NAT Fraser confessed to hiring a hit-man to strangle his wife - then burned her body and ground down her teeth - his one time friend claimed today (Friday).
Part of the shocking story was told as Fraser’s young son, Jamie, stood yards away, just out of earshot, farmer Hector Dick, 56, told the High Court in Edinburgh.
Fruit and veg wholesaler Fraser also boasted that he had made fools of the police and had sneaked into the home he once shared with wife, Arlene, to clean up after the assassin had done his work.
Mr Dick told how Fraser joked about the incident becoming a double murder when someone came into the house.
Then Fraser is alleged to have added: "Thank f*** none of the kids came home or they would have got it too."
The trial heard claims that the horrific details about what happened to Fraser’s estranged wife 14 years ago began to unfold in the cab of a lorry delivering coal to a farm near Elgin.
It was just weeks after the mum of two had vanished from her home, claimed Mr Dick, and after he had returned from a holiday in Majorca in May 1998.
Prompted by advocate depute Alex Prentice QQ, prosecuting, and by a statement he had made to police in January 2003, after a charge that Mr Dick murdered Arlene had been dropped, the farmer told his story to a hushed courtroom.
Mr Dick said he had kept silent at the time because he was worried about his involvement in torching, trashing and scrapping a Ford Fiesta which he suspected was connected with Arlene’s fate.
Mr Dick said the conversation began when he told Fraser that police had given him a rough time during interviews. They had also taken his Ford Sierra - the car he used to deliver bootleg booze.
"He thought it was all a big joke," said Mr Dick.
"Did you ask about Arlene?" asked Mr Prentice.
"He said she was gone," replied Mr Dick of Mosstowie, Elgin.
"He said she was dead. She wouldn’t be back."
Asked how he felt about the revelations, Mr Dick said: "I was shocked."
He continued his account of what Fraser said: "His favourite topic was that she would never be found ... he said that the body had been burned and there would be no DNA or anything like that."
Arlene’s teeth were ground up so there would be no dental records, Fraser is supposed to have told him. Fraser said he had checked this out at the library and on the internet.
"I was not very happy with him at that point.
"I was very frightened and apprehensive."
Mr Dick continued: "His comment to me was that he had had help. His initial comment was that he had got help from somewhere down south but he had not trusted him."
"He (Fraser) had fooled the police during the first two or three days. He had made a fool of them during the first two or three days as regards her disappearance or where she was."
"Did he say where she might be?" asked Mr Prentice.
"No, it was my understanding of what he said that it hadn’t been far from New Elgin, the house in New Elgin."
Mr Dick told police in a statement that he thought it was a couple of weeks after Arlene vanished before Fraser burned the body.
"He suggested he had out-witted the police in relation to hiding the body.
The statement continued: "He said he was concerned because the police has been close to where she had been."
Mr Dick had told police: "Arlene had been ground down and scattered. He said there was nothing to be found."
Mr Dick said he hoped then that if he said nothing the inquiry would pass him by, but admitted he was concerned and should have gone to the police.
The trial also heard that in July 1998 Fraser visited Mr Dick at Wester Hillside Farm, along with his ten-year-old son, Jamie.
They put empty beer cans on top of bales of straw for target practice with .22 rifles.
There was a further conversation about Arlene as Jamie set up the target cans, perhaps 50 metres away.
"Nat told me he had got someone to do it for him," Mr Dick told police. "He told me she had been killed in the house and he had gone that night and cleaned up something."
Today in court Mr Dick said: "He had once spoken about strangulation. He spoke about it more than once."
The trial also heard that after a chance meeting in Dufftown, Fraser and Mr Dick were chatting in the back of a lorry.
"He said he paid someone to kill Arlene. I asked how much and he replied he had dodged fifteen grand," said the police statement.
Apologising for lapses in memory, Mr Dick said: "Nine or ten years ago I was as sharp as a diamond. I had it all logged in here (pointing to his head) but I just let it go."
The trial heard how Mr Dick told police: "On a number of occasions I had met with Nat when he discussed Arlene’s murder. He gestured that she had been strangled.
"He put his hands out, close together and motioned his thumbs as if pressed against her windpipe."
Mr Dick said he asked Fraser about how his children had been after their mum’s disappearance and received the reply: "They will soon be used to it."
Mr Dick said: "Then he thought it was funny. He started to laugh."
He told Arlene’s mum she was no longer his mother-in-law until Arlene turned up. Asked about Arlene’s father "he burst out laughing and said he was taking it worst of all. He was really upset."
Defence QC John Scott described the exchange as the "final straw" in the relationship between Fraser and Mr Dick.
Mr Dick told the trial: "I think that was the end of me and Nat Fraser. That was the end of any particularly loyalty or anything or any kind feelings I had towards him."
He said that he had always respected Hector McInnes, Arlene’s dad. When he saw him driving past he wanted to put out his hand and touch the man.
The sight reduced his to tears and resorting to the brandy bottle.
The trial also heard how Hector Dick sold his story to a tabloid newspaper (The Daily Record) for £20,000 in the aftermath of Nat Fraser’s conviction in 2003, when he had been charged with murder along with Mr Dick and another man, Glenn Lucas, who has since died.
Mr Dick only revealed the figure after being ordered to do so by judge Lord Bracadale.
Mr Scott accused the farmer of lying to many people since Arlene’s disappearance and claimed he had lied to the Scottish public in the story serialised over several days.
Mr Scott said in publicity for the story, Mr Dick had promised to tell all - but had dashed the hopes of Arlene’s family by not revealing where her remains might be.
Mr Dick said he did not know that claim had been made on his behalf, and insisted he had been reluctant to speak to the newspaper.
He said there had been a number of approaches and his solicitor advised him to speak. "You are buggered if you don’t and you are buggered if you do."
Asked what he did with the money, Mr Dick told the trial: "I paid some bills."
Mr Scott accused him of breaking another promise - to put money into a trust fund for Jamie and his sister, Natalie. "I don’t know where that came from," replied Mr Dick.
The trial also heard that while serving a 12-month prison sentence for lying about getting rid of the Ford Fiesta, Mr Dick had tried to hang himself in June 2001.
"I had had a right miserable day with the cops," he said.
Mr Dick also accused police of "going at it hammer and tongs" and putting words in his mouth when they visited him in Porterfield Prison in Inverness in October 1999, just days after his arrest on a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice, in relation to the car.
Mr Scott claimed he held out to the officers a false hope that Arlene’s remains might be found.
The lawyer claimed: "Just as they were about to leave you said: ‘I know what you are after. The car is 70 per cent gettable and the body 50 per cent."
Mr Dick replied: "I have never said that."
Nat Fraser, 53, denies attacking wife Arlene, 33, between April 28 and May 7 1998 at the home they once shared in Smith Street, New Elgin, or elsewhere in Scotland.
It is alleged that he strangled her or murdered her "by other means to the prosecutor unknown."
The indictment against Fraser says he knew Arlene had seen a solicitor about divorcing him and getting a cash pay-off.
Fraser has lodged papers in court claiming that 14 years ago on April 28 he left the address in Burnside Road, Lhanbryde, where he was staying at about 7.30a.m. and spent the day making van deliveries to hotels, restaurants and shops - pausing to make a phone call just after 9a.m.
Fraser also claims that if mum-of-two Arlene was murdered, as prosecutors claim, the man responsible could be Hector Dick of Mosstowie, Elgin.
The court has heard that there had been an earlier trial in 2003 when Hector Dick had been one of three men accused of murdering Arlene, but had left the dock and given evidence for the prosecution.
Another man on trial then, Glenn Lucas, is now dead.
The trial continues