NAT Fraser has lost his final appeal against conviction for the murder of his estranged wife Arlene – a ruling her family hopes will end their 15-year struggle for justice.
The Court of Appeal in Edinburgh rejected his claim that a witness referring to Fraser’s time in prison during his retrial unfairly influenced the jury.
Speaking after the verdict, the victim’s sister, Carol Gillies, said the family had to accept they may never learn what happened to Ms Fraser, whose body was never discovered.
She said: “To get closure would be great, to find Arlene or get to the bottom of this. But we have had to devise a system – we accept we are never going to get the truth. It’s not right, but it’s the only way we can deal with it.”
Fraser, who has always denied his guilt, now has no more appeals available to him, but could turn to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, which would have the power to refer the case back to the courts if it found grounds to believe he suffered a miscarriage of justice. Sources close to the case believe he is likely to try this.
Ms Fraser’s mother and father, Isabelle Thomson and Hector McInnes, were in court yesterday and said they were delighted with the verdict. Ms Thompson, said: “We are over the moon. Today, I was more nervous than I was when I was a witness.”
Fraser, 54, was convicted for a second time last year of murdering Arlene after the original conviction had been quashed and a retrial ordered. The former businessman was jailed for life and ordered to spend at least 17 years behind bars in May 2012 for organising the murder.
Fraser has consistently denied involvement in the disappearance of Ms Fraser, who was 33 when she vanished from her home in New Elgin, Moray, on 28 April, 1998.
At an appeal hearing last month, Fraser’s legal team argued that he was denied a fair trial. But Lord Justice Clerk Lord Carloway, who heard the appeal with Lady Paton and Lord Drummond Young, said the court was not persuaded that the remark pointed towards the previous conviction.
The former fruit and vegetable wholesaler’s conviction at the High Court in Edinburgh followed a retrial which lasted five weeks. The trial heard that Fraser told a former friend that he paid a hitman £15,000 after she began divorce proceedings.
Fraser was found guilty of murder in 2003, but his conviction was quashed in 2011. A fresh trial was granted after the Supreme Court in London ruled the initial conviction was unsafe.