Monday, 30 March 2015

Willie McRae 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).

 

 

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© CalumCarr 2015

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5 comments:

  1. Extensive use of "if...", "alleged...", "hypothetical..." does not really draw me in; but I will continue scanning in case any plausible evidence of anything other than a solo crash and suicide is presented.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The clue was in the post,

    "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."

    hence the 'Extensive use of "if...", "alleged...", "hypothetical..."'.

    I think you'll be disappointed. There will be no "evidence of anything other than a solo crash and suicide" unless an inquiry is held, perhaps even with an inquiry, but there will be evidence for the holding of an inquiry. Whether you or anyone else agrees with me only time will tell.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I would suggest there is no justification for an inquiry if there is no evidence of anything other than a solo crash and suicide. You surely need some such evidence to begin with. On a pure matter of taxpayer justification, how much would it cost to hold and FAI into a death, and one that the close family themselves say does not require an FAI? I knew nothing of this case until your posts, and now 24 long posts later, I still have read nothing that suggests we should not all let the event and the family rest in peace. If you have anything that suggests we should not it may be best to get to it, briefly and succinctly.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for your two suggestions. Please feel free to continue to offer your views.

    I suspect I will continue to ignore them.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I am thinking of giving up on this saga, actually, but will probably drop in to skim.

    ReplyDelete