THE jury in the Arlene Fraser murder trial has retired to consider its verdict.
In his directions to the eight women and seven men of the jury, the judge, Lord Bracadale, said that they could return a guilty verdict against Nat Fraser, even if they rejected “out of hand” evidence given by a key prosecution witness.
There would still be enough evidence, if the jury accepted it, added Lord Bracadale, to allow a conviction.
Fraser, 53, denies acting with others to murder his estranged wife, 33, who disappeared from her home in New Elgin, Moray, in April 1998. He pleads alibi and incrimination, blaming Hector Dick, a former friend, and another or others if she was killed.
During the trial at the High Court in Edinburgh, Mr Dick testified that Fraser had asked him to obtain a car for Fraser just before the disappearance, and that it was returned to him after Mrs Fraser went missing. He said he had burned and scrapped the Ford Fiesta. Mr Dick also alleged that Fraser, worried about having to meet a divorce settlement and determined that his wife would never be able to start a new life with anyone else, had admitted hiring a hitman to kill her.
Lord Bracadale told the jurors that the Crown relied on many strands of circumstantial evidence. Also, he said, the jury had heard many days of evidence from Mr Dick.
“Clearly, he gave some damning evidence against the accused. Evidence about the Ford Fiesta and evidence that the accused made confessions would, if believed and found reliable, be stroing evidence against the accused. It is for you to assess the credibility and reliability of the evidence he gave,” said Lord Bracadale.
“You take account of the powerful and extensive criticisms of his evidence made by Mr (John) Scott (Fraser’s QC.) On any view, he had a history of lying. You can have regard to the way in which he gave his evidence and have regard to what he said on earlier occasions about matters on which he gave evidence.
“It would be open to you to take the view he was such an untruthful and unreliable witness that you reject his evidence out of hand. How you view the evidence of Hector Dick is entirely a matter for you.
“I direct you, looking at all the evidence in the case, there is sufficient evidence coming from more than one source which, when brought together and considered as a whole, would allow you to find the accused guilty of murder. Whether you accept that evidence and whether it satisfies you beyond reasonable doubt, is entirely a matter for you.
“In addition, I direct you that that is the case even if you leave out of account entirely the evidence of Hector Dick. In the absence of his evidence, there would still be sufficient circumstantial evidence coming from more than one source which, when brought together and considered as a whole, would allow you to find the accused guilty of murder. Again, whether you accept that evidence and whether it satisfies you beyond reasonable doubt, is entirtely a matter for you.”