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Murder accused ‘told handyman he did and didn’t kill Renee MacRae’

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A pensioner accused of murdering his lover and son more than four decades ago told his handyman he “did and didn’t” kill her, a court has heard.

William MacDowell, 80, denies murdering 36-year-old Renee MacRae and their son Andrew MacRae, three, at a layby south of Inverness on November 12 1976.

The High Court in Inverness has heard after the alleged murder, MacDowell and his wife, Rosemary, moved to the Crook Inn, Peeblesshire, where, in the autumn of 1986, MacDowell employed ex-convict Mitchell Yuill as a handyman.

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Speaking to police in 1987, Mr Yuill said when he first started working for MacDowell, he did not know he was connected to the disappearance until the pub chef told him.

On the 10th anniversary of Renee and Andrew going missing, Mr Yuill was asked by MacDowell to get two copies of a newspaper, where the story featured. Yuill said MacDowell reacted as though he was not too “chuffed” about the story reappearing.

After work, while he was playing pool with MacDowell, Mr Yuill said he spoke to him about the mystery.

“He wasn’t surprised by the question but gave a big sigh or blow,” Yuill said in a police statement, which was read out to the court by former police officer, George Gough.

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READ MORE: Man appears in court accused of 1976 murder of Renee MacRae and son Andrew

Mr Yuill said that on another occasion, while he was drinking with MacDowell, the subject came up again.

“I asked MacDowell if (Andrew) was his son. He said (he) was,” and added that there were then “tears coming down both cheeks” from MacDowell.

The court heard MacDowell told the handyman: “There’s one or two things I have to get off my mind. You will get to know about it sometime.”

Mr Yuill also said that MacDowell made mention of a cottage that nobody knew about, and said he claimed he hoped nobody would find out or MacDowell would be in trouble.

Mr Yuill told police: “In a subsequent conversation, I asked MacDowell again about Renee MacRae – if he did it, meaning if he killed her.

“He said, ‘I did and I didn’t.”

The court heard Mr Yuill, who is now dead, was accused of stealing MacDowell’s car and was detained in October 1987.

Giving evidence about Mr Yuill’s statement, Mr Gough told the court he was unaware of the accusation.

The court also heard that Mr Yuill had told police MacDowell had guns, including a submachine gun.

READ MORE: Husband of woman who vanished in 1976 denies any role in her death

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In the police interview, Mr Yuill said he was speaking to officers because they had said he would not get in trouble for stealing the car if he did so, the court was told.

Prosecution and defence have agreed that blood found in the boot of her burnt out BMW was assumed to be Mrs MacRae’s as only 1 in 100,000,000 people would match her DNA profile, samples of which they obtained from an old hairbrush.

MacDowell, of Penrith, Cumbria, is on trial charged with assaulting Mrs MacRae and Andrew at the Dalmagarry layby on the A9 trunk road south of Inverness, or elsewhere, by means unknown, and as a result murdering them.

He is also accused of disposing of the bodies of Mrs MacRae and her son and also disposing of a boot hatch from his Volvo car to defeat the ends of justice, which he denies.

He has lodged a special defence of incrimination and alibi, part of which is he was at the Mercury Motor Inn, Inverness, that evening before going home via his work and a shop.

The trial, before Lord Armstrong, continues.

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