"Shocking and Wicked" says judge
Easier access to your trusted, local news. Subscribe to a digital package and support local news publishing.
COLD-BLOODED Nat Fraser was blasted for the "shocking and wicked" nature of his crime.
Judge Lord Bracadale jailed him for life and ordered that Fraser (53), should serve 17 years before applying for parole - to take into account time already spent in custody.
After 14 years of police investigation and two trials the mystery of what happened to Arlene (33), and who actually ended her life, remains unsolved. Her remains have never been found.
Sentencing Fraser, Lord Bracadale told him: "The evidence indicated that at some point before April 28, 1998 you arranged for someone to kill your wife, Arlene, and dispose of her body.
"Thus you instigated in cold blood the pre-meditated murder of your wife and mother of your children, then aged ten and five years."
The judge said the killer must have known Arlene would be home alone - and that information could only have come from Fraser.
Lord Bracadale continued: "The murder and disposal of the body must have been carried out with ruthless efficiency for there is not a trace of Arlene Fraser from that day to this and her bereft family continue to live with no satisfactory knowledge of what happened to her remains."
The judge said the "shocking and wicked" nature of the crime demanded a sentence well in excess of 20 years but because of the "procedural history" that was cut to 17 years, back-dated to June last year.
At the end of an earlier trial in 2003 Fraser was handed a minimum sentence of 25 years and has spent a total of seven years, nine months and 14 days in prison for the crime.
Fraser's hopes of freedom were boosted a year ago when the Supreme Court in London controversially ruled that his trial in 2003 was unfair because potentially key evidence had not been handed over to his defence team, or to prosecutors for that matter.
His hopes were finally dashed when a jury spokesperson announced the result of five hours of discussion.
The majority verdict - which deleted from the charge the allegation that Arlene had been strangled - was greeted with a slight shake of the head by Fraser and a wiping of his brow.
In the public benches the obvious tension in the faces of Arlene's family dissolved. Dad Hector McInnes (75), let out a long sigh and step-mum Cathy took off her spectacles and dabbed her eyes.
Mum Isabelle Thompson (66), revealed no trace of what she was thinking.
Fraser was found guilty of murder after a jury rejected his attempts to lead false trials and play the caring husband and dad.
In reality the fruit and veg wholesaler was seething with jealousy because he suspected his vivacious trendy wife might have a lover. He was also worried that divorce might mean 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.
And after his wife went missing, Fraser shocked her family with sick jokes. He put on a plastic toy moustache and quipped: "This is the disguise Arlene used for getting away."
He also told Arlene's dad that his children would soon get used to being without their mother.
Just five weeks before Arlene vanished from the family home in Smith Street, New Elgin, Fraser had half-throttled her for coming back late. An allegation of attempted murder, later reduced to a serious assault earned him an 18 month jail sentence.
The stormy marriage had previously led her to seek help in a women's refuge.
No mention of that conviction was made during the trial, although jurors did know it was the second time Fraser had faced a murder charge and that two other men, former pal Hector Dick (56), and Glenn Lucas, who is now dead, were cleared.
Both trials heard that on April 28 1998, Arlene phoned her son's primary school at 9.41am to ask what time ten-year-old Jamie was expected to return from a school anti-litter campaign.
Clerical assistant Margaret Boyce (68), got no answer when she tried to return the call minutes later.
A friend, Michelle Scott (46), arrived just after 11am to check that a lunch date was still on, and found the house empty.
A note she left, asking Arlene to phone her, was later found, together with a poignant plea from Jamie, scrawled on a piece of paper and left on the doorstep: "Mother, where are U!"
Arlene, trying to make full use of a day off from her business studies college course, also had an appointment to see her solicitor that afternoon about her divorce plans. She never kept the appointment.
As Arlene phoned New Elgin Primary School, her husband was also on the phone - to Hazel Walker (43), in Fochabers.
Fraser, driving around in his delivery lorry decorated with cartoon characters "Jamie Jaffa" and "Natalie Nectarine" after his kids, had made daily calls to Mrs Walker since they met in a hotel where Fraser's band, The Minesweepers, was playing a gig.
He never called her again.
The trial also heard that exactly a week before she vanished, Arlene had been "spooked" to see Mr Dick sitting in his Ford Sierra outside her house - just one of a series of suspicious and unexplained actions by the farmer.
Fraser had lodged papers in court blaming Hector Dick for Arlene's death and giving details of his alibi.
But advocate depute Alex Prentice QC, prosecuting, told the jury that Fraser had instigated and instructed the murder, not carried out the deed himself.
He also told them that even if they thought Hector Dick was guilty, that alone did not get Fraser off the hook.
Much of the trial - which lasted more than five weeks - was filmed after rare permission was given to make a TV documentary, to be screened at a later date.
The question now is whether Fraser will begin another round of appeals or even go to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission which investigates possible miscarriages of justice