The Northern Scot's Arlene Fraser and Nat Fraser files: 18 months jail for choking his estranged wife
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This story appeared in the Northern Scot, January 31, 2003.
THE dock of the High Court in Edinburgh was an all too familiar place for Nat Fraser when he stepped into it four weeks ago.
It was there, three years ago, that he was jailed for 18 months when he pleaded guilty to throttling his estranged wife in a life-threatening attack.
The incident happened at the Fraser matrimonial home in Smith Street, New Elgin, just a few weeks before the young mother vanished.
In what was deemed to be a highly unusual move, the Crown went ahead with the proceedings despite the fact that the main witness would not take the stand to testify.
The assault was deemed to be so brutal that Fraser was originally charged with attempted murder, but the indictment was later reduced to the lesser charge of severe assault to the danger of Life.
Judge Lord Morrison told Fraser, then a partner in a fruit and veg whole sale firm, that a period behind bars was inevitable for such a dangerous assault.
Fraser rounded on Arlene as she returned home in the early hours of March 22, 1998, after a night out on the town with friends.
Incensed that she had stayed out until 5.30am – and suspicious of what had kept her away from the house for so long – he followed Arlene as she made her way into the bathroom.
There, he grabbed her by the throat and squeezed so hard that she passed out.
She came round soon afterwards and found herself in pain, lying in the living room.
Arlene's immediate reaction was to contact police, but she was persuaded not to by her husband.
She spent the rest of the day in bed being attended to by Nat.
In a distressed state, she contacted a friend the following day before going to the family doctor and then reporting the incident to police.
For Arlene, it was the last straw.
She went to see her solicitor and gave instructions to start court proceedings for an interdict to ban her husband going anywhere near her.
The High Court was given details of a catalogue of injuries suffered by Arlene during the attack.
She was found to have bruising to her left shoulder, upper chest, left arm and neck.
As well as the bruises caused by the throttling, her eyelids had the tell-tale haemorrhaging associated with strangling cases.
Forensic science painted a very different picture to the version of events given by Fraser.
He told police he had his hands around her neck for between five and eight seconds, while the medical expert believed it was much longer.
It was claimed that Arlene had been staying out late and drinking in the run up to the incident.
Nat had snapped when she returned home under the influence of alcohol on Mothering Sunday – a day which she had promised to spend with the family.
Right after the attack – which the defence counsel described as being out of character – Nat had reacted with "concern and remorse."
But, while accepting that Fraser was sorry, Lord Monison had no hesitation in sending him to prison.
He said: "This was a nasty and wholly unprovoked and dangerous assault for which I regard a custodial sentence as inevitable."
Fraser was released from Porterfield Prison in Inverness after serving half the sentence, but it was only a matter of months before he was back behind bars.
He was charged with – and later admitted – making a fraudulent claim for legal aid while facing the attempted murder proceedings.
The indictment, which was called at Elgin Sheriff Court in March 2001, stated that Fraser, for the purposes of obtaining legal aid, pretended to Sheriff Noel McPartlin that his total savings amounted to £500 in cash, £1500 in a bank account and £1000 in shares.
However, he failed to disclose that he also had a further £13,315 of savings which were held in another bank account.
As a result, taxpayers were left to stump up £18,876 through the legal aid system to pay for solicitors and counsel for his appearance at the High Court in Edinburgh.
It was during the course of the continuing police hunt for Arlene that an examination was made of his application form.
Detectives had previously obtained £12,000 from Fraser, later returned to him, before a further £8000 was taken as part of the investigation.
The information they knew at the time about Fraser's accounts led them to believe he had made a misrepresentation on the forms.
His defence agent said that Fraser, on remand for the attempted murder charge, was experiencing prison for the first time and in his anxiety to conceal his true financial worth, failed to complete the forms truthfully.
Sheriff James Penman said that there was no question that Fraser would be sent to prison for the fraud, and jailed him for one year.