Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Willie Macrae Part 25: Special Branch – Official View

 

Introduction

In Part 24 I said that I believed any active involvement of the Special Branch* (* see end of post) with Willie Macrae was sufficient for an FAI to be held. 

In Part 26 we’ll look at evidence from a retired policeman, Donald Morrison, who claims Special Branch were involved up to, at least, the day Macrae left Glasgow, 5 April 1985.

Here you get to see what the police and Crown Office have said about Special Branch and Macrae.

Before we go there, I invite you to read Part 23, if you haven’t yet done so.  Last Sunday, 29 March, the Sunday Herald published an article highlighting the new campaign for a Fatal Accident Inquiry to be held into Macrae’s death.  The article was light on information until the last sentence in which the Crown Office appears to have set its face against holding an FAI …. ever. 

The Crown Office is quoted as saying,

Crown Counsel are satisfied with the extensive investigations into the death of William Macrae

and

Crown Counsel ….. have instructed that an FAI will not be held into the circumstances of Mr McRae’s death

Effectively, the Crown Office is saying that there can be no new evidence  ….  ever ….. which could have them question the investigation and open an inquiry.

Now I try not to take official statements at face value, as you will see below, because these messages are rarely written unambiguously.  I ask that you bear in mind the tone of the Crown Office statement as you read this article and those which follow. 

 

Now let’s get back to the subject matter.

I know of only two instances where there is official comment on the allegation that Macrae was of interest to, and was under surveillance by, Special Branch.  You will see that both sources deny ‘active interest’ in Macrae.  We’ll look at their denials in some detail!

The more important was in 2005 when Fergus Ewing MSP wrote to the Lord Advocate asking directly about the alleged surveillance of Macrae.  Until today, all that was available were a few newspaper reports but now I have copies of both Fergus’ letter and the Crown Office reply and I quote directly from them.

 

But, first, let’s go back to 1993.  Northern Constabulary replied to a  request from West Mercia police for information following allegations in Gary Murray’s book, ‘Enemies of the State’.

 

1993 West Mercia Police

Northern Constabulary’s letter can be seen here [page 1, page 2].  It is clear that West Mercia police have asked Northern Constabulary for advice on handling questions about Macrae’s death and, of interest to us, is that portion which relates to Special Branch. 

 

We look at two short extracts.

PART 20  Macrae D  E1M

On first reading, the meaning is obvious: Special Branch or the Security Services had no interest in Macrae.

BUT when we start to doubt – and across the UK we have plenty reason to doubt official statements - we look deeper.  Let’s do that.

The obvious point to start with is that the denial refers to ‘an active interest’ only.  This leaves wide open the possibility - some would say likelihood - that there had been an historical interest in Macrae. 

This alone is worthy of follow-up.  What?  When?  Why?  Why did it stop? When did it stop?

 

The clearest possible statement which could have been made was,

Neither SB or Security Service had any interest at any time in Mr Macrae.

but it wasn’t. 

 

It could have said,

Neither SB or Security Service had an active interest in Mr Macrae.

but it doesn’t.

 

Both these hypothetical statements are definite.  In them there is no doubt but what is actually written is subjective,

There is no justification for suggesting SB or Security Service had an active interest in Mr Macrae, ….[Emphasis is mine]

What is written becomes weaker and less definite with the inclusion of the subjective words.  Is this a denial of ‘active interest’ or rather a denial of ‘justification for suggesting’?  They are very different denials.

 

The last phrase of the police sentence makes the statement much less definite still.

There is no justification for suggesting SB or Security Service had an active interest in Mr Macrae, certainly not with the knowledge or involvement/collusion of Northern Constabulary.[Emphasis is mine]

The writer specifically distances Northern Constabulary from ‘knowledge or involvement/collusion’ but, in so doing, he weakens the statement enormously. He makes it about Northern Constabulary only and leaves entirely open, and entirely uncommented upon, that other police forces and organisations might have had ‘an active interest’ and had ‘knowledge or involvement/collusion’.

 

That I have taken an apparently straightforward statement, dissected it to find a largely non-denial doesn’t mean that my dissection has revealed the truth. 

What I have revealed, though, are two alternative meanings:

  active Special Branch involvement is not ruled out despite an apparent straightforward denial.

there was historical involvement

 

 

The second extract addresses a different point: that the investigation was stopped  short by the Home Office,

PART 20  Macrae E  E1M

A very strong denial!

Now I have no idea if this statement is true or false: I have no reason to doubt its truthfulness.  But what was key to the ending of the investigation, as it should be, was DCI MacDonald’s satisfaction ‘that no crime had been committed’.

Before I continue I must say that I know nothing of DCI MacDonald.  I pick apart the words of the author and not MacDonald’s reputation.

Where was the bar of satisfaction?  Was it low, as many allege, in which case the investigation might have been halted early?

Was it high and no stone left unturned?

 

The Procurator Fiscal and others are dependent on the information which is presented to them.  Hypothetically, an incomplete investigation, which has ignored strands of evidence, might still tick all the boxes necessary for the authorities to accept the conclusion.

I don’t know if the fullest possible investigation was carried out or not but, as with many statements, the shown extract rules out neither possibility.

 

Eventually, we move onto the much more important exchange between Fergus Ewing and the Crown Office.

 

Fergus Ewing

In April 2005, Fergus Ewing became aware of the evidence of a retired policeman, Donald Morrison, who claimed that Macrae had been and, on the day he left Glasgow, was under surveillance.

