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In 1985, the SNP's Willie McRae was found dying in his crashed car - with a bullet to his head. In 2015, it's time to end the silence.
In 1985, the SNP's Willie McRae was found dying in his crashed car - with a bullet to his head. In 2015, it's time to end the silence.
In 1985, the SNP's Willie McRae was found dying in his crashed car - with a bullet to his head. In 2015, it's time to end the silence.
87 backers pledged £1,425 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

30 Years of Silence: The Mysterious Death of Willie McRae

£1,425

87

Often described as 'Scotland's Dr David Kelly', Willie McRae's life and mysterious death is a tragic, yet fascinating, human story about a leading, fiery Scottish nationalist who believed in an independent Scotland free from outside influence. But did he push himself too far or did someone else pull the trigger?

It has fueled documentaries featured on BBC, Channel 4 and STV; provided the fire behind imaginative novels by Ian Rankin (The Impossible Dead) and James Robertson (And the Land Lay Still); and, in 2014, it inspired two plays at the world famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival - both titled 3000 Trees.

But, for the first time ever, there will be a full-length book published about the life and bizarre death by gunshot of former Scottish National Party (SNP) vice-chairman and solicitor Willie McRae.

Willie speaking in May 1975. Copyright: Scottish Political Archive.
Willie speaking in May 1975. Copyright: Scottish Political Archive.

The book is titled 30 Years of Silence in reference to the worrying lack of transparency in a case once described by a civil liberty group as a "glaring anomaly" within the Scottish legal system.

Willie's death has yet to receive a public inquiry or inquest by Scottish or British authorities.

I have studied the case with enthusiasm since February 2014 - with the results of that investigation with fellow journalist Steven Semple appearing in the Easter weekend Scotland on Sunday.

Now, I want to give you the full story on this confusing, contradictory and complex case that has severely lacked an intelligible account of events.

A must-read for anyone with an interest in Scottish nationalism, real-life murder mysteries or conspiracies, the book will ask probing questions of those involved in the investigation and the subsequent events behind closed doors.

THE EVENT

Willie McRae, 61, was found unconscious in his crashed car off a Highland road on April 6th 1985 - yet hours later, while being examined by hospital staff, the discovery of a bullet wound in his right temple shocked all present.

While Willie's life support machine was turned off the following day, as a direct impact of having a bullet lodged in his brain, the true facts surrounding his death have remained a contentious issue. Did he kill himself? Or was he the victim of a calculated murder plot?

He was said to have been suicidal and two bullets were fired from his unlicensed gun at the scene.

Willie McRae's .22 Smith & Wesson. Crown Copyright. Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence (OGL) v3.0.
Willie McRae's .22 Smith & Wesson. Crown Copyright. Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence (OGL) v3.0.

However, ten years later, the police officer credited with finding the gun said it was found some yards from the car - an argument for murder, some would say. How does an unconscious man with a bullet wound to his head throw a gun away from his body?

In 1990, Scotland's top judge, the late former Lord Advocate Peter Fraser, had said the gun was found under the driver's door. How can both accounts be true?

THE BOOK

The book will cover McRae's beginnings, his involvement in subversive activities, his violent demise and the lack of transparency and accountability by officials surrounding the circumstances of his strange death.

Willie McRae, Margaret Bain (later Margaret Ewing, MP and MSP) and canis lupus familiaris/pooch (name unknown) marching Bannockburn Rally through Stirling. Copyright: Scottish Political Archive.
Willie McRae, Margaret Bain (later Margaret Ewing, MP and MSP) and canis lupus familiaris/pooch (name unknown) marching Bannockburn Rally through Stirling. Copyright: Scottish Political Archive.

It also covers the context surrounding Willie's life and death, including the fear of the unknown which was so prevalent in 1980s British society.

Nuclear power had started to raise alarms with the state's intentions coming under intense scrutiny by pressure groups and, in 1984, one of those activists, Hilda Murrell, was found murdered by the roadside in Shropshire. She was said to have known too much about the nuclear industry - and they said the same about Willie too.

Britain's involvement in 'The Troubles' with neighbouring Ireland also showed no signs of abating. The security service became concerned by the possibility that Scotland could become the next launchpad for an attack against the Union.

Willie had links to both those sensitive areas. He stood out.

The book will cover all of this and more. It will come in two editions (ebook and paperback [matte]) and will be available later via online marketplaces.

I plan to see about getting the paperback into bookstores - either mainstream or radical/independent stores or, indeed, both. It's not a requirement but I think it's important to make it accessible to those who may not use online.

THE AUTHOR

My name is Paul Delamore and I came across Willie's story in January 2014 while studying for an MSc in Investigative Journalism at the University of Strathclyde. Our group of four were tasked by our lecturer, investigative journalist and regular BBC Radio Scotland correspondent - Dr Eamonn O'Neill - to do a research project to review his death.

That research, however, soon became an obsession that took over my life. Bizarre anomalies started appearing in the official story. Simple questions were not answered by officials. The lack of transparency became more and more evident.

But who would gain from such a conspiracy? And why? The book will deal with all of these questions and more to create the most comprehensive and compelling presentation of evidence known to exist in the public domain in an effort to better explain one of Scotland's most chilling 'murder' mysteries.

I have also come to understand why he would have been of interest to the security service.

But I also found myself dismayed by the fact that Willie's life has been largely ignored. It feels somewhat wrong to obsess over someone as a husk, rather than as a person who lived a rather colourful existence.

Willie had many problems but, nevertheless, many remember his warm, kind-hearted nature.

The Author.
The Author.

My unbridled enthusiasm for this captivating topic has allowed me to keep digging away for more and more information. 

