A man has been charged with the murder of a woman and her three-year-old son who disappeared more than 40 years ago.

Renee MacRae was last seen driving out of Inverness with her son Andrew on 12 November 1976. The following day the burnt out shell of her BMW was found in a lay-by of the A9 near Dalmgarry, 12 miles south of the city.

The 36-year-old mother and her child were never seen again.

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Now, William MacDowell from Penrith, Cumbria, has been charged with murdering the pair, Police Scotland confirmed.

The 77-year-old who would have been in his 30s at the time of their disappearance, made no plea at his brief hearing. He was granted bail and is expected to appear in court at a later date.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said a months-long forensic search of Leanach Quarry, east of of Inverness, is still underway.

More than 100,000 tonnes of earth and silt removed from the site since May.

The bodies of Ms MacRae and the toddler have not yet been recovered.

Detective Inspector Brian Geddes said: “This is a significant development in an investigation which started when Renee and Andrew disappeared in November 1976. Their disappearance has had an unimaginable impact on the lives of Renee and Andrew’s family and friends for several decades.

“This has also been felt keenly in Inverness but also across Scotland and beyond.”

He added: “Police officers and staff from across the country, as well as a number of partner agencies and contractors, have put an enormous amount of work into this investigation from 1976 to the present day, allowing us to reach this point. The remains of Renee and Andrew have not been recovered, however, the searching of a large quantity of material removed from Leanach Quarry continues.

“I would like to thank everyone who has assisted the investigation, whether during our recent inquiries or at any time since 1976.”

Anyone who can assist police has been asked to phone police on 101, Crimestoppers on 0800 55111 or e-mail a dedicated inbox at

Additional reporting by Press Association 

The independent

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