Thursday, 2 April 2015

Willie McRae Part 28: Thoughts on Donald’s Evidence


Over the last few days you’ve had the opportunity to read about Special Branch surveillance of Willie Macrae:

-   Parts 26 and 27: Donald Morrison’s evidence
-   Part 25: Crown Office response to claims of SB surveillance of Macrae
-   Part 24: Why evidence of SB surveillance should lead to FAI

Today I try to reconcile the apparently irreconcilable: Morrison’s evidence and Crown Office response but before then there are two points I must make.

Firstly, if it were shown, without doubt, that Willie was followed by Special Branch then an inquiry would be vital BUT this involvement would not be evidence that Willie was murdered.  It would be evidence that Willie was ‘tailed’ by Special Branch.  No more! And that would be worthy of public examination.

Secondly, I had always assumed the statement below to be true but two days ago Donald confirmed its truth,

Donald Morrison has NEVER been interviewed by the police.

I find this  incredible!

I don’t know when Donald’s evidence first crept into the public domain but I know he shared evidence with Fergus Ewing in 2005 before Fergus raised the matter with the Crown Office.  Donald was not interviewed before or after Ewing’s involvement.

In 2011, Donald contacted Northern Constabulary to make a statement which he then made.  Parts 26 and 27 cover the background to that statement.  He was not interviewed after making that statement.

He has not been interviewed since 2011.


CAUTION

Throughout this post I try to be thorough and fair as I look at the various combinations of Donald Morrison and Crown Office, and truth, mistake and lies.  BUT I must accept that as I develop my thinking I make several assumptions and at each such point I could be wrong and, therefore, my conclusions could be compromised fatally.

That said, let me start.


BACKGROUND

Firstly let me summarise the two positions but focus on surveillance on Friday 5th April 1985, the day Willie started his final journey.

Morrison is clear. 

Macrae was observed by two individuals who, when Morrison stopped traffic to allow Macrae to do a U-turn, ran back to their cars (there were two cars); were driven off at speed following Macrae and went through a red light.  Morrison gives more detail but that is the essence of his evidence.

The Crown Office too are clear (apparently).  In response to Fergus Ewing MSP raising Morrison’s evidence with the Lord Advocate, wrote,
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.
Although there are a couple of qualifiers, the Crown Office gives the following steer,
Macrae was not the subject of enquiry at the time of his death
This would be the normal interpretation.  The implication of this would be that Morrison is mistaken or lying.

If the Crown Office means anything other than this, then I would view that as deliberate obscuring of the truth. 

Now let’s get back to reconciliation if we can and consider, firstly, Morrison’s evidence.


DONALD MORRISON

Donald can be correct, mistaken or lying.  There can be no other options.  I will look at each of these options and discuss how I would expect the Crown Office to act in each example.  I need to be absolutely clear here.  I am not suggesting that Morrison is lying but I cannot make the points I wish to make without including this hypothetical possibility.

Could Donald be mistaken?

Could an experienced policeman say, ‘I grabbed the bottle before it slipped to the roadway, The two who were taking ops would have seen this’ and be mistaken?

AND could an experienced policeman say, ‘I unintentionally caught them (the surveillance two) on the hop. This resulted in them running northwards across Sauchiehall St and along West Nile St pushing pedestrians to the side to allow them to rendezvous with the two waiting cars which were either parked in West Nile St or in Renfrew Lane (which does not exist any more)’ and be mistaken?

AND could an experienced policeman say, ‘Both were double-manned and went through red traffic signals burning rubber to tail him.’ and be mistaken?

AND could an experienced policeman say, ‘The second car having gone through the lights and causing pedestrians who were crossing to scatter seemed to apologise to the pedestrians who were shouting at them by extending his right arm out the driver's window - a common practice used by police in a hurry’ and be mistaken?

NO!

No policeman could be mistaken about ALL of this.

Therefore, Donald Morrison is either telling the truth or he is lying!

BUT we mustn’t rule out the possibility that Morrison was correct about the surveillance but mistaken about who carried that out.  Unlikely as it may be, it is possible than Macrae was ‘tailed’ not by any state organisation but by others unknown. 

