Nothing left but a prayer that something will turn up

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Key points

• The widow of murdered banker Alistair Wilson to make fresh plea for help

• One year today since he was shot dead

• Police so far have no suspect and no motive for the killing

Key quote

"The Wilson family require answers, we require answers and so do the people of Nairn who have been very supportive throughout the inquiry so far."

- Detective Inspector Peter MacPhee

Story in full

THE widow of murdered banker Alistair Wilson, who was shot on his doorstep exactly a year ago, will today make a fresh appeal for help in tracing his killer.

Veronica Wilson will front a press conference in the hope of securing a breakthrough in a case where both a motive and a suspect have eluded police.

Mr Wilson, 30, a father of two, was shot by a man who called at his home in Nairn on 28 November, 2004.

Despite investigations across the UK and in Europe, Northern Constabulary has yet to make a breakthrough.

Detective Inspector Peter MacPhee, who is leading the hunt, said he is still confident the gunman will be found and believes the information which can lead officers to him is already in the system amid a huge amount of data collected in the past 12 months.

Mr MacPhee said: "There is a dogged determination by myself and the team as a whole to find the person responsible for this terrible crime.

"The Wilson family require answers, we require answers and so do the people of Nairn who have been very supportive throughout the inquiry so far."

But Ian Stephen, a leading forensic psychologist, said the chances of finding the gunman are fading as each day passes.

"The longer it draws away from the first few days the more difficult it is to catch the killer because people's memories tend to change and the trail gets cold," he said.

"This particular murder is unusual because you have a crime where there is no indication or links to why it would happen. With most you can see some connections, but not in this one.

"The police are at the stage where they have exhausted all possibilities and are just hoping and praying that something will turn up."

A whole year on, the mystery of banker's murder still remains

SUNDAY 28 November, 2004 had been a normal, happy day for Alistair and Veronica Wilson. They had spent the afternoon walking in Culbin Forest - a few miles from their home in Nairn - with their children Andrew, four, and Graham, two, and some close friends.

It was also to be their last day together - a totally unexplained act of violence wiping out Mr Wilson's life and leaving his wife grasping for answers.

A year on, despite a massive investigation, hundreds of interviews, thousands of man hours and a mass of theories and speculation, she is still waiting.

The killer who gunned down her husband on his doorstep has never been found, nor has any motive for the cold-blooded murder ever been established. It remains one of the most baffling cases ever investigated by Northern Constabulary.

Today, as Mrs Wilson prepares to make another appeal for help in finding the killer, police - who have been criticised for their lack of results - say they are still confident of solving the case a year on from the murder.

They desperately hope Alistair Wilson will not join the names of other unsolved murders on their patch such as Renee Macrae and her son Andrew, who disappeared in 1976, and Shamsudden Mahmood, who was shot dead in an Indian restaurant in Orkney in 1994.

On their last day together, the Wilson family were photographed enjoying the fresh air of the beauty spot on the Moray Firth, seemingly without a care in the world. But instead of going into the family album, a few hours later the snapshots were handed to detectives. The following day Mr Wilson's smiling face appeared on newspapers and television broadcasts as the hunt for his killer began.

The Wilsons were getting their children ready for bed when, at 7:10pm the buzzer at 10 Crescent Road, Nairn, sounded.

Mrs Wilson answered to a short, stocky man, aged 35-40 wearing a dark jacket and baseball cap. She did not know him but he asked for her husband by name. Mr Wilson came to the door and spoke to the visitor, who handed him a green or blue envelope, the contents of which are still unknown.

He went back inside for a few moments and told his wife he did not know the caller. Then he returned to the front door and had another short conversation, during which the stranger pulled out a small automatic handgun and blasted the bank executive in the head and body from close range.

Mrs Wilson found her husband dying. She caught a glimpse of the killer making off along Crescent Road, with the mysterious envelope apparently in his possession.

Her 999 call, played back at a press conference reveals a woman unable to cope. After calling 999 she tried first aid, but screaming hysterically, she ran to a hotel across the road for assistance. Nurses in a local bar tried to resuscitate her husband but he was dead before he reached Raigmore Hospital, 16 miles away in Inverness.

Police were called at 7:13pm and a manhunt was launched. Roadblocks were set up and officers flooded the area, but the killer had escaped the net - the speed of the attack, as well as the darkness, allowing him to get away almost unnoticed.

By the next morning, the shocking events had gripped the community. Nairn is a popular tourist destination, but serious crime is not a regular visitor, making the murder even harder to understand.

The killing of a businessman, in an apparently motiveless attack on his own doorstep, was something the 11,000 residents associated with TV or movie plots, not their community.

One year on, neither the police nor Mr Wilson's family or friends are able to comprehend why he should be targeted like some gangland hit. Possible motives for the shooting have been suggested, as have potential names for the person who pulled the trigger - but so far to no avail.

