Monday, 5 January 2015

Willie Macrae Part 7: When?


Herald 4 Apr 95 E1A
Herald 27 Mar 95 E2A
These 2 clips alone show confusion.  Was the gun found on Sunday or Monday (7th or 8th April)?

 Late last year an FOI asked 3 simple questions of the police,
when were photographs taken?
when was the car removed?
when was the post-mortem carried out?

None was answered.

There is so much about the Macrae case we don’t know.  So much about when events happened.

When?
Today, therefore, we’re going to look at ‘when’ by using the best material available - the released police records – and we’ll mark the few fixed points in time.  In Part 8 we’ll continue looking at ‘when?’

We’ll not be able to give specific answers to any of the three questions above but we shall know considerably more about ‘when’.

Before I start on the times it's important to show where the police material can be accessed.  There are 3 sources:

Northern Constabulary (2005)
They first released information in 2005 but that is now only available through the web archive here.   Included in this information were press clippings but these are not available online for copyright reasons.

The information was in two formats: as zip files and Word documents (.doc), the information being identical in each.

Andy Muirhead's FOI  (2013)
In April 2013, Police Scotland, since Northern Constabulary was no more, released information in the form of image files (.jpg). See here  In all respects, bar one, the information was identical to that released in 2005.  Andy's information was 1 page short (1 file short, 38 of 39) of that previously made available by Northern Constabulary.  As we shall see soon that missing page might be important.

I ascribe no motive to this.

With Andy's information there is the option of downloading images directly to one's 'pc' or viewing online.  I noticed that some of the online images of the crash site could be magnified more before the square pixel effect cut in.

Steven Semple's FOI (2014)
Steven's request for information was turned down by The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service but they appended some information which
has previously been made available to the public is enclosed at Annex A. This information was first made publicly available on 1 February 2005 in response to a number of Freedom of Information requests that had been received.
Annex A can be found at the end of this document.

Interestingly Annex A is missing much information made available previously but includes information that I have not seen elsewhere!

Now we can start building up a timeline and I will treat the information as being correct and accurate.  This must be my starting point!  If I start out querying details I will make no progress but by assuming accuracy I can look for internal consistency across the different pieces of information.

There will be a time to query but not now.

Timeline
Within the police documents only 5 specific times are mentioned.

1
Friday 5 April about 7.30pm

Macrae’s partner phones police re Macrae’s mental state

Annex A ==> 'At about 7.30 pm that evening his partner telephoned the Dornie number and got no reply. He was concerned regarding his partner’s state of mind and he contacted all police stations en route from Glasgow to Kyle.'
Macrae A synopsis ==> 'About 7.30pm that evening his partner, Mr Welsh telephoned his Dornie number and got no reply.

' At this stage, we're not going to spend time looking at this because it is used to give an indication of Macrae's mental state rather than helping with the timeline of what happened when to Macrae.


2
Saturday 6 April about / approx 11.15am 7 April about 7.30pm

Call to police in Fort Augustus re Macrae crash

Annex A ==> ‘At approximately 11.15 am on Saturday, 6th April 1985 a telephone call was received at Fort Augustus Police Station from Police Headquarters to the effect that a single vehicle accident had occurred on the A87 Kyle of Lochalsh to Invergarry Road.'

Macrae B synopsis ==> 'About 1115 hours on Saturday, 6th April, 1985, Constable Kenneth Stewart Crawford, Stationed at Fort Augustus received a telephone call from U. R> Control Room at Police Headquarters, to the effect that a single vehicle accident had occurred on the A.87 Kyle of Lochalsh to Invergarry Road.

Macrae O (page 1 of Firearm Report) ==> 'About 11.20a.m. on 6.4.85, Volvo 244 Saloon discovered by passing motorist off the road about 60 yds down an embankment, with deceased in driver's seat in an unconscious state.  

The first two sources here describe the situation in the same way: telephone call received by the police in Fort Augustus. This is unsurprising because this part of Annex A is virtually identical to the police synopsis (Macrae A syn, Macrae B syn and Macrae C syn). So similar are they that it is clear that they are from the same source.  In fact it is likely that Annex A, which was produced for Semple in 2013, has been largely drawn from the documents released in 2005 (Macrae A syn, Macrae B syn and Macrae C syn).
'Macrae O' being the first page of the firearm report may not have received the most accurate information and, therefore, for the moment I disregard its mention of time.

