The Northern Scot's Arlene Fraser and Nat Fraser files: 2003 – Who could believe that she was dead?
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This story appeared in the Northern Scot, January 31, 2003.
PEOPLE go missing in Moray but they aren't murdered.
No one ever thought when Grampian Police issued a brief Press release alerting the media to an Elgin mum-of-two who had gone missing from her home in April, 1998, that it would lead to years of mystery, culminating in a sensational trial which put Elgin on the front page of every newspaper in Scotland.
For five years the killer of Arlene Fraser remained at large, carrying on his everyday business, visiting friends and associates and caring for his two young children.
Police knew almost from the start who was behind her disappearance but he was protected by a wall of silence, the misplaced allegiance of friends and public refusal to accept the unthinkable.
There are incredible paradoxes between the two main players in Scotland's greatest criminal mystery.
Arlene's face was everywhere – on posters,·in newspapers, on the television news – yet no one saw her.
She had a small circle of close friends, most people didn't know her, but through the mass publicity her disappearance attracted, they knew everything about her.
Nat Fraser was everyone's friend as a small-time businessman and a guitarist in a band.
People knew everything about Fraser the fun-loving charmer and doting father, but in reality not even those closest to him knew the evil killer lurking behind the friendly facade.
Who would dare to believe that a man could snuff out the life of the woman he once loved, the mother of his children, for the love of money?
Who could believe that, having arranged his wife's murder and dismembered her body, he could put on such a act for so long that he remained a well-liked figure about the town?
Who could believe a fruit and veg salesman from a small north east town where vicious crime is rare would know how to hire a hitman and dispose of her remains?
From the very beginning, the Elgin public appeared to want to believe that Arlene had simply had enough of being a housewife and had taken off.
Hers was the name on everybody's lips and everyone had their own theory about what had happened to her.
There was speculation, with rumours believed to have been started by her husband, that she was having an affair and had taken a stash of "rainy day" money from the house with her.
Had Arlene staged her own disappearance just to get back at the husband who had battered her in the past, questioned her every movement and almost killed her just a few weeks before?
When police officers jetted off to Lanzarote to question a former Elgin bodybuilder running a bar out there, it fuelled the gossip that Arlene was sunning herself on a beach somewhere, without a thought for her kids.
The police found themselves struggling to get across the message that something criminal had happened to Arlene and their numerous appeals for information failed to turn up any leads.
Hundreds of people did volunteer to help in the search around Elgin for clues, with everyone hoping against hope they wouldn't find a body yet wanting to tum up one of the missing pieces of the puzzle.
According to later evidence, the butchered remains of Arlene lay somewhere near-by.
The weeks became months and six months after her disappearance the officers made a renewed appeal for help.
The same happened on the first anniversary and in the years which followed and although Arlene's face was still instantly recognisable in the newspaper stories, people began to doubt there would ever be a breakthrough.
There appeared to be no clues – no new lines of inquiry.
Every time human remains were discovered anywhere in Britain there would, even if just for a moment, be a question – could this be Arlene?
For Arlene's parents and sister, it was the agony of uncertainty and haunting belief she had been murdered which drove them on and the determination of the officers leading the hunt for her killer which finally brought justice for Arlene.