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So Police Scotland complied with my Freedom of Information request after a recent decision by the Scottish Information Commissioner (who, I should note, have been extremely helpful to me throughout this process).
Does it solve the case? Goodness no. But that wasn’t the point.
Don’t expect answers.
Expect more questions.
Below, I’m going to post the questions I posed to Police Scotland, the answers given to me and some commentary from myself on what each answers means within the context of the wider case.
Q1) At what time on 6 April 1985 were the police notified of a gunshot wound?
A) Willie McRae arrived at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary at approx. 5.10pm on 6 April 1985 – the bullet was discovered shortly thereafter. There is a record of an officer being notified of the bullet at approximately 7.00pm on 6 April 1985. Therefore, Police were notified of the bullet sometime between 5.10pm and 7.00pm on 6 April 1985.
What does this mean? Past the curious lack of proper documentation that states a definite time during when the police were notified of the bullet, it may look like a straightforward, clear and honest answer to you. To me, it muddies the already dirty water.
I have been privy to information categorically stating that the bullet in Willie McRae’s head was discovered by a neurosurgeon shortly after 7.40pm – and that (7.40pm) was when Willie approximately arrived at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
Do you also see the missing two and a half hours? How can the officer have been notified of a bullet that – according to the latter source – was still 40 minutes from being found? Or, indeed, whilst Willie was still en-route to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary?
I have previously stated that everything in this case is contested, but even I am surprised that such a basic ‘fact’ is now also contested.
It’s absolutely unacceptable. A joke. A farce. Even after 30 years this case still continues to make a mockery of the secretive investigatory and judicial processes within Scots Law.
We’re left with more questions. Is this a misunderstanding? Is it an example of horrendous record keeping? Fabricated information? Or an indication of further conspiracy?
Q2) And at what time on 6 April 1985 were the family of Mr McRae notified about his situation?
A) Willie McRae’s family were notified of the situation at 2.00pm on the 6 April 1985. They were later told of the bullet wound by staff whilst at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
What does this mean? I have no qualms with this. It’s clear and it’s consistent with what I know.
Q3) I see that there is a date (7 April 1985) for the photos of the gun in the request. Could I please also get a time at which these were taken?
A) This information is not held by Police Scotland
What does this mean? It’s easy to think ‘conspiracy!’ when seeing such an admission like this – but cast your mind back to 1985. If you’re too young, like me, then imagine how lax procedures were during those days. At least we know that the photographs were, most likely, taken on 7 April 1985. This is not inconsistent with what is publicly known about the case.
Q4) … the time/date of when the photographs of the car in the request were taken?
Records indicate that the photographs were taken some time after 1.50pm on 6 April 1985.
What does this mean? By now, many of you will have heard about the information that my colleague Steven Semple and I dug up for the Scotland on Sunday article: Willie’s car was moved back to the crash scene – most likely to be photographed – as it was moved before the discovery of the bullet wound at Aberdeen. To further this, two witnesses saw the car back at the scene on the morning of 7 April 1985.
In the other answers we are given either definitive times (e.g. 11.00am) or intermediate times (e.g. between 10.00am and 2.00pm). Note, then, the open-ended, evasive nature of this answer compared to the other answers.
Are we to believe that the photographs were taken on 6 April 1985, some time after 1.50pm? This would mean that they were taken some time between 1.50pm and 11.59pm on 6 April 1985. That wouldn’t be a perfect answer, but it would at least be clearer.
Or do we take it literally? That the photographs were taken after 1.50pm on the 6 April 1985? Meaning that not only could the photographs have been taken at, say, 2.45pm on 6 April 1985, they could also have been taken yesterday or earlier today. The answer given would not contradict such ridiculous assertions – because today still counts as after 1.50pm on 6 April 1985. The photos could, theoretically, be taken as I write this. Or as you read this.
Aye, I have… But the point stands.
If you’re still a wee bit puzzled, let me provide you with a far clearer answer that Police Scotland could have given me to end all doubt.
What Police Scotland said: Records indicate that the photographs were taken some time after 1.50pm on 6 April 1985.
What they could have said: Records indicate that the photographs were taken on 6 April 1985 some time after 1.50pm.
See the difference? If Police Scotland had said the latter, things would be a little clearer. We would be able to infer that the photographs were taken on 6 April 1985 sometime between 1.50pm and 11.59pm. So why didn’t they say the latter?
Perhaps it’s because Police Scotland know that the car wasn’t photographed on 6 April 1985? And to say the latter would have meant that they lied? However, I move that if Police Scotland has information that states exactly when the photographs were taken, then they have misled the Scottish Information Commissioner, you and I, and have contravened the Freedom of Information act.
Or could it be a mere oversight?
You decide. I know what I think, but I may be wrong.
Q5) … the time when the car was removed from the locus on 7 April 1985?
A) Records indicate that the car was moved some time between 2.00pm and 3.30pm on 6 April 1985.
What does this mean? Oh, we’re back to intermediate times again. Convenient. Actually, it’s more than convenient – it’s perfect. It gives us a possible answer to question 4.
The records say that the latest time at which the car could have been moved was at 3.30pm. If that’s the case, then that was the latest time at which the photographs could have been taken. Simple.
Based on this information, here’s another alternative answer to question 4:
Records indicate that the photographs were taken some time between 1.50pm and 3.30pm on 6 April 1985.
So why didn’t Police Scotland answer the question in such a manner? Could it be because the photographs weren’t taken between 1.50pm and 3.30pm on 6 April 1985?
Remember how Police Scotland inferred that they were notified about the bullet between 5.10pm and 7.00pm in question 1? They didn’t know the exact time, so they estimated it based on evidence in their records. Why couldn’t they then infer again for question 4? The photographs of Willie’s Volvo couldn’t have been taken past 3.30pm on 6 April 1985 because the car wouldn’t physically have been there, right?
The answer I take from this is so (and I’m willing to be wrong): Police Scotland cannot state that the photographs of the car were taken between 1.50pm and 3.30pm on 6 April 1985 because it would not be the truth.
So if the photos were not taken between 1.50pm and 3.30pm…
And the car is gone by, at the latest, 3.30pm on 6 April 1985…
Then how did they take this photo?
Oh goodness, of course…
I completely forgot that Northern Constabulary* had a Wizardry Bureau in 1985.
There you go.
Completely explains it.
Well, that or they moved Willie’s car back to be photographed and have yet to admit such an action.
But it’s obviously the Wizardry.
Moving on… Note how my actual question wasn’t actually properly answered?
I asked when the car was removed from the locus on 7 April 1985.
Couldn’t they have just given me a simple denial and made it clear that their records only showed that the car was moved from the crash scene on 6 April 1985?
Q6) On what time/date was the post-mortem conducted?
A) Records indicate that the post-mortem was conducted at 9.30am on 8 April 1985.
What does this mean? Not a great deal on its own. Within context, it provides more. Nothing worth mentioning with certainty though.
So, there you have it. Despite appearing somewhat small and insignificant in content, the answers tell us a lot:
They tell us that even the facts within officialdom are contradictory and/or confusing.
They give us some extra info.
And, crucially, they do not contradict my all-but-officially-confirmed, evidence-driven theory that the car was moved back to be photographed.
So, Sir Stephen House, it’s back over to you…
* Northern Constabulary were the force who originally looked into the case. They were dissolved in 2013, along with the other regional forces, to become the homogeneous Police Scotland. They never had a Wizardry Bureau.
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