My Life and Bloody Murder, by Sheriff; Writing History of Highland Killings Gives Law Officer a Chance to Explore the Darker Side of Her World

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim McBeth

AS a sheriff, Jean McLennan has presided over all kinds of a cases but the crime that has always fascinated her most is murder.

So when someone suggested there must be a book in her experiences, Her Majesty's Sheriff for Caithness decided to write a history of murder in the Highlands.

Wick-based Sheriff McLennan researched 60 years of murder, including killings which remain a mystery to this day. Among them is the 2004 murder of banker Alistair Wilson, shot at his home in Nairn.

Sheriff McLennan, who had access to the investigation, reveals in her book how the killer enjoyed two monumental strokes of luck that have allowed him to get away with murder for the past five years.

She also re-examines the disappearance in 1976 of Inverness mother Renee MacRae and her son Andrew, three, who are the subject of Britain's longest missing persons' hunt.

And she concludes that the mysterious shooting in 1985 of SNP activist Willie McRae was suicide and not murder.

Under Scots law, those accused of commit-tinmore serious crimes pass through a sheriff court - and Sheriff McLennan has presided over many of the cases.

It has been an invaluable experience for the writer, who has been fascinated by murder since the 1950s when she read of Peter Manuel, Scotland's first serial killer.

'In the Highlands, violent crime is mercifully rare but when it happens it is more shocking than it would be in a city,' she said.

The Dundee-born sheriff was inspired to take up her pen when an arts organisation was looking for ideas for works of non-fiction. However, murder has held a fascination for her since childhood. …