An article in the Scotsman said,

Last week, a retired Glasgow policeman, Donald Morrison, said that he had seen evidence that MacRae had been under surveillance.

Ewing said: "I want the Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd, to respond to the allegations which have been made by the retired police officer that Mr MacRae was under surveillance. I want him to confirm or deny this."

and

He [Fergus Ewing] added: "Here’s a policeman who has made quite specific allegations that Willie MacRae was being tailed. It is one of the most curious deaths that have occurred in the second half of the 20th century in Scotland."

At the time of publication the Crown Office had not received Fergus’ letter.

 

In July 2006, again in the Scotsman, is the first reference I have found of a Crown Office reply.  Towards the end of the article we find these words,

Repeated requests for an official inquiry into Mr MacRae's death have been turned down. Last year, Elish Angiolini, the Solicitor General, refused a request from Fergus Ewing, the SNP MSP, to discuss allegations that Mr MacRae was under surveillance in the weeks leading up to his death. She also said a further investigation was not justified.

and

The Crown Office declined to comment yesterday.

 

According to these articles, Fergus Ewing was very specific: he wanted the Lord Advocate to respond to the actual allegations made by Donald Morrison.  The Crown Office did not.

There would be little more to be written were these extracts all we had to go on and, until a few days, I had no more. Fortunately, Fergus Ewing forwarded copies of correspondence to me and now we can look at what each party said. 

Unfortunately, I haven’t got explicit permission to publish the two letters and so I will show some extracts only.

Firstly let’s look at what Fergus wrote.  His main focus was on the evidence of Donald Morrison but he touched on other aspects of the case.  I ignore those other aspects.

Fergus wrote,

PART 20 FE to LA E1

and

PART 20 FE to LA E2

Ewing puts two specific allegations to the Lord Advocate,

that he [Morrison] was advised to stay away from the offices of Len Murray and Willie MacRae because the Intelligence Service were watching them.

that on the day Mr. MacRae left from Glasgow …. he [Morrison] spoke to Mr. MacRae in the city centre in Glasgow and saw that when Mr. Macrae drove off he [MacRae] was pursued by two vehicles.

 

Before we move on I must say that the first allegation re the offices of Macrae and Len Murray is not from the time of Willie’s death.  My reading from communication with Donald Morrison is that this happened in the mid-1970’s.  This is given credence by Len Murray stating in an article in the Herald from 1995 that his partnership with Willie ended in 1981. This is historical interest and in Part 23 I gave my view that historical interest in Macrae is insufficient for an FAI unless there were plans or thoughts at the time to do harm to Macrae. In my next post we’ll have a detailed look at Morrison’s evidence.

But still the second allegation would stand because it deals with active interest.

 

Let’s look in detail how the Solicitor General, Elish Angiolini, responded on behalf of the Lord Advocate.

From the 940 words (or so) in her reply, Angiolini used only 58 to deal with the central theme of Ewing’s letter,

You mention the evidence of Donald Morrison and the suggestion that Mr Macrae was under surveillance.  This is not a new allegation or information and was explored when it was raised initially as an issue.  I can confirm from the papers that Willie Macrae was not the subject of surveillance or enquiry at the time of his death.

On first reading, this has the hallmarks of a strong denial but very easily one can see weaknesses.

Firstly, that Macrae was under surveillance is correctly stated as ‘not a new allegation or information’ but the sentence continues ‘and was explored when it was raised initially as an issue.’  This actually says that the allegation was explored when raised initially but this does not mean that Morrison’s specific new allegation was explored.  Therefore, Angiolini’s sentence does NOT rule out Morrison’s allegation nor does it actually state that Morrison’s allegations were ever investigated.

 

Her third sentence, either by coincidence or design, is a masterful example of saying one truth but conveying a very different truth.  Some might call it ‘spin’, others ‘deceitful’. 

Let’s look again at the words,

I can confirm from the papers that Willie Macrae was not the subject of surveillance or enquiry at the time of his death. [Emphasis is mine]

See how important are those three words – from the papers.  Angiolini is NOT saying that Macrae was not the subject of surveillance or enquiry at the time of his death but is making the much more limited statement, [in my words] ’having read the papers there is nothing in those papers which shows that Macrae was under surveillance or enquiry.

No more than this. 

Plausible deniability.  The truth would have been told because I’m sure there is nothing in those papers …. but elsewhere the evidence could be stacked up.

 

from the papers’ ????

 

Of course, Elish Angiolini might have written the whole truth and, if she hasn’t, that doesn’t mean that she deliberately did so. It’s possible too that Angiolini, in a desire for clarity, was very particular in her choice of words …. and then I have used this clarity against her.

I can’t know and, in a mystery such as this, I cannot assume that official statements always contain the whole truth just as, throughout this long series, I can’t know and can’t assume that witnesses have written the whole truth.  With them too any error need not be deliberate.

 

What has this analysis shown?

We have two denials:

  [re Donald Morrison’s evidence] This is not a new allegation or information and was explored when it was raised initially as an issue. 

from the papers that Willie Macrae was not the subject of surveillance or enquiry at the time of his death.

 

neither of which unambiguously rules out that to which it is addressed,

 

Morrison’s evidence that Macrae was under surveillance when he left Glasgow may not have been investigated.

Macrae might still have been under surveillance at the time of his death.

