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Willie McRae’s death remains a mystery 25 years on []

Firebrand Nationalist Willie McRae, 62, was on the verge of being elected to Westminster on the back of his controversial anti-nuclear campaign when he was found dead at the wheel of his car.
At first it appeared the prominent lawyer had veered off the road and crashed in a burn in a remote area of the Highlands, but the later discovery of a gun and a bullet wound to his head led police to conclude he had killed himself.
However, a retired police officer who saw McRae leave Glasgow on the night of his death has now revealed that he is prepared to make a sworn statement to say he believes Government spies were involved in the incident.
The confession, from former Strathclyde PC Donald Morrison, has put renewed pressure on Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini, who was last week urged to re-examine the case by the SNP’s group leader on Highland Council. It comes as Nationalist MSP Christine Grahame prepares to lodge a motion at Holyrood demanding the investigation be re-opened.
Mr Morrison, who was attached to “A” Division in Glasgow and served for 27 years, said he was told by senior officers that McRae was “under surveillance” by men in dark cars. He told the Sunday Express he can describe the individuals in detail and said, as the last person to speak to the lawyer alive, there is “no way” he would have gone on to commit suicide.
Mr Morrison, now 69 and living in Aberdeenshire, said: “We were told, ‘Stay away from Bath Street,’ which is where Willie McRae’s property was, and told he was under surveillance by Special Branch and MI5. There were two people watching him and I could tell by their body language they were up to something.”
“One was a man in his mid-30s, though he had grey hair, with a light blue suit on. He was folding his arms looking at Willie and he was clearly concerned that I was there. I would be prepared to sign an affidavit on this, so clear is it in my mind even to this day.”
Over the years Mr Morrison has worked with former police colleague Iain Fraser to try to uncover more about the mystery, and he said he would welcome any opportunity to put his evidence forward at an inquiry. He also insisted, contrary to the official version of events, that the lawyer was “in great fettle” on the day of his death.
Mr Morrison said: “I often saw him and spoke to him regularly, and on this day he walked out of a shop with two bottles of whisky. I said, jokingly, ‘Right Willie, blow into this bag please,’ and he stood there laughing. He said I was only jealous as he was going up to his holiday home and would later be sitting with his feet up with a wee dram.
“He said he was going to go through ‘all this’ tonight, looking at his bag of paperwork and added, ‘I’ve definitely got them this time.’ In the back of his car he had several shirts stacked up, rolls of maps tied by pink ribbons and an attache case in addition to the one he held.”
In the early Eighties, Willie McRae enjoyed a period of fame when he masterminded a campaign to halt the disposal of nuclear waste in the Mullwarchar hills, Ayrshire.  By 1985, he was edging closer to politics having narrowly lost the battle for Ross and Cromarty in the 1983 General Election. He was a staunch supporter of independence, but he likely attracted the attention of MI5 because he believed the way to achieve it was not through politics, but by joining with a nationalist group that advocated the bomb and the bullet would free Scotland.
On the day of his death, April 5, 1985, McRae had left Glasgow for the four-hour drive to the Highlands at 6.30pm, but it was not until 10am the following morning that his car was found by tourists driving along the A87. The driver’s door of the maroon Volvo had been wedged shut against the bank of a burn and, inside, McRae lay slumped in his seat, with his bloodied head resting on his shoulder.
He was taken to hospital in Inverness before being transferred in a coma to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, where he later died. Incredibly, it was only after his death that medical staff noticed he had a bullet wound in his head.
The scene of the crash was sealed off as police trawled the burn for the weapon, eventually finding a Smith & Wesson .45 revolver about 15 metres from where the car had come to rest.
Mysteriously it had been fired twice. Despite the fact a figure well known in political circles had died in strange circumstances, the authorities ruled his death was not suspicious and no fatal accident inquiry was held. However, many argue all the signs point away from suicide and towards something sinister. The conspiracy theories were fuelled when it emerged the book McRae was writing, and his briefcase containing key documents, were missing from the car.
In 2006 then Lord Advocate Colin Boyd ruled out a new investigation, saying there was “no basis” for an inquiry. A spokeswoman for the Crown Office yesterday confirmed they have received a letter from Highland councillor John Finnie regarding the case and will “respond in due course

