Some of you may be the type who read the last page of a novel first, so for your benefit I’ll start off by saying this…
My conclusion, along with the majority of people on our campaign committee, is that there is no evidence that undermines the official Willie McRae suicide verdict. In fact we believe when considered collectively our new evidence reinforces it.
When I first heard of Willie in 2014 I couldn’t believe what I was hearing relating to the circumstances surrounding his death. I’ve learned a valuable lesson. Like so many others I was taking what I was being told as facts (and then passing them on). Those ‘facts’ were the result of over 30 years of the Scottish equivalent of Chinese whispers.
Some of the people who have made claims, expressed opinions, or otherwise been in the public domain have been named in our reports. Some are anonymous because they have not been connected with the case publicly, requested us to do so or in some cases we used our discretion.
Let us remember Willie McRae for the fond memories of those who knew him and for his many positive achievements in both activism and politics – Not for the circumstances surrounding his death.
For those of you interested in discovering how the campaign came about please read on.
Art isn’t a mirror with which to reflect the world it’s a hammer with which to shape it –Bertolt Brecht
I was asked by actor and producer Adam Robertson in December 2013 to co produce with him a play written by George Gunn (a work of fiction but inspired by Willie). We assembled a highly talented cast and crew and the show went on to achieve both critical and commercial success at the Edinburgh Fringe 2014 (the play was crowd funded here is the intro video)
We filmed a dress rehearsal of the play in Edinburgh which can be viewed here:
By coincidence there was another Willie McRae inspired show on at the fringe that year and both were called 3000 Trees. The other was an excellent one-man show written and performed by Andy Patterson.
Prior to producing George’s play I didn’t know the name Willie McRae. Like many people though I became both fascinated and disturbed by what I was hearing.
The general consensus was that Willie, who was clearly a thorn in the side of the establishment, had been followed by MI5/Special Branch from Glasgow on a Friday afternoon in April 1985 in possession of a briefcase. The following morning Willie was found shot in the head, twice, the gun found too far away from the car to have been thrown, and the briefcase was gone. In addition to this, the behavior of the Police and Crown Office in the aftermath was also regarded by many people as highly suspicious. In summary an astonishing number of people I spoke to believed Willie had been ‘suicided’ by UK security services and that the authorities had then covered it up.
I simply wasn’t prepared to walk away after the stage production and went on to lobby the Scottish Parliament for a public inquiry. They refused. I then collected over 13,000 signatures online and handed them into the Crown Office asking for a Fatal Accident Inquiry. This appeal was also refused.
That was when I set up the Justice for Willie campaign. The objective was to break through the wall of silence and get as close as possible to the truth. To separate fact from fiction once and for all. We started a crowd funding campaign to support that endeavour and set out to explore ways we could legally challenge and apply pressure on the authorities. It should be noted that although it was me who started the campaign I was supported by a group of like-minded volunteers. I wouldn’t have achieved any of it had it not been for their efforts.
We were making little progress with our legal efforts. Also a solicitor advised us that even if we won a judicial review the Crown Office still couldn’t be forced to hold a fatal accident inquiry.
It was at this point someone suggested we conduct our own inquiry/investigation. I hadn’t even considered it as an option but yes it made sense as all official channels had been closed to us. It was discussed within our group and we agreed to take on a private investigator preferably with a police background.
The reason I’m going into detail around the selection of investigator will become clear shortly. By pure coincidence the topic came up in conversation (initiated by me not him) with a fellow gym member who I discovered was a retired detective. I had known him for several years through our training at the same gym but hadn’t known his former occupation. Anyway I told him I was speaking with private investigators and he intimated that he and a former colleague may be interested. I gave him the relevant details and he came back to us with competitive rates. Our group collectively agreed to their appointment and they were tasked with conducting an investigation on behalf of the campaign.
For over 30 years the name Willie McRae has been used by so many causes, writers, journalists etc. Their first job was to set out on the laborious task of actually separating fact from fiction. Our campaign made it clear to them from the outset that we did not desire any particular outcome. All we wanted was to get as close as possible to the truth.
I believe our investigation has been the most comprehensive to date. The reason I say this is because of the sheer number of witnesses and interested parties both identified and spoken to (over thirty). Several of whom had never been interviewed by the authorities.
At the end of our investigation we couldn’t prove it was suicide. Though taking into consideration all of the witness statements it was clear to the majority of the campaign committee that it was likely to have been suicide. Though I suspect even if we had produced video footage of Willie shooting himself along with a suicide note some people will simply refused to accept it. That’s why I went into detail around the coincidental nature of the investigator selection. Because I have already been contacted by people who signed the petition or supported the campaign. They expressed concern that the investigators were Special Branch/MI5 plants. Some even intimated that I may have been ‘got at’ and was steering the conclusion toward suicide. Those of you who know me will have a chuckle at that suggestion.
I believe it is likely that Willie McRae committed suicide and I feel the time has come for his family, friends, and also the witnesses, to be left in peace. The authorities didn’t do the public or themselves any favours with their wall of silence. For me though the real point here isn’t Willie’s suicide. It’s the way his death was used by people with a specific agenda. Despite the absence of facts and proof people (myself included) relayed conspiratorial theories and they became a national myth of tsunamic proportions. For many their enthusiasm was everything to do with being pro independence and anti establishment and little to do with holding UK Security Services to account.
On a side note I was made aware during the stage production of the case of a man called Paddy Meehan. This guy made a strong and convincing case (backed up by actual proof) to support his accusation that UK Security Services framed him for a murder he didn’t commit. He went on to spend seven years in prison for that murder. The trial judge told him if hanging hadn’t been abolished four years earlier he would have swung for it. It would seem the Queen agreed with Paddy because he became the only person in Scottish legal history to receive a Royal Pardon for the crime of murder.
Paddy wasn’t a pro independence lawyer, activist and politician though. He was a safe blower from a Glasgow housing estate. Perhaps that’s the reason so few people today are interested in his case.
The reason I bring Paddy’s name up is this. I would like to encourage those determined to undermine the Willie McRae suicide verdict, in the absence of any facts or evidence, to bear one thing in mind. If the UK security services are guilty of illegality, and thanks to people like Annie Machon, The Finucane family (and Paddy Meehan) we know that they have been. While we invest huge amounts of our time and resources into cases like Willie McRae’s. The spotlight is taken away from them and they are able to operate with impunity in the shadows.
In the absence of one single fact or piece of evidence that undermines the official suicide theory this campaign has reached its conclusion. I am in no way disappointed with the outcome as we didn’t set out with any pre conceived agenda other than getting as close as possible to the truth and being completely transparent. I believe we have done that.
I would like to thank the campaign volunteers who have been so generous with their time. The investigators who conducted a thoroughly comprehensive investigation and invested much more time than they billed for. Last but not least everyone who signed the petition and supported the campaign without whom our investigation would not have been possible.
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