 

Beyond the allegations which were brought to the Lord Advocate, three times Ewing asked for a meeting to discuss the allegations made by Donald Morrison.

PART 20 FE to LA M1_3 Mod

Only on the third time of asking did Ewing open out his request to cover other allegations. 

Already we know from the Scotsman that no meeting was offered.  How was Ewing rebuffed in Angiolini’s letter?

You have asked if the Lord Advocate will meet you to discuss the allegations you mention in your letter.  I am satisfied that a thorough investigation was carried out into the death of Willie MacRae, and that on the basis of the material available further investigation and criminal proceedings are not justified.  I do not therefore think that anything can be achieved by a meeting.

Here in the second sentence we have argument by assertion. Angiolini asserts that a ‘thorough investigation was carried out …’  This may be true but it carries weight not because of the words but only because of Angiolini’s position to deny further investigation.

The second part of that sentence has plausible deniability: ‘on the basis of the material available further investigation and criminal proceedings are not justified.’   There might be masses of evidence which would justify more investigations but it isn’t in the material available to the Crown Office or, as a cynic might say, it is available but was deliberately withheld from the official file.

Once again, I hypothesise.  It’s worth repeating what I wrote a few lines above about Angiolini’s response to the allegations.  They apply here too.

Of course, Elish Angiolini might have written the whole truth and, if she hasn’t that doesn’t mean that she deliberately did so. It’s possible too that Angiolini in a desire for clarity was very particular in her choice of words …. and then I have used this clarity against her.

I can’t know and, in a mystery such as this, I cannot assume that official statements always contain the whole truth just as, in subsequent posts, I can’t know and can’t assume that witnesses have written the whole truth.  With them too any error need not be deliberate.

 

Has Angiolini given a straightforward statement of fact on which we can rely without further questioning?

 

Or is the official line

Nothing to see here.  Move on!

 

 

Tomorrow, you’ll have the opportunity to see Donald Morrison’s evidence in some detail and you can judge where the truth lies.

 

[* I use ‘Special Branch’ to cover two different  situations: firstly, for Special Branch only and secondly for any state operations beyond what we commonly regards as the police.  This would include MI5, MI6 or any other state grouping.  You must bear in mind that when the police and Crown Office refer to Special Branch they may be limiting themselves to the official Special Branch only and, therefore excluding other groupings but then again they may use it the wider sense.  Unless I say otherwise I use Special Branch with its wider definition]

__________________________________________________________________

If you have thoughts, or more, feel free to:

email me at calumsblogATgmailDOTcom or

tweet me at @calumcarr

© CalumCarr 2015

__________________________________________________________________

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.

 

 

 

Monday, 30 March 2015

Willie Macrae Part 24: Importance of Special Branch

 

Introduction

For almost 30 years there have been rumours that Special Branch* were involved with Willie Macrae: ‘involved’ not in the sense of working with but working against Macrae.  According to rumour he was tailed, burgled, driven off the road and shot by state operatives.  

[* I use ‘Special Branch’ to cover two different  situations: firstly, for Special Branch only and secondly for any state operations beyond what we commonly regards as the police.  This would include MI5, MI6 or any other state grouping.  You must bear in mind that when the police and Crown Office refer to Special Branch they may be limiting themselves to the official Special Branch only and, therefore excluding other groupings but then again they may use it the wider sense.  Unless I say otherwise I use Special Branch with its wider definition]

 

In subsequent posts, I’ll discuss the authorities’ views on the role of Special Branch and look at evidence for such a role but here I focus entirely on why the alleged involvement of Special Branch is so important to calls for a Fatal Accident Inquiry into Macrae’s death. 

By focusing so strongly on Special Branch (4 posts at least) it is possible that some may think that this is the only reason for an inquiry.  It isn’t.  The case for an inquiry doesn’t stand or fall on the basis of Special Branch.

You may wonder also why I am not presenting the evidence for Special Branch involvement now and then moving on to what that means for the calls for an inquiry.  I felt that I wanted to establish some principles first so that you could measure the evidence, when presented, against these principles.  I worried that the principles would be lost had I put the evidence first.

 

I’m going to look at 3 different scenarios, where there is

- certainty of active Special Branch involvement

- evidence of SB involvement

- historical involvement but NOT in the period leading up to Macrae’s death

 

Certainty of Active Involvement

In Part 19, I made the best case I could for suicide given the released documents.  I believe this is, in essence, what the Crown Office thought.  

I wrote,

‘He was hugely talented.

He was charismatic.

He was troubled …. terribly.

He suffered with depression and suicidal thoughts so much so that his younger brother, a GP, had taken his unlicenced revolver from him.  Unfortunately, this was returned to him when his brother considered that his mental state had improved.

He drank much more than was good for him.  He had been convicted twice for drink driving and had another offence pending.

He faced prison.

He feared prison.’

and then he crashed whilst under the influence of drink and then ……

 

This is a simple, straightforward but tragic case.  There is no place in this story for Special Branch.

 

Now I want to show how the picture changes if Special Branch were actually involved with Macrae.  Then we’ll consider the position if there is evidence of possible involvement but with no certainty.

 

Let’s consider some hypothetical situations.  Imagine my quote above but changed slightly.

1.

.
.
.
.
.
.
He faced prison.
 

He feared prison.

and then he crashed having been forced off the road by Special Branch and then ……

Here with direct Special Branch involvement in the crash there would be an inquiry!  This example has nothing to say about who shot Macrae but that does not alter the (hypothetical) fact that Special Branch deliberately drove Macrae off the road.  This would be a criminal act and legal action would follow inevitably.  Surely?

