Dalmagarry ‘murder’ quarry to reopen

A QUARRY at the centre of a murder hunt for a mother and son in the Highlands nearly 40 years ago is to be reopened.
A member of the police forensic team sifts through an area near Dalmagarry Quarry in 2004. Picture: PAA member of the police forensic team sifts through an area near Dalmagarry Quarry in 2004. Picture: PA
A member of the police forensic team sifts through an area near Dalmagarry Quarry in 2004. Picture: PA

Dalmagarry Quarry, next to the A9 near Tomatin, was twice searched by police investigating the mysterious disappearance of housewife Renee MacRae and her three-year-old son Andrew.

Plans to reopen the quarry have been approved by Highland councillors.

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It will be operated by Alness-based Pat Munro Ltd to provide sand and gravel for the huge A9 dualling project.

Renee MacRae. Picture: PARenee MacRae. Picture: PA
Renee MacRae. Picture: PA

Mrs MacRae and Andrew were last seen alive in November 1976.

Her sister, Morag Gowans, has expressed surprise at the quarry plans, but said she lived in hope of a breakthrough in the case.

She said: “I don’t have a lot of hope but you just never know. I never thought that quarry would be opened up again.”

Her burnt-out BMW car was found in a layby off the A9, a mile south of Tomatin near Dalmagarry. A bloodstain was found in he boot and what started as a missing persons inquiry turned into a murder investigation.

Mrs MacRae had, at the time of her disappearance, been separated from her husband, millionaire company director Gordon MacRae, and was having an affair with Bill MacDowell, an accountant in her husband’s building firm.

He was married and was Andrew’s biological father. He has always denied meeting Mrs MacRae on the night she disappeared.

At the time, the A9 was under construction close to the quarry and it was subject to an extensive search.

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In 2004, Northern Constabulary opened a cold-case review and officers carried out an excavation of the quarry. The dig was led by Inverness forensic anthropologist Professor Sue Black, of Dundee University.

However, despite it lasting a month and costing around £112,000, nothing was found. Police claimed to have closed an “evidential gap” in the inquiry. No one has ever been arrested in the investigation.

Local farmer Brian MacGregor, who lives further up the A9, paid for radar investigations of the stretch of road near Dalmagarry which he claims indicated that bodies might be buried under the road. It was under construction at the time.

The quarry will be reopened later this year.

Brian Munro, managing director of Pat Munro Ltd, said: “The quarry does have a bit of a history.

“The police have carried out a full excavation of the old quarry works and they were able to eliminate the quarry.

“Because of the dualling of the A9, there is going to be a shortfall in aggregates needed. That is going to be a problem right the way down the A9.

“We want to open up the quarry because of the need for aggregates, concrete and tar. That is the primary reason, but we hope it will have a life beyond that.”

However, concerns were expressed about potential road accidents. The proposal was opposed by Inverness councillor Jim Crawford, who claimed the access arrangements to and from the A9 were dangerous.

About a dozen trucks will use the site every day.

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Mr Crawford said: “It is irresponsible. Someone will die there. Someone will be killed and we will be held responsible.”

However, planning officer Ken McCorquodale said arrangements had been put in place to make the access safe.

The plans to reopen the quarry were approved by 13 votes to two at Highland Council’s south planning committee.