Monday, 8 December 2014

Willie Macrae: Parts 1 to 4 Consolidated


I have written 4 quite short posts about the background to the death of Willie Macrae before embarking on a longer and much more difficult task of looking even-handedly at the issues and problems which arise out of the investigation of his death in 1985.

Was he killed or did he take his own life?  I don’t know. 

Writing this series is my attempt to clarify my thoughts. 

Perhaps you’d like to join me on this journey.


I’ve taken those 4 introductory posts and consolidated them into one longer piece.  Some may find this a more helpful place to start.


Part 1: Background



Willie Macrae: born 18 May 1923; died 7 April 1985


This we know for certain but much else in his life and death is open to conjecture.

What is fact or fiction?

Truth or lies?

Openness or obfuscation?


Will we ever know? 

Probably not but in this series – may be 1 post or 20 posts depending on my enthusiasm – I want to look back and review his story.  The best way to ensure I keep going with my review is to write and post as I go on.   You, my readers, are key to my continuing!


I must have read about Willie in the 80s but I only became aware of him on Sunday past when the Sunday Express published a story more than 24 years after his death. [Original source; archived source]


Of course, we note the very important,

… it was claimed last night.

There’s nothing definite here but you can start to see that Macrae’s life might not be straightforward.  Within the rest of the article there is more.



So here we have claims that he was killed:

- by drug smugglers

- by security services over his opposition to nuclear waste dumping

- over child sex abuse discoveries

Additionally there are claims elsewhere that he was involved with the SNLA (Scottish National Liberation Army) and that the security services were interested in him over this.


And then the key point is that his death was actually listed as being suicide ….

…. except some claim his death is not officially recorded as ‘suicide’ but as ‘undetermined’.




Yes, and so am I!


I don’t have a view as to whether Willie Macrae was killed by his own hand or by others.  I hope, by reading and by writing, my views will firm.



Part 2: Last Journey

To launch into all the confusions and contradictions now would lead to our getting totally lost in a mishmash of facts, lies and conjecture.  Better that I outline the basics first and then go back and look in more detail.  I hope Part 4 will start this more detailed process but I’m not sure of my path yet.  Time spent well now will bear fruit.  Also because of the complexity of this case each detailed post is likely to take me several days to write.  Please bear with me.



On Friday, 5th April 1985 about 6.30pm, Willie Macrae set out from Glasgow to his holiday home near Dornie in Wester Ross – about a 170 mile drive.  Almost the entire drive was on single carriageway roads with much of the driving being in the dark.  Sunset would have been about 8.05pm [based on sunset being that time on 6th April 2015].  Google maps estimates the driving time as 3h 55min.  He should have arrived some time around 10.30pm if he didn’t stop.


He never arrived.


About 10am on Saturday morning, 6th April, two Australian tourists saw a car some distance off-road.

For those who don’t know Scotland, below is a map showing the route which Macrae took.

Macrae Route 1CGlasgow and Dornie are marked.  Macrae’s car was found off-road on the stretch between the yellow arrows about 30 miles from his destination.

The image below shows the crash area (between the yellow arrows) in more detail.  We will examine this area in subsequent posts.

Macrae Route 1E

The Australians drove on for a few miles before returning and, with the aid of binoculars, they saw the driver unconscious in the car.  They stopped the next car two of whose occupants were a GP and David Coutts, a member of the SNP who knew Willie Macrae.

They scrambled down to the car where Coutts recognised the unconscious driver as Willie Macrae.  Dorothy Messer, the GP, noticed Macrae had a head wound and had a dilated pupil, which indicated brain damage. [Some reports mention one dilated pupil and others two.]

A passing car drove on and raised the alarm.  Only one police constable and the local ambulance driver came to the scene.  With the help of the witnesses, they freed Macrae who was taken the 46 miles to Raigmore hospital in Inverness (shown on the map by a white arrow).

The synopsis from Northern Constabulary states,


Because he had a brain injury Macrae was transferred to hospital in Aberdeen, 102 miles away, (also white arrowed).  Only in Aberdeen Infirmary was it found that Macrae’s head wound was caused by a bullet.  

The police synopsis continues,


At 3.30 in the morning of Sunday, 7th April, Macrae died without regaining consciousness.


And so Willie Macrae’s life ended.


And the uncertainty of his death started and continues now, more than 29 years later.


Next time will be a scene-setter too as we look uncritically at the official view that Macrae’s death was suicide.



Part 3: Suicide

This post continues with my plan to give the basics about Macrae’s death.  The first two posts give an brief introduction and then a description of his last journey.  Today we look at the authorities’ decisions to label his death as suicide. 