 

And now the second hypothetical situation,

2.

.
.
.
.
.
.
He faced prison.
 

He feared prison.

and then he crashed whilst being followed by Special Branch and then ……

Here too the role of Special Branch is so important that an inquiry is needed!  They have been following Macrae who has then crashed.  Again this hypothesis makes no suggestion of who fired the killing shot but the close and direct involvement of Special Branch in Macrae’s last journey makes an inquiry vital.  Their close involvement makes them witnesses even if they played no direct role in the crash and death.  Again this situation could never be described as simple and straightforward.  The actual role of Special Branch and the possible effect of their activities on Macrae’s thinking and mental health could not be ignored justifiably.  Again an inquiry would be vital.

 

and the third hypothesis,

 

3.

.
.
.
.
.
.
He faced prison.
 

He feared prison.

He knew Special Branch had him under surveillance and he feared the outcome.

and then he crashed whilst under the influence of drink and then ……

With this hypothesis there is no direct involvement of Special Branch in his death but I contend that here too an inquiry is needed to determine their specific role and if Macrae’s mental state was adversely affected by Special Branch’s involvement.  The basic question to be answered about Special Branch by an inquiry would be, ‘Was SB involvement a contributory factor in his suicide?’.

 

In these examples we do not have the simple, straightforward but tragic case the Crown Office states it to be.  Instead, Special Branch is inserted to differing degrees and an inquiry would be needed to determine the extent of Special Branch’s role and the effect on Macrae.

In these examples, I have made Special Branch involvement definite.  There is no doubt and I am clear that all three would require an inquiry.

 

Now I want to consider these hypotheses again but this time where Special Branch involvement is NOT definite but where there is evidence without certainty.

 

Evidence of Active Involvement

Here I make no distinction in terms of whether or not an FAI is needed.

Evidence without certainty must still lead to an enquiry.

 

Why?

It wouldn’t be enough for the authorities to assert the evidence is wrong.

It wouldn’t be enough for me to assert the evidence is correct. 

Evidence must be investigated and tested.

 

With certainty, an inquiry determines the extent of involvement and the likely effect on Macrae.

With evidence but no certainty, the evidence would be tested and an inquiry would determine if there was involvement and, if so, its extent and the likely effect on Macrae. 

 

I’ve left the tricky scenario to the end.

 

Historical Involvement

The situation I consider here is where there is nothing to show that there was active involvement but there is certainty of, or evidence of, historical involvement.

How relevant would it be were it known that SB were taking an interest in Macrae 1 year, 5 years, 10 years before his death?   Should any or all of these drive an FAI?

Historical involvement, evidence for or certainty of, is not enough to push for an inquiry UNLESS, at the time, there were plans or thoughts of doing harm to Macrae.

I have struggled with this, struggled to put all I know of the case to one side, and I’m not sure my conclusion is firm.  I could persuade myself to change.

I ask myself to imagine another hypothetical tragic death; an apparent suicide and then evidence is unveiled that Special Branch had taken an interest in this person some years before. 

Would this warrant an inquiry?

No!

Unless the circumstances of the death were suspicious or giving rise to public concern.

And this brings me back to Macrae.  Historical evidence of Special Branch investigating Macrae is not sufficient for an inquiry.  It is the suspicious circumstances of his death which demand an inquiry.

 

Let me summarise my position.

 

Summary

If there is credible evidence that Special Branch was ‘involved’ with Macrae in the months before his death then an inquiry must be held. 

We must know what happened.

We must know if Willie’s death was ‘simple, straightforward but tragic’ or complex and tragic.

 

If the involvement was historical then this does not require an inquiry unless there were plans or thoughts at the time of doing harm to Macrae.

 

It is possible that justice has already been done in this case but, most certainly, it has not been seen to be done and that is unacceptable.

Justice must be seen to be done.

 

Only with a formal legal inquiry can we see justice done but we must be aware, cynically, that such an inquiry might not bring justice into public sight.

We must also be aware that within many campaigners is a belief that Macrae was murdered.  They must recognise that a suicide ‘verdict’ after an inquiry does not mean that justice was not done.

 

In the posts which follow you can judge the evidence and come to your conclusion about the need for an FAI (or not).

 

 

__________________________________________________________________

If you have thoughts, or more, feel free to:

email me at calumsblogATgmailDOTcom or

tweet me at @calumcarr

© CalumCarr 2015

__________________________________________________________________

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.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Willie Macrae Part 23: Crown Office Stance Hardens

 

Let them turn their face from the common people and for ever be shamed

 

This is an unplanned post written at short notice.

I have just come across an article in today’s Sunday Herald which highlights the new campaign for a Fatal Accident Inquiry into Willie’s death.

The article gives background to Macrae’s last hours, the new campaign, Fergus (Willie’s younger brother) Macrae’s belief that there is nothing to learn about Willies death – it was suicide.  Note: I posted earlier today about why I can’t agree with Fergus.

The key passage, however, is the very last sentence,

Part 23 Herald E1

Read it again! 

The Crown Office is quoted as saying,

Crown Counsel are satisfied with the extensive investigations into the death of William Macrae

and

Crown Counsel ….. have instructed that an FAI will not be held into the circumstances of Mr McRae’s death


Effectively, the Crown Office is saying that there can be no new evidence  ….  ever ….. which could have them question the investigation and open an inquiry.

