No closure for Renee MacRae’s family

No closure for Renee MacRae’s family

Grief runs to its own timetable in each of us, impacts us all differently, and going through it is a far-from linear process.

The pain of losing a loved one can feel impossible to bear, even when it is expected. But when death is sudden or unexplained, feelings of shock and unfairness will compound any ‘normal’ levels of grief. Where there is an obvious or suspected criminal cause for the death, those left behind will need answers, and will want to see justice carried out.

William MacDowell heading to court. Image: Inverness Courier

Any semblance of justice has been a long time coming for the family of Renee and Andrew MacRae, who disappeared from Inverness almost 46 years ago. Last week, the High Court found Bill MacDowall, Renee’s former lover and three-year-old Andrew’s father, guilty of their double murder. The 80-year-old was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in prison.

Some may feel this brings closure to the case, and certainly the conviction was welcomed. But the job of the police is not over yet, as MacDowell, at the time I am writing this, is resolutely refusing to disclose where Renee and Andrew’s bodies lie.

A dignified and measured statement

Within minutes of the guilty verdicts being announced, Renee’s sister Morag Govans gave a dignified and measured statement outside the court in Inverness.

“The passage of time has not eroded the anguish we feel,” she said. “We have never been able to lay Renee and Andrew to rest and mourn them properly.”

Speaking of their murderer, she added, “If he has a shred of decency in his body he will now reveal where they both are.”

No justice for this family

Although justice has belatedly caught up with MacDowell, there really is no justice for this still-grieving family. They have lived in anguish and uncertainty since 12th November 1976, while MacDowell has lived a life of freedom, thanks, in part, to a false alibi provided by his wife Rosemary. Will she be called to account for protecting a double murderer? Might that threat provoke MacDowell to finally reveal where the bodies are?

Families need funerals. They need to be able to gather to say their final farewells, to share stories and memories, to cry, to laugh, to honour the lives of those they have lost.

Unanswered questions

There are so many unanswered questions when lives are brutally cut short. How would Renee and Andrew have lived, these past 46 years? Who would they have become? How different would Renee’s older son Gordon’s life have been, had his mum and wee brother still been around?

A conviction can’t hope to erase 46 years of anguish. But a funeral might finally give some comfort. Please, MacDowell, understand the hurt, the pain, and the damage you have inflicted, not just on the two young lives you took, but on the lives of all those who loved them. Tell the police where the bodies are and allow the family at least this shred of closure.

For at this late stage, you really have nothing left to lose.

Make Me Prime Minister!

Have you caught the new Channel 4 series on Tuesday nights, just after Bake Off? In ‘Make Me Prime Minister’, twelve wannabe politicians compete in a political version of The Apprentice. It’s a cringeworthy watch, but their ambition starts to explain our Westminster cabinet.

But what would you do if you were PM? I asked this question at a business lunch last week.

The Chatham House Rule prevents me from attributing comments to any of those present, but here were three suggestions:

  1. Being allowed to recruit freely again from Europe would make an enormous difference to organisations currently struggling with staff shortages.
  2. Businesses need certainty, so can ‘someone’ (I can’t think who!) please stop banging on about Independence for a while?, and
  3. Private sector organisations must start working collaboratively to drive growth, rather than look to the public sector for solutions

Food for thought. But me being PM? No way, no thanks.

‘Nigella sultry’…?

“Can you try and sound like Nigella?” was the request, just before I started recording a voice-over for a TV ad last week. Nigella Lawson? Me? I’ve lived in Scotland all my life. If they’d wanted a posh London accent, they’d come to the wrong person.

But no. They wanted sultry. I didn’t know whether to be flattered that they thought I could do ‘Nigella sultry’ or offended that ‘Nicky sultry’ wasn’t sultry enough.

But I know how to take direction, so I watched some YouTube Nigella to get in character. And got some great inspiration, too, for what to make for tea.

This column is published by Highland News and Media in newspapers across the north of Scotland. If you can, please support print media and the future of independent  journalism by buying a paper, or subscribing online. 

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