In other posts I’ll look in more detail at the inconsistencies and confusions which have given rise to belief, among many, that Macrae was murdered.

I need to state that I have an open mind; I come with no agenda other than to pick my way honestly through the morass of words written since 1985.  Too much in the past appears to have been written from various fixed positions.   When I write about politics, Scottish independence or my faith I write from a fixed position.  I can’t do that here. 

I’m not writing to change anyone’s mind.  I want to understand, as best I can, what happened to Willie and writing here is the best way for me to continue and complete my task. 


Now in the last post we got to the point where Macrae died at 3.30am on Sunday, 7th April, from a gunshot wound to his head.  

The key question to be answered was whether the wound was self-inflicted or not and deliberately or not.  It doesn’t take a great mind to see that the act was deliberate.

Therefore we are left with:

Did Willie Macrae shoot himself?

Did another shoot Willie Macrae?

Macrae had an unlicensed handgun, he was shot with that gun and the gun was fired while pressed against or very close to the his skull which, according to the post mortem report was indicative of suicide. 



Macrae struggled with depression and alcoholism, according to his younger brother, Fergus, who was  a GP,

I have no doubt at all that it was suicide.  I had the gun in my possession for about a year, after a previous occasion on which he had threatened suicide.  I took the gun from him and kept it in a drawer.  When he improved so much, I gave it back to him more as a gesture of confidence. [Source] 


Thomas Aitchison, the Inverness procurator Fiscal, is quoted as saying,

The death has been fully investigated.  There is (sic) no suspicious circumstances in this case.


In 1989, the Lord Advocate, Peter Fraser as was, Lord Fraser of Carmylie, wrote about why a Fatal Accident Inquiry into Macrae’s death was denied,


[Highlighting and editing is mine]


So there we have the official position.


Willie Macrae committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with his own gun.


I have no doubt that there is significant evidence to support this contention.  Despite this, however, many dispute the decision.  In the final short scene-setting post I describe how attempts to have more information released have struggled.  Thereafter, I will start to look in much more detail at aspects of Macrae’s death.



Part 4: Release of Information

In this final short scene-setting post I describe how attempts to have more information released have struggled.  Thereafter, I will start to look in much more detail at aspects of Macrae’s death.


This post brings to an end the easy part of setting out the story of Willie Macrae’s death in the barest of details whilst challenging or querying nothing of the official story.  This will give us the platform on which we can build.


Douglas Skelton, writing in the Mirror in 2005, summarised why many wanted more information.


From the time of his death being listed as suicide there have been repeated calls for a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) and for the release of more information. 

There has been no FAI although, had he died in England, such an inquiry would have been mandatory. 


Despite many calls only very limited information has been made public.

Some headlines are,

1987 Scotsman
1990 Sunday Post


1990 Press and Journal


2005 Scotland on Sunday



2010 Evening Times



As we saw in Part 1 in December 2014 there are still articles appearing in the press.

Not only have the press and parliamentarians asked for information, individuals have used Freedom of Information (FOI).  From what I read FOI requests are often turned down for apparently spurious reasons.  The Macrae case is no different.

Some information – we will look at that later - is available, and we are thankful for this but there appears to be great reluctance to be open.  Many use this as support for the contention that the authorities have ‘something’ to hide. 

Only a few months ago, a Mr Delamore asked Police Scotland for some very basic information,

- the time at which photographs [of the crash scene] were taken

- the time at which the car was removed [from the crash scene]

- the time of the post-mortem

but his FOI request was rejected using the following exemption,

it is never in the public interest to disclose information that gives criminals an advantage over the police and prejudices the police forces' ability to prevent and detect crime, apprehend or prosecute offenders. Nor is it in the public interest to put members of the public or police staff at risk.

Again, there may be good reasons why this apparently straightforward information must be kept out of the public domain.  Unfortunately, this fuels the conspiracy theories.


This brings to an end my introductory posts which give very basic details only about Willie Macrae.  Now we can move on and look much more closely at the issues which have given rise to concerns that Willie Macrae did not commit suicide.

Where I, and you, will end up time will tell.


© 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.

For Part 1: Copyright of the two text images used is retained by the Sunday Express.
Copyright of the image of Mr Macrae is unknown but was retrieved from

For Part 2:  The two text images were released under Freedom of Information. 
I retain copyright over the two other images which I have modified.   Google retains copyright over the two original images (i.e. before my modifications)

For Part 3:  All images in this Part have been released under Freedom of Information.

For Part 4:  Copyright of the images is retained by their respective owners and to this end I name: The Mirror Group, the Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday, the Sunday Post, Evening Times and Press and Journal.

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