Would a competent investigating body not have considered this possibility if they were certain that the state was not involved?  Surely they would have looked at Donald’s evidence, seen that it was credible and then considered other possibilities?  If this was considered, why was no mention made of that possibility in public statements?

Would the Crown office not make a statement along the lines of , ‘Morrison supplies credible evidence that Willie Macrae was followed on Friday, 5th April 1985.  No state body was involved and, unfortunately, we found no evidence which could led to the identification of those involved.  After 30 years there is no more we can do now.’?

Why not say this?

Because he was not tailed by unknown others or the investigation was never carried out.


Could Donald be lying?

Yes he could.  I don’t believe he is but all of us lie at times.  But imagine, for a few moments, that he is lying and the police and Crown Office, having carried out a thorough investigation, know his statements to be lies.  What would we expect the Crown Office to do? 

If, in a high profile case: in fact in any case, I had made false allegations repeatedly over ten years then I would expect to be charged with wasting police time.  Morrison hasn’t been charged and, as I said earlier, he hasn’t even been interviewed.  This doesn’t compute.

Surely, in a case such as this whose profile over the years has risen, fallen and risen again repeatedly, the Crown Office would act to put an end to the falsehoods?

If Donald’s evidence was disproved in court then a large part of the case for an inquiry disappears.

I’m struggling to find an answer.  Are you?

If anyone can offer an explanation please share it with me.

Without an explanation, I’m led to conclude that he isn’t lying. 


Could Donald be telling the truth?

This is what I’m left with.

Being mistaken isn’t credible and lying doesn’t fit with official inaction against Donald and, so, Donald Morrison is telling the truth.

Where does this lead us?  How then do we view the Crown Office if, as I now assume is the case, Donald’s evidence of surveillance on the day Macrae left Glasgow is true?

Not in good place!

But let’s explore some more and, to protect myself from defaming anyone, let’s work on the assumption, rather than the fact, that Donald is telling the truth.

Assume, therefore, that what Donald has told us about that Friday is true.  Macrae was followed by Special Branch.

Firstly, in these circumstances I claim that an inquiry would be vital.  He is known to be followed by Special Branch, later that day he crashed and, the next day, is found shot with death coming in the early hours of the Sunday morning.

How could there not be an inquiry to give the public the confidence, if that is possible, that the state was not involved in his death?  Even if investigation showed that the surveillance ended within Glasgow, would it not have been proper to explore this in public? To check if there was any indication that his mental state was adversely affected by being followed?  To show clearly how far surveillance did follow him?

Surely?


CROWN OFFICE

Now back to the implications on the Crown Office of Morrison’s evidence being true.

What are we left with?

In this scenario,
The CO already knew Donald’s claims were true and, at best, misled the public with ‘clever’ sentence construction or, at worst, lied? 
The CO responded truthfully because, based upon false or incompetent evidence in their file, they didn’t know Donald’s claims were true but, beyond this, felt no need to investigate further.
The CO and police were so incompetent that no-one really knew what happened and this truth was hidden to prevent state embarrassment.

I’ve nothing to write about the 2nd and 3rd options other than their sheer incompetence they would have denied Willie Macrae the opportunity of having his death investigated properly and the truth of his death being told.

Either of these would shame, not Scottish justice, but the justice system and some of those within that system.

But, on the basis of the scenario that Morrison’s evidence and the first option [The CO already knew Donald’s claims were true and, at best, misled the public with ‘clever’ sentence construction or, at worst, lied?] are true then the shame I have just written about pales into insignificance.

Let’s start looking at this option by re-stating the response to Fergus Ewing,
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. [Emphasis is mine]
How could we have been misled by this?  I have boldened the two qualifiers which allow some leeway.

From the papers
What could have been a blanket denial of surveillance is reduced markedly by those 3 words.  All that is said here is that there is nothing in those papers which showed Special Branch involvement.  There might be masses of information about surveillance which is known about but which happens not to be in those papers.  And the released statement would allow that to be ignored.

If this were done, and I speculate only, then this is akin to deliberately withholding evidence and those involved should be subject to sanction.