25 years on, riddle of Willie McRae death deepens as new evidence emerges

NEW evidence has emerged in the 25-year-old mystery of the death of SNP activist Willie McRae after the Lord Advocate was asked to reinvestigate the case.
Mr McRae, a lawyer and anti-nuclear campaigner, was found dead in his crashed car off the A87 near Kintail in Wester Ross in 1985. At first it seemed he had died in the accident, but a gunshot wound was later found.
The death was officially recorded as suicide, but many believe he was murdered due to a number of bizarre aspects of the case.
Last month, John Finnie, a SNP councillor on Highland Council and a former policeman, asked the Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini, to reinvestigate the death and release any details so far withheld. Mr Finnie said that since making the call he has been contacted by a number of people with new allegations they consider relevant to the case.
One man told Mr Finnie that Mr McRae’s car was removed from the scene, but, when the gunshot wound was found in his head, the officer in charge of the case instructed it to be returned to the crash spot off the A87 and photographed.
An anonymous caller also claimed that before Mr McRae’s death his office in Bath Street, Glasgow, was broken into.
In his letter to the Lord Advocate, Mr Finnie said: “Both those pieces of information clearly prompt a series of questions some of which can, and should, be answered very simply.
“I believe the advances in collision investigation and DNA should be applied to this case, not least given the position of Mr McRae’s vehicle in police photographs of ‘the scene’.”
He said if the claim is correct, relocating the vehicle risked damaging it and it not being returned to the correct spot.
Mr Finnie added: “The loss of any life is a tragedy, a loss which, after a quarter of a century, still stirs such strong feelings which is clear proof, if any were needed, that the public are not satisfied by the investigation and the subsequent official silence on many aspects.”
Mr McRae left his office on Friday, 5 April, 1985, to head to his holiday home in Dornie, Wester Ross. His Volvo car was spotted by Australian tourists the following morning at an isolated spot on the A87. Mr McRae was slumped unconscious in the driver’s seat covered in blood and when he arrived at hospital it was discovered he had a gunshot wound to his head.
He died at 3am on 7 April, at least 36 hours after being injured. Papers and the lawyer’s smashed wristwatch were found about 20 yards from his car, and the gun, which had no fingerprints on it, was found in a burn some distance from the vehicle. The location of the gun raised questions as to how someone committing suicide could throw the weapon so far from the vehicle.
In 2006, former policeman Iain Fraser, who worked as a private investigator after leaving the force, claimed he was paid 135 by a mystery client to spy on Mr McRae just three weeks before he died.
No fatal accident inquiry was held into the death and repeated requests for an official inquiry have been turned down.
A Crown Office spokeswoman said yesterday: “We can confirm that the Lord Advocate has received a letter from Councillor John Finnie. Mr Finnie will receive a response in due course.”

The McRae Mystery

NEW WAVE…OLD WAYS: Who could shoot themselves twice? Who wiped fingerprints from gun? Who could throw weapon 60ft after blowing their brains out

JUST another car crash off a hazardous country road? No. The most intriguing, unsolved murder of the last 25 years. Willie McRae was a larger-than-life character.

A prominent Scottish lawyer, he’d fought and won many cases opposing the government. As an SNP activist, he’d held national office and come close to becoming an MP.

Yet McRae also revelled in his radical anti-nuclear stance – a dangerous position in the 1980s.

On Friday, April 5, 1985, he left his Glasgow office to head north to his weekend home in Kintail.

Laden with his usual bulging briefcase and armfuls of legal document a big grin splitting his face, he turned to his office sta and said: “I’ve got them! without further explanation.

They were to be the last words he was known to have ‘ spoken.

Around 10am the following I day, an Australian tourist and his wife pulled their car in at an isolated spot on the A87.

A maroon Volvo lay 30 or so yards off the road, straddling a burn, and the couple wanted to check no one was hurt. hT found a man slumped in the driver’s seat, unconscious, hi head smeared with blood.

The next car to arrive was driven by Dr Dorothy Messer, accompanied by her fiancé David Coutts, a Dundee SNP councillor who was shocked to the injured man as Willie McRae.

Dr Messer immediately examined McRae and found he was alive, though dilated pupils indicated serious brain damage.

The police were alerted by another motorist. PC Kenny Crawford arrived from Inverness on his own.

The cops had been told that a prominent Scottish politician, activist and lawyer was lying injured in an isolated spot. What did they do? Send one lonesome PC.

PC Crawford did his best. He and David Coutts struggled to get McRae’s limp body out of the car.

With the limited facilities available to her, Dr Messer had concluded that McRae had been hurt in a road accident. The good doctor had done her best. There was nothing to contradict that view -yet.

Willie McRae was taken to Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, and then on to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, the standard procedure for I brain damage treatment.

There, six hours after his discovery, a nurse washed the patient’s head and found a bullet hole. An X-ray confirmed McRae had been shot above his right ear. The hitman’s bull’s eye.

Willie McRae died at 3am on April 7, 1985, at least 36 hours after being injured. Already folk were questioning how the whole affair had been handled.