 

That’s really interesting because on Wednesday I will publish detailed evidence from Donald Morrison, a retired Glasgow policeman, who not only

  knew Macrae

knew of Special Branch surveillance of Macrae

knew of Special Branch removing documents from Macrae’s office

but saw Macrae being observed and followed at speed on his last ever Friday as he prepared to leave Glasgow for his holiday home near Dornie.

 

I will present detailed evidence for all of this.

 

But yet the Crown Office is not for turning.

 

The Crown Office may deny justice in the Scottish courts.

 

But they cannot deny justice in the court of public opinion.

 

Let them turn their face from the common people and for ever be shamed

 

__________________________________________________________________

If you have thoughts, or more, feel free to:

email me at calumsblogATgmailDOTcom or

tweet me at @calumcarr

© CalumCarr 2015

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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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Willie Macrae Part 22: I Can’t Agree with Fergus

 

I am in a very difficult position!

 

In 1985, Willie’s family, including brother Fergus, said that they did not want a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) to be held into his death. 

No FAI was held, the police and Crown Office, having already come to the view that Willie had committed suicide.

P 21 LA page 1[Source]

 

Over the years, Fergus’ view hasn’t changed and now, just three weeks ago,  he has re-stated his position in the Express.

P 21 Express 20150308 A

 

Paula Murray’s article states,

Dr Fergus McRae said demands for a public or fatal accidents inquiry were “futile” and insisted he did not for a moment believe there to be any suspicious circumstances.

 

Fergus Macrae is quoted as saying,

I was completely confused at the time but I knew some background that a lot of people didn’t. It is not something I was willing to go into at the time and it is not something I am willing to go into now either.

and

I don’t understand why this is still going on. I find it very difficult to understand, I don’t know what their [campaigners’] motives are. All the people I know have had this fully explained to them but for some reason this goes on and on and on.

There is no question in my mind of what happened. There was no murder or anything like that. I am absolutely positive about that. He did not discover anything that would have put his life at risk.

There is no reason not to accept the official turn of events.

 

I understand Mr Macrae was approached for comments only a few days after a group ‘announced it was planning to petition the Lord Advocate to launch a fresh investigation into the case.

 

Yes, I am in a very difficult position because I believe that there should be an inquiry!

And I still do despite knowing Mr Macrae’s current views.

 

Many will think I am wrong and ask,

What gives you the right to go against the expressed wishes of Willie’s brother?

What gives you the right to drag details of Willie’s death and life back into the public domain?

Why can’t you leave Willie and his family alone at last after 30 years?

 

Let me try to explain but first I must point out that I give my views only.  Although I have been involved with the campaign group to which Paula Murray alludes and I share their aims neither do I speak for them nor do I know their views on this matter.

 

I can’t know the pain that Fergus and the Macrae family suffered with Willie’s sudden, premature and violent death: it is beyond my imagining.  This would be terrible even if they had found peace as the years passed but they have not been afforded this.  Countless times over the last 30 years, individuals – and I am one – and groups have returned over and over again raking over the details bringing Willie’s death and life back into the public realm and, I imagine, re-opening the sore.

It is no wonder Fergus wants an end to this.

He is as convinced as it’s possible to be that Willie took his own life.  He ‘knows’ an inquiry will bring nothing new but will bring back old pain.  Please stop!

 

I know this and yet I will not stop. 

I continue not because I know what happened and want to have it proved.

I continue because I do not know what happened.

I continue because there are questions and doubts about the suicide label.

Justice might have been done with the police and Crown Office investigations but justice hasn’t been seen to be done. 

There will only be closure when the public see that justice has been done.

Justice is for all of us. 

 

That is why within the ‘Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths Inquiry (Scotland) Act 1976’ legislation, which underpins the Scottish system of Fatal accident Inquiries, there is a role for the public.  The relevant paragraph is

1 (1) b

it appears to the Lord Advocate to be expedient in the public interest in the case of a death to which this paragraph applies that an inquiry under this Act should be held into the circumstances of the death on the ground that it was sudden, suspicious or unexplained, or has occurred in circumstances such as to give rise to serious public concern, [emphasis is mine]

It is to this paragraph that I’ll be looking as I lay out the story of Willie’s death as it is told beyond the documents released by the authorities. [Parts 1 to 20] cover this portion of the mystery].

 

And so I can’t agree with Fergus Macrae.

I can’t stop.

But I hope my writing will respect Willie, his life and his family.

 

__________________________________________________________________

If you have thoughts, or more, feel free to:

email me at calumsblogATgmailDOTcom or

tweet me at @calumcarr

© CalumCarr 2015

__________________________________________________________________

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.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Willie Macrae Part 21: My Next Steps

In Parts 1 to 20 I wrote extensively about the background to the mystery and about the evidence released by the police and the Crown Office.

In this phase I will look critically at information from other (non-state) sources.  These sources are many and varied and their information ranges massively in credibility. 

Let me be clear here that I have seen no information which shows murder as the likely cause of Willie’s death but there is information which raises questions of sufficient importance to merit an FAI. 

Some may find it difficult to understand how I can be neutral about the cause of death but certain about the need for an FAI.  Inquiries are held where knowledge is required, where there is doubt, where there are unanswered questions.  The mystery over Willie’s death fits perfectly into this description.

