Man charged with murdering mother and toddler who disappeared in 1976

A man has been charged with murdering a woman and her three-year-old son who disappeared more than 40 years ago.

William MacDowell, 77, from Penrith, Cumbria, appeared at Inverness Sheriff Court charged with murdering Renee MacRae and her son Andrew.

He was also charged with two counts of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

MacDowell made no plea at the brief hearing, was granted bail and is expected to appear in court at a later date.

Police Scotland said he was arrested in the north of England on Wednesday morning.

Ms MacRae, 36, was last seen driving out of Inverness with her three-year-old son on November 12 1976.

The mother-of-two’s BMW was found burnt-out in a lay-by on the A9 near Dalmagarry, 12 miles south of the city. The pair were not seen again.

The force said a forensic search of Leanach Quarry, east of of Inverness, as part of the investigation is continuing and the bodies of the Ms MacRae and the toddler have not been recovered.

More than 100,000 tonnes of earth, silt and other material has been removed since work started in May.

Detective Inspector Brian Geddes said: “This is a significant development in an investigation which started when Renee and Andrew disappeared in November 1976.

“Their disappearance has had an unimaginable impact on the lives of Renee and Andrew’s family and friends for several decades.

“This has also been felt keenly in Inverness but also across Scotland and beyond.”

He added: “Police officers and staff from across the country, as well as a number of partner agencies and contractors, have put an enormous amount of work into this investigation from 1976 to the present day, allowing us to reach this point.

“The remains of Renee and Andrew have not been recovered, however, the searching of a large quantity of material removed from Leanach Quarry continues.

“I would like to thank everyone who has assisted the investigation, whether during our recent inquiries or at any time since 1976.”

Anyone who can assist police has been asked to phone police on 101, Crimestoppers on 0800 55111 or e-mail a dedicated inbox at SCDHOLMESInverness@scotland.pnn.police.uk.

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