Realising there had been a cock-up, Chief Superintendent Andrew Lester, of Northern CID, took over the case immediately.

Yet McRae’s car was promptly removed from the site of what was now a suspicious death. Normally the scene would have been cordoned off and the car kept there while forensics, photographers and scenes of crime officers completed their work.

It was later revealed police couldn’t remember where Willie McRae had been found. They were a mile out until their mistake was pointed out by one of the civilians who had been at the scene. The tragic comedy of errors continued.

When McRae’s body was found, PC Crawford had collected a small pyramid of the dead man’s personal papers all carefully torn up, topped with his smashed wrist-watch and found 20 yards from his car.

Who had put them so neatly there? Who knows? Too many people had trampled over the ground, ruining any clues. A search the next day revealed a Smith & Wesson .45 in the stream 60ft from the car. The gun had been fired twice and had no fingerprints.

Twice? Who could shoot themselves twice in the head?

McRae wasn’t wearing gloves when found. So who wiped the gun of prints?

Sixty feet? Who could throw the hefty gun that distance when they’d just put a bullet in their own brain?

Yet a post mortem would leave an open verdict, suggesting suicide. When challenged, the police suggested the heavy gun had been carried downstream by the water of the wee burn. That theory was soon dismissed.

While they were trying to remove McRae from his car, PC Crawford’s cap fell off and David Coutts had bent to retrieve it, getting a clear view of the stream beside and under the car. There was no sign of any gun.

It also emerged the pathologist had failed to carry out a basic test on the wound to determine the range the gun was fired from,

A fundamental test, since suicides always press the gun hard into their skull to be sure, A hitman, on the other hand, might fire from inches or feet away. The closer you get the messier you get and mess is evidence that’s difficult to conceal.

McRAE had left for Kintail laden with documents, a bottle of whisky and a pack of cigarettes to feed his chain-smoking habit. None were found in his belongings.

At the time of his death, McRae had been working on yet another sensitive case. Having previously legally prevented the UK Atomic Energy Authority in 1980 from dumping nuclear waste in the Ayrshire hills, he intended to have a similar impact on plans to dump waste from Dounreay in the sea.

McRae had hinted to colleagues that he had been passed classified government documents – not for the first time – and colleagues knew he was carrying highly sensitive papers on this case.

Friends believe it was the Dounreay inquiry he was referring to when, as he left the office, he said: “I’ve got them!”

Yet no papers of his relating to Dounreay have ever been located. Over months before his death, Willie McRae’s house was repeatedly burgled, his legal papers disrupted and destroyed. He became cautious, security conscious and had a copy of the Dounreay papers with him at all times, as he did on the day he died. But they were never found.

The only other copy of the Dounreay papers were kept in his office. Who’d break into a big lawyer’s office? But they were stolen when it was burgled. Nothing else was taken.

People began to look for a wider explanation of McRae’s death. They didn’t have to look too far back.

The year before McRae died, a gentle woman called Hilda Murrell was found murdered in her cottage in rural Shrewsbury. Hilda was a rose grower, a pacifist -who could want to kill her? A robber?

Yes. But the only thing stolen from her home were some papers to do with her other passion – anti-nuclear protesting. Later, it was leaked to the press that Hilda’s nephew was a naval intelligence officer involved in the sinking of the Belgrano during the Falklands War, then a great controversy since the ship had been heading away from battle when deliberately sunk.

But no papers of his were taken – just Hilda’s anti-nuclear evidence. It was yet another smoke screen. The question was why?

Retired police officers have revealed that because of his legal and political work, McRae was on the files of MI5.

One of the cars used to trail him was a Triumph, registration number PSJ 136X. Wherever McRae went, that car followed.

He had noticed the motor. Willie McRae was nobody’s fool. When he raised the matter with a friendly cop, he checked the computer. The car came up marked as “blocked vehicle”. That’s shorthand for belonging to the Special Branch or I

Yet no inquiry was held into the death of Willie McRae. Instead, there was a whispering campaign suggesting that McRae was everything from an alcoholic, to a homosexual, to a man in deep financial trouble.

Good enough reasons why he might be troubled, why he might have killed himself, but absolutely without any substance.

No one has ever seen the post mortem report. The procurator fiscal in Inverness has refused to comment on the case, citing the Official Secrets Act.

When Madame Ecosse, Winnie Ewing, carried out an investigation for the SNP she was bluntly denied access to the Crown Office papers in spite of giving the customary legal guarantee of confidentiality.

Every independent person who has examined the case of Willie McRae concludes it wasn’t suicide. If not suicide then what? Murder? But by whom and in whose name?

‘Willie McRae was nobody’s fool…he knew he was being followed by shadowy figures’ … ery-960817

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