It was Good Friday, April 5, 1985, and veteran lawyer Willie McRae was heading to his Highland holiday cottage in the Ross-Shire village of Dornie near Skye.

He had left his flat in Queens Park on Glasgow's South Side around 6:30pm and expected to complete the 175 mile car journey in around four hours.

As McRae neared the weekend retreat later that Friday he would almost certainly have been looking forward to sitting in front of a peat fire and enjoying a glass of his favourite malt whisky.

However, he never arrived and what happened that night still causes controversy and debate more than 36 years later.

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The following morning two Australian tourists spotted McRae's distinctive maroon Volvo on remote moorland a short distance from the junction of the A887 and A87 roads at Bunloyne near Glenmoriston.

The car had left the road and come to a halt over a small burn about 30 metres away and both holidaymakers found McRae slumped at the wheel - 30 miles from Dornie. They flagged down a passing car whose driver turned out to be a doctor.

She examined McRae and discovered him still alive and breathing. She estimated that he had been unconscious for at least 10 hours.

McRae was rushed by ambulance to Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, and then transferred 100 miles away to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

There what appeared to be a road accident suddenly became something more sinister.

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Six hours after McRae had been found by the Aussie couple, a nurse during a routine examination found what appeared to be a gunshot wound.

An X-ray confirmed that the critically ill solicitor had been shot above his right ear and a bullet was detected in his head.

The following day, Sunday, April 7, after consultation with McRae's family, the solicitor's life-support machine was switched off.

The subsequent investigation was headed by Chief Superintendent Andrew Lister of Northern Constabulary.

At the time McRae was a major public figure, a former deputy leader of the Scottish National Party, and anti-nuclear campaigner.

In both the 1974 and 1979 General Elections he stood for Parliament as the SNP candidate for Ross and Cromarty and had been narrowly defeated.

One of his main clients was the best-selling writer Alistair McLean, author of Where Eagles Dare and Guns of Navarone.

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McRae had also been had been a key figure in a campaign against the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority plans to dispose of nuclear waste in the Mullwharchar area of the Galloway Hills. The plans were rejected, and McRae was lauded for preventing the beauty spot becoming a nuclear waste dump.

He was also a former senior partner in Levy & McRae one of Glasgow's most prestigious law firms, which he had helped found in the early 1950s.

In the days before his death the lawyer was said to have evidence of government plans to build an underwater burial site offshore at Applecross, Wester Ross, to store all of the United Kingdoms Nuclear Waste.

He had also told friends that his home and office had been broken into and paperwork relating to the site stolen.

On the Sunday of his death, police found the gun used in the fatal shooting lying in the burn where the car had rested.

It was an unlicensed Smith & Wesson revolver belonging to McRae, which he had owned for a number of years and often kept in his office.

Following the police investigation, McRae was found to have committed suicide and no Fatal Accident Inquiry was held at the request of his family.

However in the 36 years since there have been persistent claims that his death was not a suicide and that he was in fact the victim of foul play and a subsequent establishment cover-up.

Later in 1985 Winnie Ewing – then President of the SNP – was directed by the party's National Executive Committee to conduct an internal investigation.

Ewing, who was also a lawyer, later reported that she was not satisfied with the official account of suicide.

In 1991 Channel 4 broadcast a "Scottish Eye" documentary investigated McRae's death.

It claimed that McRae had been under surveillance by both the police and intelligence services at the time of his death.

In 2005 Winnie Ewing's son Fergus, by then an MSP, requested a meeting with Elish Angiolini, then Solicitor General for Scotland, to discuss the allegations that McRae was being watched.

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Angiolini insisted there was no surveillance and a thorough investigation into the death had been carried out at the time.

However, the case took a fresh twist in 2015 when Willie McRae's younger brother - Dr Fergus McRae - urged people to accept the official version of events about his sibling's tragic death.

In a Sunday newspaper interview the retired GP, from West Calder, near Edinburgh said he didn't believe there was anything mysterious or suspicious about his brother's apparent suicide.

Dr McRae added: "There was no murder or anything like that. I am absolutely positive about that. He did not discover anything that would have put his life at risk."

That same year a campaign to have a Fatal Accident Inquiry into McRae's death attracted more than 13,000 signatures, but the Crown Office rejected the proposal.

A crowd-funded "Justice For Willie" group was set up and two experienced former Strathclyde Police detectives were hired to re-interview original witnesses from the time of McRae's death.

Their investigation which was published in November 2016 was unable to find any new evidence to undermine the official suicide verdict.

They discovered McRae had been suffering from depression, drinking heavily, and had previously threatened suicide. In one instance a close friend found him holding a gun and stating that life had become "all too much for him".

The retired detectives also found no evidence that McRae had been under surveillance on the day of his death.

Earlier that year in May the Crown Office had also taken the unusual step of releasing all publicly available documents regarding the lawyer's death in a bid to quell the growing number of conspiracy theories.

To this date questions still remain.

In January our sister paper the National reported a call by documentary filmmaker Roderick MacKenzie, for a new inquiry into Willie McRae's death.

Former criminal lawyer Len Murray was the victim's colleague at Levy and McRae for almost 30 years.

Mr Murray was also a close personal friend and is convinced that the patriotic Scot took his own life.

They had first met in 1954 when Murray was his apprentice for three years at Levy & McRae.

The two men became partners before McRae left the firm in 1981 and to set up on his own in Buchanan Street the following year.

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Len Murray, who retired in 2003 and lives in Milngavie, has rarely spoken about his friend's death.

Now, 87, he told the Glasgow Times: "Willie McRae was a very charitable man.

"He never charged a penny for his work at the Galloway Hills inquiry for example.

"Willie was also a very caring individual and an impressive public speaker.

"Intellectually he was quite brilliant but had no interests outside politics and the law.

"It was tragic in many ways what happened to him."

Mr Murray finds it difficult to believe the state orchestrated the murder of his former colleague as has been suggested. He says the ardent nationalist was drinking heavily and had a lot of professional and personal worry.

His one-man law firm in Buchanan Street was not doing well and he had a drink driving prosecution pending.

On the day of the crash shortly before 8 am there had been a fire in his flat to which the emergency services were called by neighbours. However, McRae refused medical treatment despite suffering from smoke inhalation.

A nurse at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary who treated McRae later said his feet and lower legs were black from either a fire or smoke.

Mr Murray added: "Willie was a terrible smoker and I was told by one of his friends that he had fallen asleep while smoking a cigarette.

"At the time he didn't have any business of note and that was a major source of depression for him "I would treat any stories that he was being followed by the police or security services with a pinch of salt.

"Why should Willie McRae be singled out when there were far more dangerous people out there at the time.?

"What was so unique about his political views that he alone of all politicians in recent years has met such a fate?

"Personally and sadly I tend to believe that Willie died at his own hands."