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Willie MacRae
An article about his murder

Hi Alastair and Friends,

Many thanks for your interesting e-mail to which I am pleased to respond. Whilst in my 80th year my memory is not 100% accurate, my notes, minutes of meetings and my memory of those dark days are as accurate now as they were twentynine years ago! I have tagged my take on the events of 1985+ on to the end of this short piece about Willies murder.  

Willie MacRae was born on May 18th, 1923 – assassinated by British establishment, person or persons unknown, on April 7th, 1985. He was a Scottish National Politician and a Scots Lawyer, remembered also for the mystery surrounding his death. Willie was an active member of the Scottish National Party and an anti-nuclear dumping campaigner.

He was active outside Scotland too, having served in the Royal Indian Navy and becoming active in the campaign for independence for India. He was also the author of the maritime law of Israel and emeritus professor at the University of Haifa. After his death a forest of 3,000 trees was planted in his Honour in Israel to mark his death. On the fateful day of his untimely death Willie left his Glasgow flat at 18:30 on 5 April 1985, to spend the week at his cottage at Ardelve near Dornie. He was not seen again until the following morning around 10:00, when two Australian tourists saw his Volvo Estate car lying on the moor a short distance from the junction of the A87 and A887 roads, about 30 yds (27 ms) from the roadway, straddling a burn. The tourists flagged down the next car to pass by, which turned out to be driven by a doctor, Dorothy Messer, accompanied by her fiancé as well as David Coutts, a Dundee SNP councillor who knew Willie MacRae very well. It was discovered that Willie was in the car.   He was not wearing a seat belt. Another car was sent to call the emergency services. Dr Messer examined Willie and found that he was still alive and breathing. She noted that one of his pupils was dilated, indicating the possibility of brain damage, and estimated that he had been in that state for 10 hours.

Willie was removed by ambulance to Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, accompanied by Dr Messer. On arrival it was decided to transfer him to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. At Aberdeen it was realised that the incident was more than a road accident; six hours after he had been found, a nurse washing his head discovered what appeared to be the entry wound of a gunshot. An X-ray confirmed that Willie McRae had been shot above his right ear and a bullet was detected in his head. His brain was severely damaged and his vital functions very weak. The following day, on Sunday 7th of April, after consultation with his next of kin, Willie MacRae's life-support machine was switched off. An investigation into Willies death was headed by Chief Superintendent Andrew Lester of Northern CID. Despite no weapon having yet been found, Willies car was moved at 12:00 on 7 April. It later transpired that the police had kept no record of the precise location where the car had been found, and the position stated by them was later found to be 1 mile (1.6 km) in error, and was corrected by a witness who had been present at the scene.

A weapon was found the following day, in the burn, over which the car had been discovered, 60 ft (18 m) from the vehicle. It was a Smith and Wesson .45 revolver belonging to Willie MacRae which had been fired twice. No fingerprints were found on the gun, despite MacRae not wearing gloves when he was found.

Although it was ruled at the time by authorities that Willie  Mcrae's death was a suicide, the official account has been disputed, some claiming that the distance from Macrae's car at which the gun was found and the lack of fingerprints on it rendered such a verdict, not credible.

  • At the time of his death, he had been working to counter plans to dump nuclear waste from Dounreay into the sea and on land at Mulwharcher in South Ayrshire. Due to his house being burgled on repeated occasions prior to his death, he had taken to carrying a briefcase containing copies of documents relating to all of his work. The briefcase was kept with him at all times. However, his brief case was never found following his death, and  all other sole  copies kept in his office were stolen when it was burgled, no other items being taken.  


In 2005, Fergus Ewing MSP requested a meeting with Elish Angiolini, the Scottish Solicitor General to discuss allegations that have persisted that Willie MacRae was under Secret Service surveillance at the time of his death. The request was rebuffed, with Angiolini claiming that he had not been under surveillance and that she was satisfied that a thorough investigation into the case had been carried out. However, in July, 2006 a retired police officer, Iain Fraser who was working as a private investigator at the time of Willies death claimed that he had been anonymously employed to keep MacRae under surveillance only weeks before he died.

The death of Willie MacRae received further attention when the events surrounding it formed the basis of a broadcast of the STV show Unsolved, originally broadcast in November 2006.

In November 2010 John Finnie, the SNP group leader on Highland Council and a former police officer, wrote to the Lord Advocate urging her to reinvestigate Willie MacRae's death and release any details so far withheld. Finnie's request was prompted by the release the previous month of further details concerning the death of David Kelly. In January 2011 the Crown Office requested the files on the case from Northern Constabulary.



