Willie MacRae (May 18, 1923 - April 7, 1985) was a Scottish nationalist politician and lawyer, best remembered for the mystery surrounding his death.
MacRae was an active member of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and an anti-nuclear campaigner. A solicitor, MacRae had contested the SNP leadership in 1979, coming third in a three-way contest with 52 votes to Stephen Maxwell's 117 votes and winner Gordon Wilson's 530 votes.
He was active outside Scotland too, having served in the Royal Indian Navy and becoming friendly to the campaign for independence for India. He was also the author of the maritime law code of Israel and emeritus professor at the University of Haifa. After his death a forest of 3,000 trees was planted in Israel to mark his death.
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MacRae left his Glasgow flat at 18:30 on 5 April 1985, to weekend at his cottage near Dornie. He was not seen again until the following morning around 10:00, when two Australian tourists saw his car lying on the moor a short distance from the junction of the A87 and A887 roads, about 30 yd (27 m) from the roadway, straddling a burn. The tourists flagged down the next car to pass by, which turned out to be driven by a doctor, Dorothy Messer, accompanied by her fiancé as well as David Coutts, a Dundee SNP councillor who knew MacRae.
It was discovered that MacRae was in the car. His hands were "folded on his lap", his head was "slumped on his right shoulder", and there was a "considerable amount of blood on his temple". He was not wearing a seat belt.
Another car was sent to call the emergency services. Dr Messer examined MacRae and found that he was still alive and breathing. She noted that one of his pupils was dilated, indicating the possibility of brain damage, and estimated that he had been in that state for 10 hours.
MacRae was removed by ambulance to Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, accompanied by Dr Messer. After arrival it was decided to transfer him to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. At Aberdeen it was realised that the incident was more than a road accident; six hours after he had been found, a nurse washing his head discovered what appeared to be the entry wound of a gunshot. An X-ray confirmed that McRae had been shot above his right ear and a bullet was detected in his head. His brain was severely damaged and his vital functions very weak. The following day, on Sunday 7 April, after consultation with his next of kin, MacRae's life-support machine was switched off.
The investigation was headed by Chief Superintendent Andrew Lester of Northern CID. Despite no weapon having yet been found, MacRae's car was moved at 12:00 on 7 April. It later transpired that the police had kept no record of the precise location where the car had been found, and the position stated by them was later found to be 1 mi (1.6 km) in error, and was corrected by a witness who had been present at the scene.
A weapon was found the next day, in the burn over which the car had been discovered, 60 ft (18 m) from the vehicle. It was a Smith and Wesson .45 revolver belonging to MacRae which had been fired twice. No fingerprints were found on the gun, despite MacRae not wearing gloves when he was found.
Although it was ruled at the time by authorities that Macrae's death was a suicide, the official account has been disputed, some claiming that the distance from Macrae's car at which the gun was found and the lack of fingerprints on it rendered a such a verdict not credible.,
Hamish Watt, a Scottish Member of Parliament from 1974 to 1979, has been quoted as saying that MacRae was assassinated for his too-extensive study of NATO activities in Scotland.,
At the time of his death, McRae had been working to counter plans to dump nuclear waste from Dounreay into the sea. Due to his house being burgled on repeated occasions prior to his death, he had taken to carrying a copy of the documents relating to his Dounreay work with him at all times. However, they were not found following his death, and the sole other copy which was kept in his office was stolen when it was burgled, no other items being taken.,
In 2005, Fergus Ewing MSP requested a meeting with Elish Angiolini, the Scottish Solicitor General to discuss allegations that have persisted that MacRae was under surveillance at the time of his death. The request was rebuffed, with Angiolini claiming that he had not been under surveillance and that she was satisfied that a thorough investigation into the case had been carried out. However, in July, 2006 a retired police officer, Iain Fraser who was working as a private investigator at the time of MacRae's death claimed that he had been anonymously employed to keep MacRae under surveillance only weeks before he died.
The death of Willie MacRae received further attention when the events surrounding it formed the basis of a broadcast of the STV show Unsolved, originally broadcast in November 2006.
In November 2010 John Finnie, the SNP group leader on Highland Council and a former police officer, wrote to the Lord Advocate urging her to reinvestigate MacRae's death and release any details so far withheld. Finnie's request was prompted by the release the previous month of further details concerning the death of David Kelly. In January 2011 the Crown Office requested the files on the case from Northern Constabulary.