Police investigating the disappearance of a mother and her son 40 years ago have said they are confident they will find any evidence that may have been left in a quarry, as their three-month search nears completion.

Detectives are looking for the remains of Renee MacRae and three-year-old Andrew, who were last seen driving out of Inverness on November 12 1976.

The 36-year-old mother-of-two's BMW was found burned out in a layby on the A9 near Dalmagarry, 12 miles south of the city, but no-one has been charged over their deaths.


The disappearance of Renee MacRae: A timeline of events

Leanach Quarry, east of Inverness, has been excavated as part of the murder investigation, with more than 100,000 tonnes of earth, silt and other material removed since work started in May.

The excavation phase is expected to be completed this week, with 5,000 tonnes of material to be forensically searched for evidence.

Bones and parts of a pushchair were found in June after the police drained 13 million litres of water from the site.

However, the bones uncovered from the bottom of the quarry were identified as animal and the pushchair wheels, similar to the Silver Cross model used by Mrs MacRae, were found not to be connected to the case.

Approximately 55 vehicles - none linked to the enquiry - have also been uncovered during the excavation phase.

Anthropologists are checking material as it is pulled from the bottom of the quarry in huge shovels before lorries transfer the debris to a location off-site. There, a 16-strong team of specialist officers is carrying out a fingertip search through the mud.

Detective Inspector Brian Geddes said: "The forensic search of the quarry has been a significant undertaking.

"We have almost completed the excavation process but there remains a vast quantity of material that still requires to be sifted and thoroughly searched.

"This is likely to take a number of weeks to complete but we are confident that if the remains of Renee and Andrew, or any other key pieces of evidence, were disposed of in the quarry, we will find them.

"The process of back-filling sections of the quarry where excavation has taken place has commenced and again this will continue over a matter of weeks.

"I would like to thank everyone that has been involved in the operation to date, and the surrounding community for their patience while this has been ongoing.

"We remain determined to bring this matter to a successful conclusion and we continue to progress all relevant lines of inquiry."

The pair's disappearance is one of Scotland's longest-running missing person investigations, and police have long believed they met with foul play.


Renee MacRae: Bones found in Leanach Quarry

Mrs Mcrae was said to be on the way to meet her lover, Bill MacDowell, who was Andrew's father and worked for her estranged husband Gordon, in Perth on the night she disappeared.

Blood was uncovered in the boot of the car but there was no sign of the mother and son.

Mr MacDowell, who was married, denied he had plans to meet Mrs MacRae. Both men provided police with an alibi.

Police re-examined the case in 2004 and named a suspect in a report to the procurator fiscal in October 2006. However, the Crown Office declared there was insufficient evidence to go to court.

An initial search of Dalmagarry, another quarry close to where the car was recovered was quickly abandoned, despite reports from an officer that he could smell decomposing flesh. The dig lasted a month and cost more than £100,000 but no human remains were found