3
Saturday 6 April 15.30
Macrae’s car at the West End Garage, Fort Augustus

Macrae L syn (page 1 of the vehicle report)
image    
This is probably the most interesting and may be the most important. This was the page which was missing from the documents released to Andy Muirhead in 2013.  No mention was made of this to Steven Semple later that year.  Only the documents released in 2005 by Northern Constabulary contained the information.

Macrae’s car was in a Fort Augustus garage at 15.30 on Saturday 6 April
 
Why is this important?
 
….  because this document shows the car was moved from the crash site before 3.30pm on the Saturday afternoon. 

Some reports, from before the release of the documents, had the car not being moved until Sunday, 7 April, but this document clearly puts the car in Fort Augustus on the Saturday afternoon. Note also that Constable Crawford was at the garage at this time as a witness to the examination of the car.

This was new to me.  In my early readings I had not come across this fact before, the car in Fort Augustus at 15.30 on 6 April, although the information had been in the public domain for almost 10 years.
 
If we take this information as being correct then all other reports or claims of the car being removed on other days are wrong ….

…. unless the police returned the car to the crash site on another day.

Please note that I am not claiming the car was returned.  I’m trying to cover off all possibilities.

Also clear is that any search for the gun was done after the car was removed from the crash site.  I’ll detail this in later posts.
 
In Part 8, which is published along with Part 7, I shall develop the importance of this information.

4
Sunday 7 April 03.30am

Macrae dies.

Annex A ==> 'At approximately 3.30 am on Sunday, 7th April 1985, Mr MacRae died of his injuries without regaining consciousness.'
Macrae B syn  ==> 'About 3.30a.m. on Sunday 7th April, Macrae died of his injuries without regaining consciousness.'
Macrae O (page 1 of Firearm Report) ==>  ‘Deceased died at 3.30a.m. on 7.4.85, without regaining consciousness.'

and finally

5
Sunday 7 April  approx 12.30pm

Gun found

Annex A ==>  'At approximately 1230 pm a firearm, later identified as a Smith and Wesson revolver, was found in the burn beneath the small waterfall directly below where the driver’s door of the Volvo car had been.'

Here we have it:

the gun was found at 12.30pm on Sunday 7 April

Absolutely definitive; no ifs, buts or maybes.

Interestingly, the time of the find is not included in the synopsis which was released in 2005 and was not listed amongst the available documents as part of the reply to Andy Muirhead's FOI.  Only in Annex A to the reply to Steven Semple's FOI request is this fact made known.

At the moment, I make no comment on this fact's omission from the original synopsis.

These are our five fixed time points but we can do more.

Let’s concentrate on two of those (2 and 3) and place other untimed events around them so that we get a better idea of the overall events’ timeframe.

But we can do more yet.

Let’s estimate the shortest time we can imagine the various events could take. 

Why do this?

When I’ve read articles and the police records I’ve often wondered, ‘When did that happen?’, ‘How do the various events fit together?’.  I couldn’t do this because the information was spread so widely and, importantly, none who wrote before 2005 had access to official records. [Note: But John MacLeod in a series in the Herald in 1995 wrote about having access to an official file - here and here.

I can’t hope to find actual times but by making some assumptions I can estimate the earliest time by which an event could have happened.  For some events I estimate the latest time an event could have happened.

I do this not knowing if these estimates will ever be of use but knowing that only by doing so will I be satisfied.

Here I will only enter the estimated times, my complete workings being shown at the very end of the article, after the copyright terms.  Please feel free to challenge my estimations and calculations.

The two fixed times used are the 2 – the initial call to Fort Augustus police – and 3 – the time of the vehicle examination. 

Of the remaining three, the finding of the gun, I’ll cover in Part 11, probably.  [Note: Part 8, some more timings, is already published, Part 9 will pose questions of time to the police and Part 10 will look in detail at the police photographs of the crash site.]




2
Saturday 6 April about / approx 11.15am 7 April about 7.30pm

Call to police in Fort Augustus re Macrae crash

Annex A ==> ‘At approximately 11.15 am on Saturday, 6th April 1985 a telephone call was received at Fort Augustus Police Station from Police Headquarters to the effect that a single vehicle accident had occurred on the A87 Kyle of Lochalsh to Invergarry Road.'

Macrae B synopsis ==> 'About 1115 hours on Saturday, 6th April, 1985, Constable Kenneth Stewart Crawford, Stationed at Fort Augustus received a telephone call from U. R> Control Room at Police Headquarters, to the effect that a single vehicle accident had occurred on the A.87 Kyle of Lochalsh to Invergarry Road.

