne.

Macrae Route 1C

We’re going to look in more detail at that stretch between the yellow arrows.

Macrae Route 1E

This isn’t nearly enough detail.  We’ll use Google and Bing maps to examine this road for particular features.

Before we look at the evidence we need to look at their locations and get an idea of what each site looks like.  Most of this will be pictorial.

CRASH SITE LOCATIONS
Now, back to the sites.  Let’s call them ‘official’ because this is where the authorities say the crash occurred and the ‘Coutts’ site because David Coutts, one of the first witnesses on the scene, has claimed this site as being correct.

My reading shows that most accept the official site even those who believe he was murdered but some still favour Coutts.

Scott and MacLeay  write this about the sites,
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.
hence the detail with which I approach this part of the post.

The official site is adjacent to a memorial cairn erected in Macrae’s honour.  The next two images home in more.

Official1A
Official2A

One more magnification shows two key features more clearly as well as allowing the claimed ending place of Macrae’s car to be marked.

Official 3A

Google maps streetview shows the large layby and cairn.

Official large layby and cairn

I note that the large layby is no longer available for parking.  There is a ridge running parallel to the road which prevents access.  A 1989 video shows no ridge and the layby to be open for parking.  I hadn’t planned to show that video here but it is important to demonstrate the layby being open.

Cairn 1989


Now the small layby

Offiicial 5

I have highlighted Bunloyne dam because it is clearly visible from these two roadside features. Its relevance will become clear later, probably in another post.

Having found these images and knowing that there was some confusion about the site I looked at the entire stretch of road (between the yellow arrows on the 2nd top image) for similar features – a small layby  and a large layby both on the loch side of the road.  I guessed that confusion might be caused by similar features in other places on that road.

There was only one other place where these features occurred close together  and that is shown in the image below, named ‘Coutts’.   As with the official site, at Coutts both small and large laybys are on the loch side and close together.

There was one other site with a large layby on the loch side of the road which I call ‘Other’ but there is no small layby close by which is on a bend on the loch side.

Let’s look at where these features lie relative to each other.

Coutts1B

The official and Coutts sites are about 1.5 miles apart.  This gives the approximate, but not exact position, of where Coutts maintains Macrae’s car ended up.  We’ll look at this later.

Those 2 laybys at Coutts are shown again below,

Coutts2A

As with the official site lets have a streetview of both laybys, large first and then small.

Coutts 3A Large layby
Coutts 4 Small Layby

I showed above that Bunloyne dam is visible from the official site and so let’s look at different streetviews to check if the dam can be seen from the Coutts features.

Coutts 7A No dam
Coutts 8A towards Dam

In 1985 it is possible that more of the dam would be visible because, from video evidence which I will show later, I believe the forestry was only being undertaken in this area in the late 80s or early 90s and, therefore, not at the time of the ‘crash’.

Finally, let’s take a look at the ‘Other’ site.

Other 1

and in streetview

Other 2

I have no evidence that anyone has claimed that the ‘crash’ occurred at ‘Other’ but, because I was looking at roadside features which might have led to the mis-identification of the ‘crash’ scene, I needed to include this, if only to demonstrate my thoroughness.

So far I have talked about the roadside features close to the Coutts site. It’s time now to look at what I believe is the Coutts site: the site where David Coutts, one of the first witnesses, claims Macrae’s car came to rest.

We use video evidence produced for the Channel 4 documentary series, ‘Scottish Eye’.  Callum Macrae (no relative of Willie), the renowned reporter and producer, was the reporter on a programme, broadcast in 1992 I believe, which looked into Macrae’s death.

The programme is available on YouTube in 3 parts:
1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsqJEN9ouY0
2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkfbToZoBN4
3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWS1SRPJD60
and in a condensed form here.

We’re going to look at Part 3 between 3m 40s and 4m 48s.

Scottish Eye Part 3

There are some important scenes which show how each site looked only about 6 years after the ‘crash’.  To help, I produce them below as stills.  Apologies for the number of pictures but I think they’re necessary to get as good an idea of what the sites look like now and looked like 29 years ago.

We start with the still of the Official large layby and cairn.

Scottish Eye Official 1

Once we look at the stills for the Coutts site I can get into the real meat of the post.

Scottish Eye 3 Coutts Cairn plus
Scottish Eye 4E Coutts To Road Combo

We need to have a quick look at one more still to confirm that what ‘Scottish Eye’ shows is near to my Coutts features.  This next still does that.

Scottish Eye Roadside Coutts9A

If you look at the combo pic above you’ll see the same area which is bounded by the dotted line.  This confirms visually that the Coutts cairn is very close to the roadside features I stated were there.

From these stills and from the video itself I can ‘mark’ the Coutts cairn in Google maps.

Coutts Crash Site Calums View A

I may be slightly out but I believe my assessment is accurate.

To end this part of the post I show the Coutts crash site (my view) plus the other sites ….

Coutts1B plus crash

…. and Google’s estimated distance from the roadside to the crash site (my view of its position). 