There are no shortage of theories: that the killer was colleague or a businessman with a grudge, or that Mr Wilson was the victim of mistaken identity with the gunman shooting the wrong man with the right name.

It has also been suggested that the killing was carried out by the IRA as Mr Wilson refused to launder money from the 26 million robbery in Northern Ireland last year, allegedly committed by the provisionals.

Police and Mrs Wilson have also had to deny consistently that she had anything to do with the murder.

Mr Wilson was a new business manager with the Bank of Scotland in Inverness. His personal and professional life have been investigated thoroughly and produced no leads.

Last year, Detective Inspector Peter MacPhee, the man leading the inquiry, told The Scotsman: "Mr Wilson appears to have been an intelligent guy, ambitious and a hard worker. His life was split between work and his family.

"He has been described as a gentleman who was always polite and was a genial host. In all our research, we have not come across areas of confrontation.

"I've not come across anything at all, in either his professional or personal life, which even begins to suggest a motive." MacPhee also dismissed a possible extra-marital affair: "The question of possible infidelities was something we had to look at, but there was nothing. We have not found a dark side to him. If there was, we would have expected to find it by now," he said.

Friends also speak of a caring, family-orientated man who liked to help others and could not reconcile this to such a brutal death. One colleague said: "None of Alistair's friends can think of anything that would cause him to die in such horrible circumstances. It doesn't make sense."

Mr MacPhee has dismissed a link between the murder and the Ireland bank robbery: "Alistair's position in the bank did not lend itself to that kind of activity," he said.

The continual finger pointing at Mrs Wilson, who has inherited 130,000 after the death, has also been rejected.

While the police have dismissed reports saying she has been hypnotised, cognitive interviewing techniques have been used to get her to remember the horrific events.

Mr MacPhee said recently: "There are a lot of rumours and there will be until such time as we solve this. However, there are some lines that have been fully investigated and there is no evidence that Veronica is in any way involved in this crime."

Mistaken identity remains the most likely possibility. It has been suggested that Mr Wilson was targeted in the mistaken belief that he was a drug dealer with the same name.

So far police have interviewed more than 20 people with the name Alistair Wilson without producing a positive lead.

Despite their confidence, the evidence adds up to police not yet having the breakthrough they need, a year after the gun was fired. Ten days after the killing, the murder weapon was found by workmen in a drain in Nairn, although this did not produce the forensic evidence detectives had hoped.

The German-made handgun was mass produced in the old East Germany, while the bullets used were made in the Czech Republic. There is also growing concern about no leads being produced, despite 40 officers being involved in the inquiry, 1,500 people having been interviewed and Northern Constabulary getting in touch with all UK forces and Interpol, as well as seeking help from forensic services nationwide and ballistic labs in Dublin, Belfast, Glasgow and London.

The case has featured twice on the BBC Crimewatch programme and earlier this month two TV programmes were made on the murder.

Mary Scanlon, a Highland Conservative MSP, said yesterday: "I'm sure the police are doing everything in their power to find the killer of Alistair Wilson. But there is undoubtedly concern that so little progress appears to have been made in a case where a man was murdered on his own doorstep in a quiet Highland town.

"There were various CCTV cameras in the surrounding area, none of which provided any evidence." Police are aware of outside cynicism about the lack of progress in the case, but have said all along the investigation would be a "long haul".

But despite this optimism, today - the first anniversary of Alistair Wilson's death - there seems little of a positive nature for Veronica Wilson and her two children to cling on to.

Hunt for a killer

28 November, 2004 - Alistair Wilson shot dead on doorstep of his home in Nairn.

6 December - Crimestoppers put up 10,000 reward for information to help catch the killer.

8 December - Workmen find a handgun in a drain half a mile from death scene.

10 December - Veronica Wilson speaks publicly for the first time of the murder and says she can't understand why anyone would want to kill her husband.

14 December - Police confirm gun found is murder weapon.

20 December - Memorial service held for Mr Wilson in Nairn.

31 January, 2005 - Police begin taking DNA samples of people in the area at time of shooting.

7 February - Police appeal for help in tracing a Honda 4x4 they believe could be significant to inquiry.

17 February - Mrs Wilson gives interview and denies being involved in shooting.

6 April - Mr Wilson's funeral held in Fort William.

12 April - Police release details of murder weapon.

29 May - Cost of inquiry reaches 380,000.

12 June - The artist Damien Hirst is criticised after he reveals plans to recreate on canvas a photo showing forensic experts on the steps of Mr Wilson's home after the murder. Hirst later drops plans.

15 June - Police reveal DNA tests on murder weapon do not provide any clues to killer.

1 November - Police release part of Mrs Wilson's 999 call and extract from interview of son Andrew's interview with child psychologist.

4 November - Police receive more than 30 calls after two television programmes on killing.