Let me also be clear that I do not want an FAI so that Willie’s death can be shown to be murder.  I want an inquiry so that justice can be seen to have been done even if Willie’s death was suicide.

In the posts to come I will present information which I believe asks important questions.  As always I will be as even-handed as I can.

 

I have six posts ready to go which will appear over the next five days.

In Part 22, I explain how, despite the pleading of Willie’s brother (Fergus), I am continuing my study and my call for a Fatal Accident Inquiry.


Thereafter are four posts in which I look at the possible involvement of the Special Branch.

 

Part 23: I look at the principles by which I judge if possible Special Branch involvement merits an inquiry.

 

Part 24: I show how the Crown Office has responded to previous calls for an FAI.

 

Part 25: I lay out the detailed evidence of Donald Morrison, a retired Glasgow policeman, who knew Macrae and who claims that Special Branch were actively involved with Willie on the day he left Glasgow and in the weeks leading up to his death.  I think you will be amazed, shocked and possibly angry!

 

Part 26: I lay out Donald’s evidence again with no comment from me other than explaining how I came to produce this document.  You may find this an easier way of grasping the extent of his evidence.

 

Part 27:  I critically assess the impact of Donald’s evidence on the previous position of the Crown Office.

 

After this, I’m not sure on which area I will alight although the position of the revolver relative to Willie’s car must have a good chance of appearing.

 

See you tomorrow!

 

__________________________________________________________________

If you have thoughts, or more, feel free to:

email me at calumsblogATgmailDOTcom or

tweet me at @calumcarr

© CalumCarr 2015

__________________________________________________________________

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.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Willie Macrae: Update and Holiday

 

A week ago, I published the last two parts (19 and 20) of Phase 1 of my study – a review of the police and Crown Office evidence.

 

My intention had been to continue without a break and look at the the media’s and campaigners’ case.  I would have pulled it apart as I did with the official narrative. 

 

But I need to recharge my batteries and so I’m taking a few weeks off - I’ll be back in April.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Willie Macrae Part 20: Crown Office and FAI


Recently I have been involved in very preliminary discussions about how best to move forward with the demand for an FAI into Macrae’s death.  Some might be surprised, given my stated neutrality, that I would become involved.

Let me explain briefly.

I am still neutral.

But I can understand the frustration of those who have been trying for years to have the Crown Office hold a Fatal Accident Inquiry only to be rebuffed.  I only have to remember Police Scotland’s refusal to answer Delamore’s three simple questions through a Freedom of Information request to feel frustration at the apparent senselessness of the decision. [Delamore’s questions:When were the photographs of Macrae’s car taken?; when was the car removed?; when was the post mortem carried out?]

Although neutral, I am in favour of more, much more, information being released and, if that is done through an FAI then fine.  Therefore, when invited to be part of a short conversation about how best to push for an FAI, I accepted.

For the avoidance of doubt, I must say that I wrote this post in early February, a few days before the conversation, and so the words here are mine alone and are not influenced by the other conversationalists.

In Part 19 I used the officially released documents to support, as best I could, the contention that Willie Macrae committed suicide.  I looked too at the very different way in which the Crown Office made their case.

Today I cast my eye over the Crown Office and their continuing refusal to hold a Fatal Accident Inquiry and the implications this has on supporters of an FAI.

The ‘Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths Inquiry (Scotland) Act 1976’ is the legislation which underpins the Scottish system of Fatal accident Inquiries and the relevant paragraph for Willie Macrae’s death is
1 (1) b
it appears to the Lord Advocate to be expedient in the public interest in the case of a death to which this paragraph applies that an inquiry under this Act should be held into the circumstances of the death on the ground that it was sudden, suspicious or unexplained, or has occurred in circumstances such as to give rise to serious public concern,

There is some specific language which describes the type of death which can be considered for an FAI,
sudden, suspicious or unexplained, or has occurred in circumstances such as to give rise to serious public concern,

There is lots of woolly language which gives the Lord Advocate plenty scope to do as he sees fit
it appears to the Lord Advocate to be expedient in the public interest
and a death which
or has occurred in circumstances such as to give rise to serious public concern

But wooliness apart, it is this paragraph [1. (1) b] that FAI campaigners must use to convince the Lord Advocate of the need to hold an FAI and there are two challenges to be met.  Firstly, their evidence must meet the threshold of either showing the death was sudden, suspicious or unexplained, or the circumstances of the death were such as to give rise to serious public concern and then, they must convince the Lord Advocate of that fact.  You might think that meeting the threshold and convincing are one and the same thing and many times you would be correct but the Lord Advocate, current and previous, and the Crown Office, in general, have shown themselves to be very defensive when their decisions are questioned.

In Part 19 I mentioned Lord Carmylie’s utter disdain and utter certainty when writing to Nicholas Fairbairn about Macrae’s death and the campaign for an FAI.  Moving back from that position may be too much for the current Lord Advocate unless the evidence is compelling and the publicity overwhelming.

The Lockerbie case and the innocence /guilt of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi shows the difficulties that Macrae campaigners will face.

There is an effective organisation, ‘Justice for Megrahi’, fighting as the name suggests to clear Megrahi.  To see their committee and signatories go here.

The case was laid before the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, SCCRC, who concluded
27.216 …… the Commission has also considered whether …. the entirety of the evidence considered by it points irrefutably to the applicant’s guilt. The Commission’s conclusion is that it does not.

