An 80-year-old man accused of murdering a mother and her young son 45 years ago has been judged fit to stand trial next year.

William MacDowell, of Penrith, Cumbria, denies killing Renee MacRae and three-year-old Andrew near Inverness in November 1976.

The bodies of the 36-year-old mother, from Inverness, and her son have never been found.

The trial was set for September at the High Court in Inverness.

Mrs MacRae and Andrew vanished on 12 November 1976.

Her BMW car was found on fire at a lay-by at Dalmagarry on the A9 about 12 miles (19km) south of Inverness. There was no sign of the mother and son.Mr MacDowell did not attend the hearing at the High Court in Livingston.

Renee and Andrew MacRae missingRenee MacRae was 36 when she was last seen (Police Scotland/PA)

The court had previously heard he was in poor health.

But the court was told that if sufficient measures were put in place there was no reason why he could not take part in the trial diet.

Prosecutors allege that MacDowell assaulted his son and Ms MacRae at a lay-by on the A9 trunk road near Dalmagarry, or elsewhere, on November 12 1976 and that he caused them injury by unknown means, as a result of which they died, and murdered them.

He is also charged with attempting to defeat the ends of justice by disposing of the two bodies and their personal effects by means unknown to prosecutors.

Moreover, he is accused of disposing of a pushchair, setting fire to a BMW vehicle and disposing of a boot hatch from a Volvo vehicle to conceal the alleged crimes and avoid detection, arrest and prosecution.

He denies all the charges.