The moment that William MacDowell was found guilty of a double murder was met with gasps and cries – but the killer displayed no emotion.
After such a long wait for justice, the family of Renee and Andrew MacRae were on edge to finally get the answers they were looking for.
News of the jury’s decision came as a relief to them.
It prompted an outpouring of tears in the public gallery. But there was no noise from either the killer or his wife Rosemary.
Following a five-hour wait in the corridors of the High Court in Inverness, a friendly voice came over the loudspeaker to say that the 80-year-old’s case was calling again.
“This is a verdict,” it clarified.
The waiting game
Everywhere you looked, the tension was palpable.
Renee’s family, journalists and curious members of the public made a beeline for the courtroom and squeezed themselves into the crowded gallery.
This had all the makings of a very long day.
When a jury is sent out to deliberate, there are absolutely no guarantees.
When they’re considering a double murder charge, you accept it might take a while to reach a conclusion.
It could be an hour, it could be a week.
The worry is that you take a step outside the court building and just like that, you miss the moment.
With nothing to report on, there was some speculation.
“I heard they think it’ll be quick,” said one reporter. “It could be all done and dusted today.”
“I’m not sure,” ventured another. “These things can drag on for weeks.”
Gossip soon spread that Murray Macara KC, the defence counsel for Bill MacDowell, was not expecting the jury’s deliberations to drag on.
After buying a coffee at the Inverness Justice Centre’s Cafe Artysans he handed back his loyalty card.
“Give that to someone else,” he apparently said. “I won’t be back tomorrow.”
Shortly after, another one of MacDowell’s team was spotted wheeling luggage into the lift. Another potential sign that things could be about to wrap up?
There was just time for one more strange moment.
Furious about the shocking state of the court building’s toilets, the accused and his wife were looking for someone to chastise for letting them get out of hand.
And then the familiar chime of the loudspeaker put the hearts of everyone waiting firmly in their mouths.
MacDowell murdered Renee and Andrew in ‘most calculating way’
There may have been a near-46-year wait for justice in this case.
But once the verdict was in there was no messing around.
The large assembled gallery had been in their seats for barely a minute when the jury’s foreman announced that MacDowell had been found guilty of the first charge of murdering Renee MacRae.
Guilty verdicts for charges two and three – murdering Andrew and attempting to pervert the course of justice – quickly followed.
MacDowell’s age and deteriorating health prompted advocate depute Alex Prentice KC to move for immediate sentencing.
Defence counsel Mr Macara KC did not contest the suggestion.
Lord Armstrong agreed and sentenced MacDowell to life imprisonment – with a minimum term of 30 years.
By the time he would be eligible for parole, he would be 110 years old.
Given his current health problems, it is almost certain that he will die behind bars.
Lord Armstrong told MacDowell: “These murders appear to have been premeditated and planned in a most calculating way.
“These appear to be, in effect, executions.
“You murdered your victims and disposed of their bodies and you took various steps to avoid detection.”
How did the MacDowells respond to the verdict?
Rosemary MacDowell pushed her way past the crowd as people embraced in the corridors, set free by the relief of finally having answers to this long-running mystery.
A short while later she rejected the chance to speak to the waiting press scrum.
As for the killer, he had barely moved his head as his fate was sealed.
MacDowell didn’t make a sound.
As he was rolled away to begin his life sentence, there was just time for a solemn look towards his wife.