27.217 ….. the Commission believes not only that there may have been a miscarriage of justice in the applicant’s case, but also that it is in the interests of justice to refer the case to the High Court. The Commission accordingly does so.
[Note: the full 800 pages plus document can be viewed here]
Despite this the Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland, continues to assert his utter certainty in the original conviction.  He called supporters of Megrahi’s innocence, ‘conspiracy theorists’ and just two months ago he claimed,
During the 26-year long inquiry not one Crown Office investigator or prosecutor has raised a concern about the evidence in this case.
We remain committed to this investigation and our focus remains on the evidence, and not on speculation and supposition.[http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-30560364]

But Megrahi is not Macrae.

But there are lessons for Macrae campaigners.

The basis for an FAI must be well-researched, substantial and substantiated.  The Crown Office will not roll over and open an FAI even on evidence which is very solid and with apparent serious public concern.


As far as I am aware, other than the Willie Macrae Society in the early years after his death, there is no group which is working towards presenting a petition for a Fatal Accident Inquiry.  I have seen individuals but no coordinating group.  I do not know if there is any desire for individuals to come together but the benefits seem clear.

There are different theories about how Macrae died: at the hands of Special Branch, nuclear industry, drug barons, paedophile ring; by his own hand but with the involvement of Special Branch.  Beyond this are a multitude of questions and doubts about the official version.

But, rather than support the case that his death was ‘sudden, suspicious or unexplained’, I find it weakened by the sheer breadth of the possible theories and questions.

Ideally, campaigners would have a coherent narrative which covered the months before and years after Macrae’s death but there should be no onus to produce this.  That would be for the FAI to establish.

But they must either break the official suicide narrative or show evidence of a conspiracy or cover-up.  Nothing I have seen so far achieves this to the degree I believe is necessary. A newspaper report is not sufficient.  A witness statement being published online would not be sufficient.  But a witness statement and questioning properly and legally recorded would be a massive step forward.

Do the campaigners have it in them to work together?

Will their case ever stand up?

Can they and their case stand up to the apparent hostility of the Crown Office?

The answers?   Time will tell.

And much time will be needed if ever they are to achieve their aim.  I wish them well.


I have now reached the end of the first phase of my study: the official case.

__________________________________________________________________
If you have thoughts, or more, feel free to:
email me at calumsblogATgmailDOTcom or
tweet me at @calumcarr
© CalumCarr 2015
__________________________________________________________________
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.


Willie Macrae Part 19: Case for Suicide


In this 19th post, I use the material released by the police and Crown Office to make the best case I can for Willie Macrae’s death being suicide.  I do this, not because I believe he took his life - I have no view either way -  but, because I haven’t seen the case made coherently.  Yes, there have been bits and pieces but no single narrative.

It will be this case that those who, for a variety of reasons, can’t accept a suicide ‘verdict’ need to dismantle or damage.

For those who are just joining the series here let me lay out my position and approach.  When I came across Willie’s death in November last year I was intrigued by the mystery; such certainty from the Crown Office, such doubt from others; so many conflicting media reports.  I couldn’t come down for any position.  I would need to read and analyse and think from a position of absolute neutrality.


I take this neutrality into even this post where I do my best to construct the case for suicide.  The thoughts and views which follow are not mine rather they are how I imagine a suicide supporter would construct the case.

Also for comparison I show the Crown Office’s attempt at making the case for suicide.

________________________

Willie Macrae Killed Himself
I understand the difficulty that many of you will have with accepting this statement.  I understand the sincerity with which you hold your views.  Of course, there cannot be absolute certainty because there were no witnesses and no definitive evidence but there is a massive weight of evidence for suicide and an absence of evidence for murder or conspiracy. 

This puts far beyond reasonable doubt ….
Willie Macrae shot himself in the head.

He was hugely talented. 

He was charismatic.

He was troubled …. terribly. 

He suffered with depression and suicidal thoughts so much so that his younger brother, a GP, had taken his unlicenced revolver from him.  Unfortunately, this was returned to him when his brother considered that his mental state had improved.

He drank much more than was good for him.  He had been convicted twice for drink driving and had another offence pending.

He faced prison. 

He feared prison. On Thursday, 4 April 1985, there had been a fire at his home, the cause of which is unknown but about which there has been speculation.

On Friday, 5 April, Macrae asked his partner (in his legal firm) to visit him at home and told him that he was going to his holiday home in Dornie for the weekend.  But so concerned was Ronald Welsh (partner) about Macrae’s mental health that at 7.30pm he phoned Macrae’s Dornie home to check that he had arrived safely.  When his call went unanswered, Welsh telephoned every police station between Glasgow and Kyle. All of this information was unknown when Police Constable Kenny Crawford received a call at Fort Augustus police station at about 11.15 on the morning of Saturday, 6 April.  A car had crashed and was off the road between Kyle and Invergarry.

When he arrived at the scene,  Crawford found Macrae unconscious with a head wound.  There being no reason to suspect anything other than a one car accident, there was no need to preserve the site as a crime scene.  Crawford’s priority was to ensure Macrae – he had been identified by a witness already present – was removed from the car and taken to Raigmore hospital without delay. 

This having been achieved and the witnesses either accompanying Macrae in the ambulance or following the ambulance to Inverness, Crawford arranged for the car to be removed from the scene and taken to the West End Garage in Fort Augustus for examination.  Before removal, however, Crawford examined, measured and photographed the crash scene. 

