Thursday, May 08, 2008

Fraser appeal fails as court upholds conviction despite claims of withheld evidence

In the first of three appeals cases to be televised, the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh has thrown out Nat Fraser's appeal against his conviction of murdering his estranged wife.

Disquiet over evidence which was not introduced at the trial remains and the businessman insists he will fight on for justice.

The Scotsman reports :

Court throws out Fraser's appeal over murder of wife Arlene


NAT Fraser, the businessman convicted of murdering his estranged wife, yesterday failed in an attempt to have his conviction quashed.

The decision came a few days after the tenth anniversary of his wife's disappearance. Fraser, 48, of Elgin, Moray, was jailed in 2003 after a jury found him guilty of murdering Arlene, 33, despite no body being found.

As they emerged from the court in Edinburgh, Mrs Fraser's mother, Isabelle Thompson, her father, Hector McInnes, and sister, Carol Gillies, were smiling.

With his voice shaking and full of emotion, Mr McInnes, who gave a thumbs-up, said: "We are pleased with the outcome. It has taken ten years of our life. Unfortunately, we have not found out about Arlene, but he is where he deserves to be.

"He has given us a life sentence, so he deserves a life sentence as well."

But as he was led away from the back of the court building, Fraser tugged on his handcuffs to delay a Reliance officer putting him into a security van and said to waiting reporters: "The fight will go on, as will the fight to get to the truth."

The mother of two went missing from her home in Elgin in April 1998 after waving her two young children, Jamie and Natalie, off to school.

Last year Fraser's lawyers claimed he had been the victim of a miscarriage of justice and argued that evidence from two police officers was not disclosed to the defence or to the trial.

The prosecution case had included claims that Mrs Fraser's engagement, wedding and eternity rings were placed in the bathroom of her house several days after she vanished.

Evidence later emerged that the police officers may have seen the rings in her house shortly after she disappeared.

But yesterday, at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh, three senior judges ruled that Fraser's appeal against conviction should be refused.

The Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, concluded that the proposed evidence of PCs Neil Lynch and Julie Clark was not new and that even if it was, the verdict could not be regarded as a miscarriage of justice.

He said: "The circumstantial evidence alone constituted a compelling case against the appellant. There was evidence that he had motives for the crime. There was evidence of his previous malice and ill-will towards the deceased."

Lord Gill added that there was evidence of "preparatory acts" by Fraser in setting up an alibi.

At one point during the proceedings, Fraser tried to interrupt Lord Gill as he delivered his opinion, saying: "Excuse me, excuse me."

In a highly unusual departure from the usual proceedings in a Scottish court, television cameras were also allowed in.

At a press conference in a nearby hotel, Mrs Fraser's family spoke of their "sheer relief". They also revealed that they would be prepared to do a "trade-off" with Fraser, giving him a reduction of his life sentence if he would disclose where Mrs Fraser's body was buried.

Mrs Gillies said: "I'm appealing to Nat's human side. We'd like to give Arlene a proper burial and a trade-off might be the only way we can get that information."

Mrs Gillies and her father said they were still prepared to put up £20,000 each as a reward for information, despite the fact that no-one had come forward with information in the past.

Mrs Fraser's sister, describing the strain of yesterday's proceedings and seeing Fraser in court, continued: "This case has been full of surprises. I was terrified going into court. I have no feelings towards him. Maybe pity; he's completely ruined his life, he's got nothing ahead of him.

Mrs Gillies added that she "did not feel hatred" towards Fraser.

"I just see him as a source of information. He needs to go back to his cell and think about his future. People talk about 'closure'. We will only get closure when Arlene is found. We need to be true to ourselves and accept that we might never know."

The case could now be considered by the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission if there were sufficient grounds that a miscarriage of justice had occurred.

Case centred on three rings, but judges weren't convinced

NAT Fraser's appeal against his life sentence centred round three rings worn by his wife – her engagement, wedding and eternity rings, pictured.

In the immediate aftermath of Arlene's disappearance on 28 April, 1998, no trace of them was found by police or family members.

Arlene Fraser: Body has never been found
Arlene Fraser: Body has never been found
But they were eventually found on a wooden dowel beneath a soap dish in the bathroom, after a visit Fraser made to the house on 7 May. It was claimed Fraser had placed them there, suggesting he had access to her body after she vanished.

The trial judge directed the jury at the time that, if they did not accept that Fraser placed the rings in the bathroom on 7 May, they could not convict.

However, in March 2006 it emerged that two police officers, precognosed by the Crown in preparation for the trial, had mentioned seeing rings there prior to the police search.

Two months later, Fraser walked free from prison on bail, after judges heard the grounds of appeal in his case were "compelling".

This evidence had not been known to the advocate-depute and not disclosed to the defence. Fraser's legal team argued for a miscarriage of justice.

The appeal judges yesterday said the ruling was a "misdirection", but one which was "limited in its scope".

Lord Gill told the court: "We can conclude with certainty the jury found that the appellant put the rings in the house on May 7.

"The question is whether, in light of the proposed new evidence, the verdict was a miscarriage of justice. In my view, it was not."

Lord Gill added evidence from the PCs had "no material significance in comparison with the evidence of the family members."


6 MAY 2008 Nat Fraser's appeal against a life sentence for killing his wife is rejected.

28 APRIL 2008 Tenth anniversary of Arlene Fraser's disappearance from her home. Her family gather in Elgin to mark the date privately.

6 DECEMBER 2007 Fraser is sent back to prison, pending a written outcome by three judges, as his appeal comes to an end.

15 NOVEMBER 2007 Police lied to the prosecutor in the Fraser murder trial in order to get a conviction, it is claimed.

14 NOVEMBER 2007 The prosecutor who secured Fraser's conviction for murdering his wife was unaware of important evidence until two years later, appeal judges hear.

6 JUNE 2007 Fraser is to challenge his conviction for murdering his wife when a full appeal is heard later this year.

14 SEPTEMBER 2006 Glenn Lucas, one of the men ( the other was Hector Dick) cleared of murdering Arlene, is found dead at his home in Lincolnshire.

12 MAY 2006 Fraser is freed from prison pending an appeal.

6 MAY 2005 Fraser is allowed to appeal against his conviction.

19 DECEMBER 2003 Fraser lodges an appeal against his conviction for murdering his wife

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