Coutts Distance A

I apologise for taking so long to get to this point.  As well as being for you this is my record of my thinking process.

Now we can start looking at the evidence for each site being, or not being, the actual crash site.  Whichever site is the place where Willie Macrae ‘crashed’ questions will be asked of the police investigation.  If Coutts is wrong and the official site is correct I will ask questions of the police. and if Coutts is right and the official wrong then there will be many more questions for the police.
But first the evidence.

CRASH SITE EVIDENCE
It’s best we start with the physical evidence which links Macrae and his car to each site.
Official
Coutts

Police photos


None
That’s right!  There is no physical evidence in support of the Coutts site or rather I am not aware of any which is in the public domain.

In fact, until 1 February 2005, no physical evidence unambiguously linking the official site to Macrae was publicly available.  There was nothing until the police photos were released.  Other relevant data was released at the same time.  In another post we will look at that additional data …. in considerable detail.

Some claim to have debris from Macrae’s car and seen glass debris at, and around, the official crash site.  I will deal with this issue in another post too.

Now, the police photographs.

macrae 4
         macrae 5
macrae 6         macrae 7
macrae 8
        macrae 9
macrae 10        macrae 11
macrae 12        macrae 13

The police photographer captured not only the car but skid marks, and tyre marks on, and tracks over, the grass verge.

Now compare photos 3 and 6 above with my ‘Official Large Layby and Cairn’ and it is clear that the police photos were taken at the Official site.

Let’s make it easy by putting the 3 photos together.

macrae 6
Official large layby and cairn
macrae 9

There is no doubt: these are pics of the same place.
The police photos were taken at the Official site. 

I mentioned near the beginning that Scott and MacLeay predicted that release of these photos would confirm the Official site.

You would think that these photos would have put an end to all speculation about where Macrae ‘crashed’ but you would be wrong.

How can this be?

Let’s leave that question hanging for the moment but let me ask a different question.

Look at these 3 photos immediately above and try to put yourself in the place of a witness, policeman or ambulance-man.  Macrae’s car is lying on the side of a large layby on the loch side of the road.  Cars can be parked on the layby immediately adjacent to Macrae’s car.  Look at the police car and breakdown lorry parked in that exact position.  Now the question,

How could anyone seeing the car in that position ever be in any doubt, at a later date, about the exact position?

Scott and MacLeay seem to disagree with me.  They wrote this about the sites,
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.
I say again exactly what I wrote a few paragraphs above

Look at these 3 photos immediately above and try to put yourself in the place of a witness, policeman or ambulance-man.  The car is in the position shown.  Now the question,
How could anyone seeing the car in that position ever be in any doubt, at a later date, about the exact position?
The car is lying on the side of a large layby on the loch side of the road.  Cars can be parked on the layby immediately adjacent to Macrae’s car.  Look at the police car and breakdown lorry parked in that exact position.

How could David Coutts be so wrong?  The Official site is so different to his site.  On that day in 1987 about which Alex Mains wrote, how could Coutts not recognise the official site as being the correct place?   Other than his own assertion, I know of no evidence which pinpoints his site as the crash site. 

Unfortunately, one assertion isn’t particularly strong in the face of photographic evidence.
Others have made statements about the car’s position which did not support the Official site but their comments were not explicit about the actual site.  Again, we’ll look at these later.

That’s two questions I have posed in the last few lines,
How can this be?  [that the police photos don’t put an end to the speculation about the site]
and
How could anyone seeing the car in that position [on the side of the large layby at the official site] ever be in any doubt, at a later date, about the exact position?

We’ll return to these …. in my next post.  You’ll find that, as we continue, there are far more questions than answers.

This is the place to end ….. for now.

We have
looked in great detail at all possible roadside features which could be close to the crash site,
seen the sites themselves in aerial and streetview mode,
checked if the Bunloyne dam was visible from the various roadside features,
seen old video of the two sites,
seen that there is no physical evidence to tie the Coutts site to the actual crash site,
seen the only physical evidence which indicates that the official site is the crash site,
shown that only Coutts himself of the witnesses claims his site to be correct,
seen how the official and Coutts site came to be and
posed two major questions (unanswered so far)

The next post?  I’ll start with these two major questions but where I’ll end up I have no idea.

You can be sure that it will be an interesting read but beyond that …..

When will this next post appear?  Sorry, I haven’t a clue.

Please rejoin me soon.

© CalumCarr 2014
__________________________________________________________________
COPYRIGHT
Copyright over this article is retained by me, CalumCarr.
Please feel free to reproduce extracts and images provided you attribute the words and images to me taking into account the provisos below.
If you wish to use more than one quarter of the article then contact me for permission at calumsblogATgmailDOTcom.
All images in this article, other than the 10 police images and the image from the Scotsman newspaper, have been modified by me by the addition of relevant text.  I retain copyright over these modified images.
Copyright of the original unmodified images is retained by their respective original owners and to this end I name: Police Scotland, the Scotsman, Google.com, Bing.com and Scottish Eye.  Copyright to the extracts from Scott and MacLeay’s book is theirs.