What has not been properly placed on the public record may be best explained as to the reasons Willie was enroute to spend a weeks business and celebratory pleasure holiday at his cottage in Ardelve, Dornie, the weekend of his murder. Perhaps I may be allowed to explain, for what I hope are obvious reasons. Here is my take on the events leading to the untimely passing of a good friend, fellow PPC for the SNP, colleague and family Lawyer? So here goes. From my recall of those dark days Willie McRae was not in a suicidal mood, far from it. 

My one and only daughter was to be married on Friday the 12th of April in St Duthacks Catholic Church in, Dornie, on the shores of Loch Long as it feeds into Loch Alsh. The reception was arranged to be in the Balmacara Hotel also on the shores of Loch Alsh near Dornie. The wedding was to take place on Friday April 12th 1985 with celebrations going on all week in a traditional Highland wedding format. Among the invited guests, Willie McRae would have been there, but for his untimely death. My daughters wedding was the reason Willie McRae was scheduled to be in his crofters cottage at Ardelve a few minutes drive over the bridge to St Duthacks Church and the Balmacara Hotel, just down the road from the church. And so the scene was set for a great week of celebrations. However, Willie McRae and I were due to have discussions on some issues we regarded as sufficiently important to take some time off from the fun and games of a Highland wedding. I will keep my explanation of these issues as brief as possible. Suffice to say the reader will understand the depth of importance these issues were and indeed are still so to this day.

Apart from attending my daughters wedding Willie was due to speak at the reception, but more importantly we were due to discuss those issues in which he and I were involved.

Issues under discussion.

Willie was the Lawyer for our Campaign against Dumping Nuclear Waste on Mulwharcher in South Ayrshire of which I was the elected " campaign leader". We persuaded The Local Council not to allow planning permission and we won the argument and stopped Nuclear Dumping taking place.

Some weeks later I was driving towards Glasgow to work, it was a Monday morning, when, just 100 yards north of what was then, the Fenwick slip on/off of the old A77, when my car, a 2.0L Saab, was struck by a high velocity bullet just in front of the rear onside tyre tearing a hole in the wheel arch forcing me off the road. I know this to be true because the local Road Traffic Police towed me to Pitt Street Police Station in Glasgow. At Pitt Street I and my car were transferred, escorted by  Police Forensic Scientists, to a Police low loader and transported to Helen Street Police Garage, where those Police Forensic Scientists examined the car for four hours before reporting to me that in their opinion the damage to my car was caused by a high velocity projectile, probably by a Deer Hunters Sporting Rifle. (Deer hunting in Fenwick?) I asked for a written report but needless to say, to this day, that report never materialised.

The Helen Street Police Garage returned my car at 5PM that day to my place of work, Miller Textiles, Castlemilk. My car had been expertly repaired. I was advised that "there is no need to report this accident to your insurance company".

This issue was also being investigated and pursued by Willie McRae.

However the bombshell Willie had in his briefcase that weekend was this.

He had incontrovertible evidence from a source within the M.O.D that plans were in place to build an underwater burial casement offshore at Applecross, to store all of the United Kingdoms Nuclear Waste. Willie was beside himself and was due to publicise his findings that weekend.

These and other Scottish Political issues of those days were in his briefcase, never out of his sight, because of a series of unsolved break ins to his office in Buchanan Street in Glasgow. He trusted no one but his closest politically active associates. After his Volvo Estate was recovered from the so called "accident" site, his brief case was never found.

Here I have to leave the scene of Willie McRae's assassination to say that on that fateful day I telephoned the Police at Kyle of Lochalsh, The Sunday Post and the Herald, giving each my input to the story. I also 'phoned the SNP. I then confirmed my evidence in writing to all those telephone contacts. None of my "witness information" was ever published. I was never interviewed by Police involved in the "investigation". End of story?

As far as the SNP was concerned I was utterly disgusted by their negative attitude and my relationship with the SNP ended. I have been involved in Scotland's National politics since 1948, so my departure was not easy.

To this day I have not heard from any of those institutions mentioned nor were any of my letters to the press ever published nor acknowledged on the matter of Willies death. It was as though my old "D" Notice had been resurrected by the British establishment.

Alastair and friends,

I hope this wee contribution of mine is of some help to THE CAUSE. I do not seek personal publicity, (I want to celebrate a YES victory)! My 80th birthday is on  the 17th of September and I want to be free to celebrate YES & 80 years at one and the same time.

Yours Aye.



One of the better attempts at an expose of the subject appeared in The Herald on 27th March 1995!

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