[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
and I will be only scratching the surface of this mystery.
- 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
Alex Main in the Scotsman wrote about this [highlighted area] on 7 April 1987.
and thus the official and Coutts’ sites were born …..
…. and still we talk of them!
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.
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.
We’re going to look in more detail at that stretch between the yellow arrows.
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
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.
One more magnification shows two key features more clearly as well as allowing the claimed ending place of Macrae’s car to be marked.
Google maps streetview shows the 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.
Now the small layby
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.
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,
As with the official site lets have a streetview of both laybys, large first and then small.
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.
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.
and in streetview
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:
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.
Once we look at the stills for the Coutts site I can get into the real meat of the post.
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.
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.
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 ….
…. and Google’s estimated distance from the roadside to the crash site (my view of its position).
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.
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.
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.
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.I say again exactly what I wrote a few paragraphs above
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.
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.
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.
© CalumCarr 2014
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.