Police say they are closing in on murderer in Renee Macrae case
DETECTIVES believe they are closing in on the killer responsible for one of Scotland's most notorious unsolved crimes, it emerged yesterday.
Ian Latimer, chief constable of Northern Constabulary, said the force had "closed the evidential gap" in the 30-year hunt to bring to justice whoever murdered Renee Macrae and her son, Andrew.
Police hope to submit a report to the procurator fiscal within a matter of months.
The report has been awaited since Mr Latimer ordered a cold case review of the investigation in 2004.
This included an unsuccessful month-long search of Dalmagarry quarry, 12 miles south of Inverness. The quarry is near the spot where Mrs Macrae's burnt-out BMW was found in 1976, launching one of the biggest murder investigations ever carried out by the force.
Mr Latimer said officers are putting the "final polish" on the report, adding: "There is a lot of new information and new intelligence which has been gathered during the cold case review.
"There are still some aspects of the inquiry that are still ongoing. My view is that we have closed the evidential gap during the course of this inquiry.
"But whether that is sufficient to justify a prosecution will be for the Crown to decide."
Mrs Macrae and her son were last seen on the afternoon of 12 November, 1976 driving south out of Inverness.
Later that evening, the car was found burnt out in a lay-by on the A9.
Almost every officer on the Highland mainland took part in a search which continued off and on for a full year, but the pair were never found.
Mrs Macrae, 36, said she was going to see her sister, who then lived in Kilmarnock.
However, she had arranged to see her lover, Bill McDowell, Andrew's father, although the rendezvous never took place.
Mr McDowell has always denied any involvement in the disappearance of the pair.
The police file on the case was never closed and was reactivated two years ago after a former senior officer, Detective Sergeant John Cathcart, said he was convinced the bodies of the housewife and her three-year-old son were in the quarry.
He said a few months after their disappearance he detected the strong smell of rotting flesh in the quarry, but a full search of the area was not made at the time.
An extensive dig of the quarry by a team including Professor Sue Black, the renowned forensic anthropologist, failed to find the bodies.
However, the force said later the review had "substantially enhanced" the evidence in the case.
Meanwhile, another unsolved murder in the Highlands is to be subjected to a second review by an outside force.
It is now 21 months since Nairn banker Alistair Wilson, 30, was gunned down by a man who called at his house and asked for him by name.
Despite extensive inquiries across the UK and abroad in a case which has now cost 1.5 million, no suspect or motive has been identified.
Officers from Grampian Police were called in last year to review evidence and confirmed the work of their Northern Constabulary colleagues.
Mr Latimer said yesterday a second team of senior Grampian detectives will conduct a second review imminently.
He said: "The first review was generally very positive with regard to the way the inquiry was being conducted. I've now asked Grampian to come back for a second rigorous review.
"It's not because I have any concerns, I just think it's appropriate to open ourselves up to an external method of scrutiny. It should also give the community confidence that we have done everything we possible can."
Mr Latimer added: "This was a tragedy and I'm personally frustrated that we have not been able to detect it at this point. But it is an innovative investigation on which we have pushed the envelope and will continue to do so.
"I don't think you can put a value on the need to seek justice for the death of a young man and having him taken away from his family. We will continue to pursue this inquiry, but it's not an easy one."
Mr Latimer yesterday presented the force's public performance report - which showed the force's detection rate at 63.6 per cent, up 2.4 per cent on last year. This compares with a Scottish average of 45 per cent and England and Wales average of 23 per cent.
Over the last year the force has seen a 0.8 per cent reduction in overall crime.
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