A FORMER nursing manager appeared in court yesterday, charged with murdering his wife 15 years ago as part of a life-assurance fraud.
Malcolm Webster, 49, appeared in private before Sheriff Graham Buchanan at Aberdeen Sheriff Court, where he faced charges in connection with the murder of his wife, Claire.
She was 32 when she was killed in a car crash near Oldmeldrum, in Aberdeenshire, in May 1994.
Mrs Webster, a nurse, died when the Daihatsu Sportrak 4x4, allegedly being driven by her husband, careered off the Oldmeldrum to Auchenhuive road, collided with a tree and burst into flames.
At the time, police investigators had concluded that the crash was the result of a tragic accident. However, it was revealed last year that Grampian Police had reopened the investigation into the death of Mrs Webster after nearly 15 years.
The couple had both been working for NHS Grampian when they married at King's College Chapel on 3 September, 1993.
Mr Webster, who was originally from Guildford, in Surrey, was a project nurse manager, while Mrs Webster was a staff nurse.
They had worked together at both Kingseat Hospital and Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
Following Mrs Webster's death, her husband moved to the Middle East, where he met his second wife, Felicity Drumm, a native New Zealander, while in Dubai. Grampian Police were asked to reopen their investigation into the death of Mrs Webster last year by detectives in New Zealand.
Following the brief court appearance yesterday, a spokesman for the Crown Office said: "Malcolm John Webster, 49, of Guildford, Surrey, appeared before Sheriff Graham Buchanan at Aberdeen Sheriff Court on petition, charged with forming a fraudulent scheme to obtain life-assurance monies from various financial institutions by murdering his wife, Claire Jennifer Morris or Webster, on 24 May, 1994, in Aberdeenshire.
"Bail was refused and he was remanded in custody."
Procurator-fiscal Stephen McGowan added: "He has appeared in court today in relation to a fraudulent scheme to obtain life-assurance money. To obtain that involves the murder of his previous wife, and he has been remanded in custody.
"That's the only charge he has appeared on in court, but he has been charged with other offences."
Outside the courtroom, Mr Webster's lawyer, John MacLeod, said that his client "vehemently denies any wrongdoing".
Mr MacLeod added: "He made a judicial declaration to which he declared his innocence.
"He gave his explanation for a car accident in which he tragically lost his wife."
Mr Webster is due to appear again at Aberdeen Sheriff Court next week.