Yet it has also shown how much a book on the subject is sorely needed. Information largely free of conjecture is scarce, but it is inevitable in the face of silence from the authorities.

Regardless of this, I want to open up this story so that everyone can arrive at the last page with a far more coherent understanding of an incoherent chain of events.

I believe it will be the best account of the case to date in the public domain - unless an unlikely inquiry were to happen, which is currently subject to a petition. It was signed by 7,000 people in under one week.

THE FUND

Doing this work has been a time-consuming process and this is why I am in need of your help to continue on this journey.

I have been working hard on researching this book for quite some time and I am looking for monetary help in order to ensure that everything will be properly formatted for the respective digital and paperback editions, while the rest of the money will go towards creating the book's cover and helping with other expenses - such as travelling to interview sources and, very honestly, to help me get by in some small way.

Memorial cairn by Loch Loyne, circa late 1980s. Copyright: Scottish Political Archive.
Memorial cairn by Loch Loyne, circa late 1980s. Copyright: Scottish Political Archive.

For that reason, I have not asked for a huge amount of backing nor have I made any grandiose rewards; essentially, you are pre-ordering the book whilst helping me make it better with your support.

Ultimately, it is a very simple project with a very particular goal: to set the record straight on a long-standing mystery by compiling old, and new, information together.

My intention is not for this book be a full stop in the case. Rather, I hope that it is the start of the beginning of the end in the official wall of silence. 

The book will give you the ability to see everything laid out in front of you in a well-written, coherent manner.

Through proper referencing - which, as I mentioned, has been severely lacking in previous work - it will allow other researchers to trace back the origins of information within the case. Perhaps this will allow others to write their own updated and improved version of the story in the future. After all, we all read 'facts' differently.

So I would hope that you come on-board and support this work - not just because you are going to get an intriguing account of a rather beguiling man's life and unsolved death, but because you want to support a young Scottish investigative journalist with a purpose.

WHEN?

The original plan for the book went oot the window quite a wee while back. I had actually hoped to be close to publication at this point, but the newspaper story required more attention.

Therefore, I feel it necessary to push the date back to ensure you get a quality read.

I, somewhat bravely or somewhat foolishly, plan to put the book out on September 18th 2015 - one year on from the Referendum.

The crash scene 30 years on (not staged, nobody inside thankfully). Taken by Steven Semple.
The crash scene 30 years on (not staged, nobody inside thankfully). Taken by Steven Semple.

The fund will end at 2.00am (BST/GMT+1) on May 18th 2015 - Willie's 92nd birthday.

If you have any further questions or any information about Willie's life/death/investigations, then please email me at: pmdelamore[at]gmail(dot)com, send me a tweet on twitter (@pauldelamore) or message me on here. I am very approachable, happy to hear from you and will respect your confidentiality, should you feel it required.

For further updates, please follow me via:

My Twitter: @pauldelamore

My Blog: pauldelamore.wordpress.com

Facebook Page: 30 Years of Silence

If you would like to donate or pledge funds - Thank you! It means so much to me.

Should you be interested but, for whatever reason, cannot make a pledge at this point, I would be just as appreciative if you could share it within your social media circles and among friends or family who may have an interest. If you do this then, again - Thank you! Support is just as important and means a lot to me.

Willie McRae memorial cairn assembled by Síol nan Gaídheal. Taken by Steven Semple.
Willie McRae memorial cairn assembled by Síol nan Gaídheal. Taken by Steven Semple.

Please note: Project picture is Crown Copyright and contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence (OGL) v3.0.

(Pictures of car and gun originally released in 2005 by the now defunct Northern Constabulary under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. As it was created by a police officer for the purposes of an investigation on behalf of the Lord Advocate, it falls under Crown Copyright and, therefore, comes under OGL in accordance with Police Scotland guidelines)

My thanks to Sarah Bromage at the Scottish Political Archive for permission to reproduce the photographs of Willie McRae; and to Steven Semple for allowing me to reproduce his photographs of the locus.

Risks and challenges

I am very much aware of the challenges involved in this project.

The first of which, a dearth of information, has already been challenged and, if anything, I believe there will be more than enough material to make a good sized book full of information on Willie's life, his death and other related subjects.

This has not been an easy process, but I was always willing to dig for information. I'm very much inspired by the muckrakers of old and I hope it is indicative of how any future challenges relating to this project will be tackled: when something doesn't work, I find a new approach.

I have every intention to release the book in September. However, as I am a largely one-person operation, I would hope that backers understand that there may still be other issues that arise which could affect the release date.

Please rest assured that I am fully dedicated towards the book. I take your support seriously. As I am indebted to you, I intend to make sure you get back something of value in a timely fashion. This is not just for obvious commercial reasons, but moral reasons too. Personal wealth is not a priority.

I may even attempt to get it out sooner, if possible.

As for my qualifications, I am a recent graduate of the University of Strathclyde's MSc Investigative Journalism course. I was informed that I am only the second person to have ever qualified from the course with Distinction.

I am also a graduate of the BA (Hons) Journalism Studies course at Stirling.

While mostly writing for a number of student/independent titles in the past, I have also had work published at larger outlets such as The Guardian, Scotland on Sunday and Digital Spy.

I was part of the Innocence Project at the University of Strathclyde which looked into potential miscarriages of justice within the Scottish legal system.

As such, I very much believe that there always needs to be mechanisms that allow for the accountability of our highest legislative figures and investigators - whether they like it or not. This is a theme that will be present in this, my first book.

If my lack of published experienced concerns you, that is entirely understandable. However, we all must start somewhere. One of Willie's maxims was that 'you must follow the facts', so I will continue to follow them until I am satisfied that they have been presented. I won't be walking away from this.

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