The detective who brought double murderer Bill MacDowell to justice was about to make a second attempt to quiz the killer the day before he died.
The 81-year-old passed away at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert yesterday.
It is believed he was transferred there for treatment from Glenochil Prison where he was serving a life sentence for killing 36-year-old Renee Macrae and their three-year-old son Andrew.
Their bodies have never been found.
Mrs Macrae’s blue BMW was found ablaze in the Dalmagarry layby on the A9 near Inverness on November 12 1976.
Fresh appeal for information from police
MacDowell was found guilty after trial at the High Court in Inverness in September last year.
He was ordered to serve a minimum of 30 years. His death means he spent less than five months behind bars.
Detective Chief Inspector Brian Geddes wrote to the prison authorities two weeks ago asking if he could see MacDowell and he was going to repeat his request on Tuesday.
But he heard that MacDowell was in hospital and he was too late as the killer died on Wednesday.
DCI Geddes said: “Attempts were made to engage with Mr MacDowell but they were unsuccessful.
“We were relying on him engaging with us and I am not sure he would have done.
“The whole team are sad that we only got halfway as after bringing him to court our focus was then on finding the bodies of Renee and Andrew.”
Despite the setback however, police will not give up their pursuit of finding the bodies.
DCI Geddes added: “We have used all investigative means and resources available to us to try and find Renee and Andrew’s bodies.
“I would again urge anyone who may have information about where Renee and Andrew are to come forward so they can be provided with the dignity they deserve.”
Bill MacDowell was a ‘walking dead man’
It was known that MacDowell was very ill but his decline was rapid in recent days.
During his trial, his wife Rosemary described him as a “walking dead man” because of his ill-health.
It is believed that Rosemary just made it to his bedside before his death.
She had previously been questioned on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice almost 20 years ago.
Renee’s sister, Morag Govans, also heard the news on Wednesday.
The agony for her and her family not being able to have a proper funeral goes on.
She said: “I don’t think we will ever know where Renee and Andrew are.
“He has taken that knowledge to his grave.”
More on the Renee MacRae case:
- Guilty: Pensioner murdered secret lover Renee MacRae and their toddler son Andrew, jury decides
- Agitated, dizzy and ‘probably’ telling the truth: The point the Renee and Andrew MacRae murder trial turned
- Long read: Four decades on, the many twists and turns of the Renee and Andrew MacRae case
- The moment of justice: Cries of relief from Renee MacRae’s family while her killer sits emotionless in the dock
- Renee and Andrew MacRae trial: The 15 images that led to Bill MacDowell’s conviction
- After a 46-year wait for a murder conviction, officer leading Renee and Andrew MacRae case tells killer: ‘Now show us where the bodies are’