A pensioner has denied the murder of Renee MacRae and her three year-old son in 1976.
William MacDowell, 79, is accused of killing Renee and Andrew MacRae before dumping their bodies.
The crimes are said to have happened on the Dalmagarry lay-by at the A9 trunk road – 11 miles from Inverness – and elsewhere on November 12 1976.
MacDowell was not present for the hearing at the High Court in Glasgow on Monday after it emerged he had recently been in hospital.
His QC added it is not known if the pensioner will be fit to stand trial.
The two murder charges claim MacDowell assaulted 36 year-old Renee – known on court papers as Christina – and Andrew “by means unknown” causing both injury resulting in their death.
Prosecutors allege he had previously shown “malice and ill will” towards the mother and son, who lived in Inverness at the time.
MacDowell, now of Penrith, Cumbria, faces a separate charge of then attempting to defeat the ends of justice.
This includes a claim MacDowell – then aged 35 – disposed of the bodies and personal effects of the pair, again by unknown means.
It is also said he torched a BMW motor, got rid of a boot hatch from a Volvo car and dumped a pushchair.
This was allegedly all done to conceal the murders in a bid to avoid arrest and prosecution.
MacDowell’s QC Murray Macara pled not guilty on his behalf.
He also lodged special defences of incrimination and alibi.
The defence QC said otherwise “extensive preparations” in connection with the case remain to be completed.
Prosecutor Alex Prentice QC told the hearing he would “tentatively suggest” 15 days for the duration of any possible trial.
The advocate depute said Inverness could be a “suitable” location for a trial given a number of witnesses come from that area.
Aberdeen and Perth were also mentioned.
Lord Matthews adjourned the case until a further hearing next month.
MacDowell’s attendance will again be excused.