Willie McRae FOI Success Exposes More Discrepancies


I am currently working on my book ‘30 Years of Silence: The Life and Mysterious Death of Willie McRae’. Please subscribe to the blog to keep updated on future posts about Willie McRae, or follow my page on Facebook.

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 saidRecords 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.

Nice dodge.

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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© Paul Delamore

Images used under ‘Fair Dealing’ doctrine of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.


McRae or MacRae?

Originally posted 8th May 2015 on Kickstarter. I will be sharing some informal blog posts that I have been writing for backers of my book ‘30 Years of Silence: The Life and Mysterious Death of Willie McRae’. I will post each blog on here one month after they were originally published. In this post, I tackle the subject of Willie’s surname. I (just about) stopped it from developing into a Highlands vs. Lowlands spelling battle. Next blog will be due on 3rd July 2015.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in communication with Robert Green, the nephew of Hilda Murrell.

He was curious to know the correct spelling of Willie’s name: ‘MacRae or McRae?’

In his fascinating book about Hilda’s 1984 murder, A Thorn In Their Side, he briefly discusses Willie’s case – due to the anti-nuclear link – and I noted that he had used the spelling ‘MacRae’ in this particular chapter.

Given that in the past week I have had a twitter discussion about the same subject, I think the topic of Willie McRae’s name, and the origin of the conflicting variants, is a good place to start. Or do I mean Willie MacRae…?

To me, the different spellings of his name have oft served as a wry summation of the case: everything has about five explanations. The gun. His car. Whoever pulled the trigger. Why should his name be any different?

Over the years, the usage of ‘MacRae’ has gained a lot of prominence in press reports. His wikipedia page also clearly states ‘Willie MacRae’.

It’s so very easy, even for those whose daily life involves adherence to academic referencing, to fall for the instant gratification of a Wikipedia ‘fact’.

Okay then, but how do we explain the cairn located by the roadside of the A87 where he was alleged to have crashed his car on that fateful night?

The memorial cairn
The memorial cairn

Clearly ‘MacRae’.

Andy Patterson named his fascinating play ‘3000 Trees: The Death of Mr William MacRae’ and George Gunn’s ‘3000 Trees’, while based on Willie MacRae, used the name ‘Willie MacKay’. Much, if not all, of the press reports leading up to the two respective plays’ Edinburgh Fringe Festival appearances consistently used ‘MacRae’.

So, is it actually ‘MacRae’? Have I got it spectacularly wrong on my Kickstarter? Does it even matter?

‘Follow the facts’

There are a few documents that can put this one to rest pretty fast – two of which are the birth certificate and the death certificate.

The birth certificate
The birth certificate
The death certificate
The death certificate

Now, that should be clear as day, shouldn’t it? Wikipedia is wrong. Journalists have got it wrong. His ‘friends’ have got it wrong. It’s Willie McRae.

But what if the documents are wrong? Despite the death certificate having been registered by Willie’s younger brother, there’s a possibility that legality required the usage of the legal name on the birth certificate. And what if someone got the birth certificate wrong? British adult literacy rates from the 1920s are unknown to me, but it is a conceivable notion that I’ll entertain.

And then cast into the fire.

Levy & McRae Document
Levy & McRae Document

Could Willie himself have really got the name of his own legal firm wrong?

You must, having seen the evidence, come to the inevitable conclusion that I have done so: his name, legally, was William McRae. He identified professionally as William McRae.

So what other option does that leave for the possibility of ‘MacRae’ being something other than a mistake based on phonetic similarity of the names?

Well, there is one other possibility. Willie was ‘a fell proud’ of his Highland ancestry. His family came from the ‘MacRaes’ who were (many moons ago) based in the stronghold of Eilean Donan Castle in Dornie, Kintail. Willie bought the family’s ancestral cottage in Ardelve, by Dornie, in 1966.


Somewhere along the line, his family surname was altered into ‘McRae’ – most likely due to illiteracy. For someone who couldn’t spell well, the mixing up of ‘Mc’ and ‘Mac’ as a result of near-identical phonetics wouldn’t be hard.

For that reason, Willie may have culturally saw himself as a ‘MacRae’. Cultural nationalism – which, in the late 70s and 80s – was becoming a nuisance to the SNP. The likes of Siol nan Gaidheal – a cultural, if not ethnic, nationalist group who SNP Chairman Gordon Wilson described as ‘proto-fascists’ – were an inevitable backlash of both this and the ‘stolen vote’ of the 1979 Referendum on the Scottish Assembly. Willie was a member.

Willie, being a cultural nationalist first and a civic nationalist second, shared a great fondness for the retention of anything from the gaidheals (gales). Perhaps, in such circles, Willie called himself Willie MacRae – as this was the name of his Highland ancestors.

It would explain the plaque from Siol nan Gaidheal reading ‘MacRae’…

Except, I’m going to throw that one to the sharks too. The cairn located by the roadside is not the original cairn. The cairn was originally just a pile of stones.

Ignore the naming of the youtube video and note the caption IN the video. Clearly from the time, it states ‘McRae’.

In 1990, a year later, Willie’s cairn was to get a permanent plaque.

That plaque read:

‘William McRae, A Scottish Patriot, died here on April 6, 1985. The Struggle Goes On.’

The cairn, after being removed by the Council, was reinstated a few years back.

The new plaque again
The new plaque again

As you can see, there’s one key difference to the new plaque by the remnants/new members of Siol nan Gaidheal: ‘McRae’.

So, let’s sum up:

  • Willie MacRae, up until the recent petition, had been the widest usage of his name in press reports and so on.
  • His legal name was William McRae.
  • His legal business was named ‘Levy & McRae’.
  • He professionally identified as William McRae
  • The cairn originally read William McRae.

Conclusion: his name was William ‘Willie’ McRae. Wikipedia is, surprise, wrong.

Why does this matter? After all, a name’s a name. When you write ‘Willie MacRae’, that person will know, or be able to identify, who you mean.

Well, here’s why:

Taken from Northern Constabulary's Synopsis of the case
Taken from Northern Constabulary’s Synopsis of the case

Note ‘William MacRae’. This document was put together within 48 hours of Willie’s death. It was used by the Procurator Fiscal of the time, Thomas Aitchison, to then put together his report to the Crown Office.

From Northern Constabulary's Synopsis
From Northern Constabulary’s Synopsis

A brief (one would think mandatory) visit to Willie’s legal offices would have revealed the name of his company, at the time of his death, was actually McRae & Co.

Well, that is if they had found his offices – given that McRae & Co were located at number 166 Buchanan Street and not at number 16 as stated by the police report.


The beginning of Northern Constabulary's Synopsis in full
The beginning of Northern Constabulary’s Synopsis in full

So, three factual errors – and not even one paragraph down. What does this mean?

Well, on one hand, it could be someone being sloppy in their typewriting.

Or it could be that Northern Constabulary did not bother to check anything regarding Willie McRae or his background or his movements on that day – past those present at the hospital: Willie’s brother, his brother’s wife and Willie’s legal partner. If they had visited 166 Buchanan Street to talk to Willie’s office staff, then surely they would have got the number, the name of the company and, subsequently, his name correct?

In the context of everything I’ve viewed on this case so far, I’m loath to accept the former explanation.

To this day, the Crown Office – in all of my correspondence with them – continue to label him ‘William MacRae’.

As I’ve said, someone just getting the name wrong on Twitter isn’t that important.

Our investigative bodies continually getting the name wrong of a person whose death has attracted 30 years of public interest? Makes you wonder how seriously they ever took the case. And continue to do so.


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© Paul Delamore

Images used under ‘Fair Dealing’ doctrine of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.