Macrae O (page 1 of Firearm Report) ==> 'About 11.20a.m. on 6.4.85, Volvo 244 Saloon discovered by passing motorist off the road about 60 yds down an embankment, with deceased in driver's seat in an unconscious state.









2a
A police officer went to the locus and confirmed that a Volvo, registration FGB 214X had left the road on the nearside opposite the Bunloyne Dam and had rolled down an embankment.' (Annex A)
Constable Crawford went to the locus, which was on the A.87 Kyle of Lochalsh to Invergarry Road and confirmed the Volvo car, FGB 214X had left the road on the nearside opposite the Bunloyne Dam and rolled down an embankment.' (Macrae B syn)
EARLIEST Police at site at 11.35am



2b
A local ambulance attended at the locus ….   (Annex A)
The local ambulance officer attended at the locus …  (Macrae B syn)
No information in police documents to allow an estimation



2c
….. and with the help of witnesses, the injured party from within the vehicle was removed ....   (Annex A)
… and with the help of witnesses the injured party was removed …  (Macrae B syn)
EARLIEST Macrae in ambulance at 11.45am


2d

.... to Raigmore Hospital, Inverness.   (Annex A and Macrae B syn)
EARLIEST arrival at Raigmore Hospital, Inverness at 12.36pm


2e

Macrae seen and diagnosed as serious head injuries and decision to sent to Aberdeen'   (Annex A)
Macrae had serious head injuries …   (Macrae B syn)
EARLIEST diagnosis / decision to transfer to Aberdeen at 12.46pm


2f

He was removed to the Neurosurgical Unit at Aberdeen Infirmary …    (Annex A)
.... and he was removed to the Neurological Unit at Aberdeen Infirmary …    (Macrae B syn)
EARLIEST arrival at Aberdeen by ambulance at 14.42
EARLIEST arrival at Aberdeen by air ambulance at 13.36


2g

…. where he was examined by a neurosurgeon who found a bullet wound in his right temple. X-rays confirmed that there was a bullet in his brain.    (Annex A)
… where he was examined by Mr Blaiklock, Nureosurgeon, (sic) who, on his examination found a bullet wound on the deceased' right temple. X-rays showed that there was a bullet in his brain    (Macrae B syn) EARLIEST bullet found in brain (ambulance) at 14.57
EARLIEST bullet found in brain (AIR ambulance) at 13.51
LATEST bullet found in brain at 19.08


2h

At this point senior police officers were informed, ….    (Annex A and Macrae B syn)
EARLIEST police informed (AIR ambulance) at 13.56pm
EARLIEST police informed (ambulance) at 15.02pm
LATEST police informed at 19.13


2i

… attended at the locus….   (Annex A and Macrae B syn)
EARLIEST police on scene (AIR ambulance) at 14.48
EARLIEST police on scene (ambulance) at 15.54
LATEST police on scene at 20.05pm


Now we move on to the third fixed time.

3

Saturday 6 April 15.30
Macrae’s car at the West End Garage, Fort Augustus

Macrae L syn (page 1 of the vehicle report) is probably the most interesting. This was the page which was missing from the documents released to Andy Muirhead in 2013.  No mention was made of this to Steven Semple later that year.  Only the documents released in 2005 by Northern Constabulary contained the information.
image    
Vehicle examination starts at 15.30.
LATEST time car started to be moved from crash site at 14.48



Now we must remember that the times in the two Tables immediately above are not the actual times the events happened.  They’re not even the times I think they might have happened.  They are the earliest (or latest) times I calculate they could have happened.

They give a window within which we would expect the events to have occurred.  For example, some have reported that the bullet was found in Macrae’s brain, 6 hours after he was found.  Given that reports say he was found at 10.30am then this implies the bullet was not found until 16.30.  This is consistent with my calculated window. 
Had reports said that the bullet was found at 13.00 (say) this would be outside my calculated window and so my calculations should be checked but also the reported time of 13.00 should be treated with some caution.

When I start each post I hope it will be the last ‘dry’ post and that the next will be open, interesting and thought-provoking and, by the end, I realise that I’ve got a lot more necessary plodding through the minutiae of the case.
Part 8 is now published too – here.