Examination of the car during the afternoon of Saturday, 6 April, showed a well-maintained car with no obvious defects which could have caused, or contributed to, the crash.

Crawford’s examination of the scene had already shed light on the moments before Macrae and his car left the road.  A 57 feet long skid mark in the layby, about 60 yards from where the car left the road, indicated Macrae’s attempt to retain control of his car having approached the corner (at layby) at excess speed.  That the car remained on the road for another 60 yards indicated Macrae having an on-going struggle to recover control.  He failed and his car left the road, overturned more than once before ending up facing back in the direction from which he had just come.

It was reasonable and understandable for Crawford to assume that Macrae’s severe head injury was a result of the crash. 

>Only later on Saturday was it discovered that his head injury was caused by a gunshot wound. The new-found seriousness of the case brought the detailed involvement of senior police officers.  As well as visiting the car and the scene, investigations into Macrae’s life brought forth the personal information, mentioned earlier.

Early on Sunday morning, 7 April, Macrae’s life support system was turned off and he died. Officers were faced with a situation where all the available evidence pointed to a one-car crash involving a depressed and suicidal lawyer and political activist with a history of drink driving.  Crucial to their investigations was the killing gun.

Macrae’s partner, Robert Welsh, had described Macrae’s gun and at 12.30pm on Sunday that gun was found in the burn where Macrae’s car had come to rest.  Moreover it was in that part of the burn directly below where the driver’s door had been.  By this time, of course, the car had been removed from the scene. 

How exactly the gun came to be in the burn is unknown but it is likely to have  been one of the following two possibilities. 

The gun’s recoil ‘forced’ it from Macrae’s grasp and it fell:

-
through the broken driver’s door window into the burn
   
-
and became wedged between Macrae and the door.  During Macrae’s removal from the car the gun was knocked or fell unnoticed from the car into the burn

The post mortem showed that, although two bullets had been fired from the gun, there was only one bullet wound and one bullet in his brain.  This was recovered.  Also the evidence was clear that the gun had been held against Macrae’s head and the gun fired: powder debris in the wound but not in surrounding surface tissue.

Holding a gun against the head is typical of gunshot suicides.

Analysis showed that the gun found at the scene, Macrae’s, was the gun which fired the killing shot.  The second fired bullet has never been found nor was there any evidence within Macrae’s car of the bullet or of damage caused by a bullet. Why Macrae, in his depressed state, chose to end his life next to Loch Loyne, is open to speculation.  It is not for me to become involved.  What is important and tragic is that Willie Macrae shot himself at the crash scene.

It should not go unnoticed that the Procurator Fiscal discussed the findings of the investigation with Mr Macrae’s brother, Fergus, who was satisfied with the investigation.  Fergus Macrae intimated that he and his family did not wish there to be a Fatal Accident Inquiry.

>Neither during the initial investigation nor during subsequent investigations carried out at the request of the Lord Advocate has any evidence been found for the involvement of any other person in Macrae’s death.  To the contrary, every investigation has confirmed the decision of the first:  Macrae killed himself with a gunshot to the head. Every other suggestion, whilst well-meaning, is unfounded and without basis in fact.
______________________

I expect many to disagree with my words.  I haven’t touched on any of the doubts, questions, contradictory evidence because neither the police nor the Crown Office have gone near this material.
Although disagreeing I hope I have treated the issue with respect.  Certainly, that was my intention.

I think you’ll see a different approach from the Crown Office in the only document in which they have addressed Willie’s death in some detail: Lord Carmylie’s letter to Nicholas Fairbairn MP.
PART 20 Macrae G Lord A
PART 20 Macrae H Lord A
 
Had I been one of Macrae’s “friends”, as Carmylie describes them, I would have been fuming at Carmylie’s attitude.  When first I read the letter I was appalled and here I raise only two issues.

Utter Disdain 
And I can only express my dismay that his “friends” should after his death show such scant regard for his family with this continuing ill-founded speculation and discussion of increasingly fanciful and bizarre theories.

What is one to do if one thinks it possible that the suicide ‘verdict’ is wrong or that, simply, there are unanswered questions?

Leave the doubts un-raised?

Leave the questions unasked?

These ”friends” may be wrong, theories may be fancifulbut his ”friends” have a duty to Willie, to justice to raise concerns. 

But the Lord Advocate dismisses them with only the negativity that the arrogant can muster. 
 

2.  Utter Certainty

As you know a fatal Accident Inquiry is not normally instructed into a suicide.
… if an FAI had been instructed at the time when it was already known Mr McRae had died at his own hand.

… the irresistible inference to be drawn from all the facts and circumstances surrounding tis tragic death is that Mr McRae took his own life.

Perhaps he utterly believed that there was no alternative to suicide.

Other than his mention of Macrae’s ‘firm suicidal intentions’, all that Carmylie / Peter Fraser / Lord Advocate does is to assert his truth and dismiss others’.

An unsupported assertion made from a position of authority. 

In court a good advocate, even a poor advocate, would rip an unsupported assertion to bits.


Unfortunately, although we might rip Carmylie’s unsupported assertion to bits, his position as the then Lord Advocate gives this statement an authority it does not deserve.


Two different cases for suicide ……


…… but does either stand up to detailed scrutiny.
__________________________________________________________________
If you have thoughts, or more, feel free to:
email me at calumsblogATgmailDOTcom or
tweet me at @calumcarr
© CalumCarr 2015
__________________________________________________________________
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.