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Fraser loses latest legal battle

By Brian Horne

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THE family of murdered mum Arlene Fraser left court today satisfied that her killer husband has lost the latest round of his decade-long battle with the law.

Fruit and veg salesman Nat Fraser (54), has been found guilty - twice - of arranging the hit-man murder in 1998 when the internet was still in its infancy.

Fraser went to the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh to claim that the "Google factor" has made his trial last year unfair.

A chance remark by a witness might have led jurors to material which revealed that Fraser had already served time for a vicious attack on Arlene in their Elgin home.

When Arlene (33), disappeared from the Smith Street address in April 1998 Fraser was awaiting trial on a charge of attempted murder.

Defence QC John Scott told the appeal judges: "The Google factor is now well recognised in this and other juristictions."

But today Lord Justice Clerk Lord Carloway, sitting with Lady Paton and Lord Drummond Young firmly rejected any suggestion that Fraser had suffered a miscarriage of justice.

Outside court, Arlene's mum, Isabelle Thompson, said: "We are over the moon."

And she revealed: "Today I was more nervous than I was when I was a witness."

Mrs Thompson said she hoped she would never have to come back to court. "But in this day and age you never know.

"There have been that many times when we have heard there is to be another appeal."

Dad Hector McInnes (72), said he intended to go home and celebrate.

Arlene's mum Isabelle Thompson. Pic by Lesley Donald Photography
Arlene's mum Isabelle Thompson. Pic by Lesley Donald Photography

"It is a relief to know we will not be back here again. We have had to come here too often."

Although today's ruling at the Court of Criminal Appeal should be final, Fraser could still ask the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission - which investigates possible miscarriages of justice - to back his fight to clear his name.

There may also be an avenue of appeal to Europe.

Mr Scott would only say that Fraser's legal team were studying the appeal judges' decision and no further move had been decided.

A hearing last month was told the trial last May should have been halted when cafe owner Sandra Stewart, recalling a conversation with Fraser in the aftermath of his wife's disappearance, let slip that Faser had recently been in prison.

Mr Scott argued that might have prompted jurors to ignore warnings from trial judge Lord Bracadale and do some "research" of their own.

They could have discovered that Fraser had spent a few days on remand after being charged with attempting to murder Arlene - an attack which was described as "the last straw" in their marriage and for which Fraser later served a jail sentence after pleading guilty to a reduced charge.

Trial judge Lord Bracadale ordered jurors to ignore the "irrelevant and inappropriate remark."

He also ordered them to put out of their minds anything they had read in newspapers or seen on TV.

Lord Carloway said today there were "clear and repeated directions" from Lord Bracadale. "In the absence of material which would tend to demonstrate the contrary the court must proceed on the basis that the directions were followed."

Lord Bracadale was right not to halt the trial after Mrs Stewart's chance remark.

"The court does not consider therefore that the fairness of the trial was, or might have been perceived to be, prejudiced in any material manner."

At the end of Fraser's second trial in May last year Lord Bracadale ordered him to serve at least 17 years before he could apply for release on licence. The murder was "cold blooded and pre-meditated" he told Fraser.

Two lengthy trial have now heard that Fraser hired a hit-man to murder Arlene.

Arlene Fraser.
Arlene Fraser.

After the first guilty verdict in 2003, Fraser lost one appeal then went over the heads of Scottish judges to the Supreme Court.

Years of legal wrangling led to a re-trial because information about the disappearance and mystery re-appearance of Arlene's rings had not been passed on to defence lawyers.

After a second guilty verdict in May last year Fraser began the appeal process again.

Both trials have rejected Fraser's alibi - that he was on his delivery rounds that day - and his claim that former friend, farmer Hector Dick (56), of Mosstowie near Elgin was the real killer.

Both juries heard that Fraser was seething with jealousy because he suspected his vivacious trendy wife might have a lover. He was also worried that divorce might mean mum-of-two Arlene walking away with a large chunk of his money.

"If you are not going to live with me, you are not going to be living with anybody," he fumed.

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