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Daily Record
Daily Record
Norman Silvester

Police spent £1m in search for bodies of mum and toddler murdered by ex 40 years ago

Police spent almost £1million searching for the body of a mum and her three-year-old son who were murdered by her lover over 40 years ago.

Renee MacRae, 36, and her son Andrew disappeared in November 1976 and the pair's remains have never been found.

Last September Renee’s former lover William MacDowell, now 81, was convicted of their murder at the High Court in Inverness and given a life sentence.

Figures from Police Scotland show £902,251 was spent between 2018 and last year on the MacRae probe. Operation Abermule was set up in 2018 to solve the murder and to discover the resting place of the pair’s bodies.

Much of the search centred on a quarry in Culloden. The biggest single cost was £288,765 in overtime for the police officers and £340,547 to hire specialist search equipment.

A further £74,410 was spent on food and drink for the investigators. Renee’s disappearance is one of the longest missing person cases in Scottish criminal history.

MacDowell, then 35, had been having an affair with Renee, who was his boss’s wife. He lured her and Andrew to a lay-by on the A9 south of Inverness with the promise of a weekend away.

He murdered them and set fire to Renee’s car before dumping their bodies and Andrew’s pushchair. The father of two feared his affair was about to be exposed and his marriage and career put at risk.

At the time MacDowell had been working as company secretary for Renee’s estranged husband Gordon, who owned a construction business.

MacDowell was also the real father of Andrew, who was Renee’s youngest son. He has been told he must serve 30 years before he can be considered for parole, meaning he’ll die in prison.

The force’s single biggest spend was in a five-month search last year for the body of Lynda Spence. The financial adviser, 27, was last seen in Glasgow almost 12 years ago. Codenamed Operation Arctic, it racked up costs of £1,008,255 and approximately 18,982 officer hours.

Police at the quarry in Culloden. (Peter Jolly)

The money was spent between March and July, involving officers, search teams and forensic scientists. They searched an eight-acre area of forestry land near Dunoon.

Colin Coats and Philip Wade abducted Lynda in April 2011 from Broomhill, Glasgow, after she had failed to pay back £85,000 Coats had invested in a fake land scam.

She was kept prisoner in an attic in West Kilbride, Ayrshire, for two weeks. She was taped to a chair and tortured. The pair then murdered her and disposed of her body. Coats was ordered to spend a minimum of 33 years in prison, while Wade will serve at least 30 years.

Detective Chief Superintendent Laura Thomson said: “The investigation into the disappearance of Renee and Andrew MacRae was one of the most challenging and longest-running in Scotland. Their bodies have not been found and we will act on any information received. The investigation to find Lynda’s remains continues.”

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