Police probing 1985 death of SNP activist talk to the last man to see him alive


By Paula Murray
The last person to see alive a firebrand SNP activist at the centre of a 26-year death riddle has been interviewed by police as part of a fresh probe into the case, the Scottish Sunday Express can reveal.
Officers examining the 1985 death of Willie McRae have questioned retired Strathclyde PC Donald Morrison, who believes the lawyer was killed by the Security Services.

McRae, 62, was on the verge of a seat in Westminster on the back of a controversial anti-nuclear campaign, when he was found dead at the wheel of his car in the remote Highlands.

At first it appeared he had veered off the road and crashed in a burn but the later discovery of a gun and a bullet wound to his head led police to conclude he had killed himself.

However, it had been fired twice and conspiracy theories were fuelled when it emerged the book McRae was writing, and his briefcase containing key documents, were missing.

Earlier this year, then Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini asked police to examine claims from a Highland councillor that he could provide evidence that the crash was murder.

As part of that process, Mr Morrison – who said he was the last person to see McRae alive – was also questioned at his home in Aberdeenshire. The former officer told a detective inspector about meeting the activist as he came out of a shop with two bottles of his favourite whisky, Islay Mist.

Mr Morrison, who was attached to “A” Division in Glasgow and served for 27 years, said he was told by senior officers at the time that McRae was “under surveillance” by men in dark cars. He said he can still describe the individuals in detail and insisted, as the last person to speak to the lawyer alive, there is “no way” he would have gone on to commit suicide.     

In the early Eighties, McRae had enjoyed a period of fame when he masterminded a campaign to halt the disposal of nuclear waste in the Mullwarchar hills, Ayrshire. He was a staunch supporter of independence, but he likely attracted the attention of MI5 because he believed the way to achieve it was not through orthadox politics, but by association with a nationalist group that advocated direct action to achieve their aims.

Mr Morrison, 70, told the Scottish Sunday Express: “The DI took a 12-page statement from me. It was obvious McRae was in possession of information he should not have been.

“I asked him if he was going up north and he said he was and padded his bag on the passenger seat, filled with documents and said ‘I’ve got them this time. I’ve got to go through this over the weekend’. Of course he didn’t live to go through it over the weekend.”

McRae had left Glasgow at 6.30pm on April 5, 1985, but it was not until 10am the following morning his car was found on the A87 near Kintail, Wester Ross.

The driver’s door of the maroon Volvo had been wedged shut against the bank of a burn and, inside, McRae lay slumped in his seat, with his bloodied head resting on his shoulder.

The scene was sealed off as police trawled the burn for the weapon, eventually finding a Smith & Wesson .45 revolver about 15 metres from where the car had come to rest.

Mr Morrison firmly believes the activist was murdered by the Security Services before he could blow the lid on plans for the secret dumping of toxic waste in the Hebrides.

But despite being one of a number of people interviewed by Northern Constabulary, he said he does not believe the mystery will be solved.

He said: “This is just a process by police to show that something is being done when nothing has been done. I feel that we’ll never find the truth about Willie McRae.

“I know he’d been made aware of the MoD secretly dumping toxic cargo, including anthrax spores, on board 16 ships sunk west of the Hebrides and I think these two are connected.”

It has also emerged that officials have snubbed two potential witnesses. Retired off-sales manager Roderick MacKay, now 73, said he has not been contacted despite speaking to the activist hours before his death.

He said: “He bought two bottles of Islay Mist and held them above his shoulders and said ‘Roddy, I’m going to drink these tonight in front of my peat fire in my cottage in Wester Ross’.

“At that stage he certainly had no intention of doing anything sinister.”

Another potential witness, a fisherman who spotted McRae’s car empty on a lay-by near the crash scene the night before, was told by police that his information was “irrelevant”.


Courtesy of the Scottish Sunday Express