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tweet me at @calumcarr

© CalumCarr 2014
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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.
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EARLIEST TIMINGS: MY WORKINGS AND ASSUMPTIONS
Ideally we would be able to assign times to all currently untimed events.  This we cannot do but we can estimate times.  For most events where estimation is possible I have calculated the earliest possible times and for a few the latest possible times.
Please feel free to challenge these calculations.
I use the following speeds:
- ambulance: 55mph
- police: 60mph
- car transporter: 50mph

2a.  Distance between Fort Augustus and the Official site
Google maps gives the distance between the crash site and Fort Augustus as 17.9miles with a journey time of 25mins.
At 60mph the driving time is 18 minutes to which I add 2 mins for PC Crawford to drive off.
This would have PC Crawford arriving at the scene 20mins after receiving the call at approx 11.35. 
Note: where police records use about or approximately I ignore these qualifiers and use the actual time and so here instead of using 'about 11.15am' I use 11.15

2c.  Macrae removed from his car and moved into the ambulance.
Other suggests that getting Macrae out his car was a struggle.  This might have started before PC Crawford arrived but once out his car he had to be carried about 30 yards uphill to the ambulance.  I cannot imagine this being done in less than 10 minutes and probably would have taken much longer.
Use 10 mins ==> Macrae in ambulance at 11.45

2d  Taken to Raigmore Hospital, Inverness
Google maps gives the distance as 46.4 miles and estimates the driving time as 67minutes.  At 55mph this journey would take 51 minutes.
==> arrival at Raigmore at 12.36

2e  Macrae seen and diagnosed as serious head injuries and decision to sent to Aberdeen
Macrae has to be moved from ambulance in to A&E, be seen, diagnosed and the decision made.  10 mins seems very very quick.
==> decision to transfer at 12.46

2f Macrae removed to Aberdeen
i)  Ambulance
Google maps shows the distance between the 2 hospitals as 102 miles with a journey time of 2h 20min.  At 55mph the journey would take 1h 51mins seems to be best time plus 5 mins for ambulance availability
==>  14.42 at Aberdeen

ii) Air ambulance
2015 models  Eurocopter EC 135 cruise at 159 mph.  The straightline distance between Inverness and Aberdeen is 80 miles. At cruising speed this would take 30 mins but we must add time for take-off, landing, acceleration and deceleration.  Assume only 5 mins added on.
==> 35 min journey time
Added to this is the scrambling time of the helicopter, even if Inverness based ==> 10 min
And added also is time to move from air ambulance to A&E ==> 5min
This gives a total air ambulance time of 50 min
in Aberdeen Royal 13.36

2g   Bullet confirmed by X ray
From arrival, to assessment, to discovery of bullet entry wound, to X-ray development, I allow 15 min
==> Bullet known @ 14.57 ambulance or 13.51 ambulance
This is the point at which senior police officers were informed

2h Police Informed
I assume delay of only 5min between  the bullet being found and the police being informed
==> senior police told at 15.02 (A - ambulance) or 13.56 (AA - air ambulance)

2i)  Police Visit the scene
I assume police senior police travelled from Inverness to the site (already noted as 46.4 miles, journey time 67minby Google.)
I assume also that the police left Inverness 5 mins after receiving the call from Aberdeen Royal.  I assume the police travel  more quickly than the ambulance and cover the 46.4 miles in 47 minutes
==> police on scene at 15.54 (A) or 14.48 (AA)

Latest police arrival at scene
I assume that the police would only go to the scene if they would arrive before sunset.  Sunset on April 6, 2015, is 20.095 and, therefore, I take this time as the latest time they would arrive at the crash site.
To find the other latest times given in section 2 I work backwards from 20.05 on site to (20.05 – 52min) i.e. 19.13 as the latest they could have been told about the bullet in Macrae’s brain.
And work back another 5mins to find the latest time that the bullet in Macrae’s could have been confirmed by X-ray i.e. 19.08

3  Vehicle Examination
Assume 15 mins to move from site to transporter
Transporter driving at 50mph for 17.9m miles takes 22 mins
Note Google maps estimates 25min
assume 5 min to unload and be ready to start examination
==> 42min
Exam starts at 15.30 ==> latest car moved 14.48





1 comment:

  1. For what it is worth, at the time of the incident, the vehicle was around four years old (X plate = first registered in 1981), given the profession of the owner, we can probably conclude that it was in good repair, and that therefore there is a high likely hood that all of the damage seen in the pictures occurred at the time of the incident.

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