I’m the same age as the Renee MacRae case. Well, if we’re being strictly accurate, it is about four months older than me.
But the proximity of the disappearance of the Inverness housewife and her young son Andrew to my arrival in the world means I can almost literally say I grew up with it.
And that is how so many people from Inverness and thereabouts feel about the tragic mystery. It is part of our consciousness, weaved into our history.
So we were all looking for answers.
Ask anyone considered a local in the now-city of Inverness and they will have a connection, however tenuous, to the Renee MacRae story.
Mine? Well, although not yet born in November 1976, I was technically on that section of the A9 on the night in question. My parents were travelling home to Carrbridge from Inverness.
My dad was a police constable at the time. He was drafted in to help with searches as it became evident the answers weren’t going to come easily in this case.
He was also re-interviewed, pre-Covid. One of many as the new investigation team worked their way through every original witness to see if anything was missed.
In my first stint at The P&J, I was a trainee desperate to be involved as one of the seniors covered the dig at Dalmagarry. This despite the fact that it threw up nothing more than an old crisp packet.
And in my current stint, we covered the draining of Leanach as things seemed to edge forward again.
Everyone feels a connection to Renee
Some of the best-known MacRae houses, built by Renee’s husband Gordon and his brother and boldly futuristic at the time, back on to mine. In fact, I nearly bought one when I came “back home”.
I recognised names of former policemen and witnesses. And so it goes on
Renee’s cousin is a friend of the family. At one point, Gordon MacRae lived just a few streets from us.
I sat in on the press bench for some of the trial, and I recognised names of former policemen and witnesses. And so it goes on.
As I was writing this, my mum reminded me that when Renee disappeared, she had left some clothes with her dressmaker to be altered – what do you do with them?
We still don’t have all the answers
These particular links only apply to me. But you don’t have to cast far around Inverness for connections to this case.
The fact that none of these links makes me special shows just how the Renee MacRae case is part of the fabric of Inverness.
Even the way you pronounce her name shows how familiar you are with it. Say Renee, in the French style and probably what most people would consider the correct way, and you’d be wrong.
Of course, I am in no way trying to compare any of these connections to the true and awful pain felt by Renee and Andrew’s family and friends for all these years.
But this felt like a chance to get some real answers – maybe even, to borrow that hackneyed phrase, closure – for some of the people left behind.
Although, as DCI Brian Geddes’s final plea to Bill MacDowell so poignantly shows, we don’t have all the answers, even now.
Sarah Bruce is Head of Office and North Team Leader for The Press & Journal