A pensioner accused of the murder of a mother and her son more than 45 years ago is to stand trial next year.
William McDowell, 80, denies killing Renee and Andrew MacRae, who both disappeared in November 1976.
The bodies of the 36-year-old and her three-year-old son have never been found despite searches both at the time and the years that have followed.
MacDowell is alleged to have assualted Andrew and Renee at a lay-by at Dalmagarry on the A9 trunk road – 11 miles from Inverness or elsewhere on November 12 1976.
He is accused of causing them injury by unknown means resulting in their death.
The 80-year-old is also charged with attempting to defeat the ends of justice by disposing of the two bodies and their personal effects by means unknown.
McDowell denies the charges against him.
There have been concerns over McDowell’s poor health following an injury in an incident at his home in Cumbria.
The High Court in Livingston was told on Tuesday that he is still in a neck brace but it was agreed that preparations should be made for a trial next year.
Advocate depute Alex Prentice QC said the age of the case presented “significant challenges” but said the Crown is ready for trial.
The challenges centre in part around potential witnesses having passed away over the years.
Judge Lord Armstrong today agreed to hold a preliminary hearing in Glasgow in April next year.
He also set a trial date for next September at the High Court in Inverness.
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