But there is a much worse possibility!


At the time of his death
The obvious meaning of ‘at the time of his death’ is ‘in the short period of time leading up to his crash’. 

Now consider a hypothetical situation in which ‘at the time of his death has its literal meaning, ‘3.30am on Sunday, 7th April’.  In this hypothesis the sentence would mean,
 "I can confirm from the papers that Willie Macrae was not the subject of surveillance or enquiry at 3.30am on Sunday, 7th April. [Words in bold black are mine]
This sentence would be true and would be compatible with Donald’s evidence because, being unconscious and on life support, there would be no surveillance of Willie.  But it would say absolutely nothing about surveillance on the Friday or on any other day. 

Surely no-one in the Crown Office would sanction this abhorrence?  But it would be a neat  (but obscene) way of telling the truth whilst misleading totally.  

If this hypothetical situation were ever shown to be true then there would be those within the Crown Office who should never be near the law again!


SUMMARY

Please bear in mind my caution from earlier: that one or more of my assumptions might be wrong and, therefore, my conclusions might be wrong.

My thinking has eliminated the possibility of Donald Morrison’s evidence being mistaken or lies but, alongside his truth, comes the difficult acceptance that the Crown Office has not been truthful.

I hate not that I find Donald truthful but that I am forced to the conclusion that the body charged with running our justice system has not been truthful.  Of course, I may be wrong.  There may be an explanation in which both are truthful although I haven’t seen any sign of it yet.

That the body on which any of us, at some time, may need to rely for justice might not have been truthful is frightening.  

Where would justice be found?


At this late stage I hope the Crown Office, someone, anyone can shed openness on this dark conclusion.



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8 comments:

  1. The words you and others attribute to a man called Donald Morrison seem the first here that do raise serious concerns. However, they are words attributed to one man, with all the problems of lack of corroboration and possible motivations that enter into such things. The official response to these words of one man deserves scrutiny, as does any unofficial responses from others who may claim to know or have known this Donald Morrison.

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  2. Can you clarify something? In what year did Donald Morrison first talk to any legal agency or make any official statement about what he claimed to have witnessed? I may have missed something, but there seems an inordinately long time between the actual death and dates given here.

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  3. Andrew,

    Rather than give a quick but possibly incorrect or incomplete answer, bear with me and I'll try to answer fully within a few days.

    Feel free to chivvy me if I haven't answered you by Easter Monday.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is no rush, but I'll be interested to hear.

      Delete
    2. The issue of whistleblowing is complex. Donald had already been advised by colleagues not to get involved. He knew that senior officers in Strathclyde police not only knew of Special Branch involvement with Macrae but had been actively involved in the removal of files from Macrae's office. None spoke up.

      Whistleblowing is still a risky business, thirty years ago much more so.
      Why should a PC risk his career by going public when he could not count on any support from others who knew? Why should he risk his and his wife's lives, for this was his fear.

      Interestingly the article in SoS states that a former senior officer in Northern Constabulary was John Finnie's contact re the car being returned to the crash site. This is another example of one who knew keeping his head down until out of the police.

      Yes, it would be great if witnesses could reveal their information much sooner but we have to accept that, among other reasons, fear for one's future career is a very powerful weapon preventing potential whistleblowers from making them and their evidence public.

      That witnesses wait many years to come forward should not be seen in any way as undermining the truth of their evidence.

      Delete
  4. What we have here so far boils down to who do you believe- a single witness or a State body? Ordinarily the single witness would be facing an uphill battle here, but in light of recent stories (possibly not unrelated) in the press at the moment, the balance is somewhat more even.

    I await your next posts eagerly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. WJE

      It should be a 'no-brainer' but the Crown Office isn't noted for its openness. The balance then is between one witness with very detailed evidence and a CO which asserts 'nothing to see here'.

      Delete
  5. Calum
    When I read the statement that Macrae 'was not being investigated at the time of his death' I interpreted it in exactly the same way as you did. It looks like a carefully selected phrase designed to hide the truth. Once he had been executed there may have been no further need for investigations, especially if his files had already been stolen.

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