The Northern Scot's Arlene Fraser and Nat Fraser files: 2003 – Fraser was cunning, cold and calculating, say police
This story appeared in the Northern Scot, January 31, 2003.
NAT Fraser thought he had committed the perfect crime - but his self-centred world collapsed around him when he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife Arlene.
Police officers who had spent nearly five years in the relentless pursuit of evidence which ultimately convicted him, watched as his arrogant veneer crumbled for the first time and he had to be helped from the dock.
Chief Inspector Alan Smith, the deputy senior investigating officer in the Arlene Fraser inquiry, said: "When he wobbled in the dock I wondered if this was yet another act, but it was obvious fairly quickly that he had been utterly rocked by the verdict."
For Elgin-based Ch Insp Smith (42), seeing Fraser jailed was an emotional conclusion to an inquiry which meant much more than simply doing his job.
"I am relieved and delighted that finally the family and those involved in the inquiry will get some sense of satisfaction and justice at what has happened," he said.
"He is cunning, cold and calculating; probably the most selfish, self-centred man I have ever met. There is only one person important to Nat Fraser – that's Nat Fraser."
The sinister side to Nat Fraser began to emerge as the investigation developed, but his public persona as a popular guy and his deliberate efforts to drag his missing wife's reputation into the gutter hampered the inquiry.
"He could not have cared less about Arlene and she had been a victim of his mental and physical abuse most of her married life.
"This was the dark side you didn't see when he was laughing and joking in the High Street. There were two very different people and there was a part of Nat which craved attention and popularity," said Ch Insp Smith.
"The true Nat Fraser was an accomplished liar and a serial womaniser. He has never once shown any remorse about the whole business and he has been prepared to put his kids through all this anguish."
In the first few weeks following his wife's disappearance Fraser gave the appearance of a husband keen to find out what had happened to his wife.
"When we first met him he was gushing with offers to assist and he tried to endear himself to the inquiry team.
"He wanted to know the first names of the officers and he would drive past in his lorry when officers were doing house to house enquiries and toot his horn," said Ch Insp Smith.
However, when Fraser realised the police were uncomfortable with his position and that they weren't going to go away, his mood soon changed.
"He skulked into the background and became quite disinterested in what was happening. We had to work hard to keep him up to date with the investigation.
"While Arlene's family had an absolute thirst for knowledge," he added, "Nat Fraser was the exact opposite and it eventually got to the stage where our relationship with him broke down and he became quite openly hostile to us.
By this time, of course, the finger of suspicion was beginning to point at Fraser, who had almost killed his wife after throttling her on March 22, 1998 – Mother's Day – just weeks before she disappeared.
Ch Insp Smith and the inquiry team were appalled to learn that Fraser had been running down his wife's character throughout the town in the days and weeks after she went missing.
"He was actively peddling propaganda around Elgin and elsewhere. The feedback was of him attempting to paint a picture of Arlene being a poor mum, an unfaithful wife and on drugs.
"We worked hard to tum that round because we knew she was none of those things but we were puzzled and alarmed why he should feel the need to do that, but this was part of his strategy.
This undermined the police investigation, with many people in Elgin believing Arlene had simply run off, leaving her children and husband to fend for themselves.
However, there was never any evidence to suggest she had done this.
Her clothes were not missing, no money had been withdrawn and her medication – she suffered from Crohn's Disease – was still in the house.
Even now, he admitted, it was difficult for some people to comprehend that a planned and pre-meditated murder of this magnitude could have happened on Elgin's doorstep.
Nat Fraser certainly was not anticipating the scale of the inquiry launched by Grampian Police, which is the biggest in the force's history.
"Nat Fraser expected a few doors to be knocked on, a photo in the local press, and that would be the end of it," said Ch Insp Smith.
When it became increasingly obvious that something criminal had happened to his wife, Fraser refused to accept it and still persisted with the claim that she had taken off.
"From day one we were faced with a wall of lies and deceit which we had to chip away at and break down brick by brick. We had no lucky breaks as such and everything we achieved in terms of evidence we had to glean."
After six months the discovery that farmer Hector Dick, a close friend of Fraser, had bought a Ford Fiesta car the night before Arlene disappeared and that Fraser was present at Dick's Wester Hillside Farm, Mosstowie when the car was handed over, was a major breakthrough.
Dick, who was originally charged with murdering and conspiring to murder Arlene, consistently lied to the police about the existence of the car which the police believed was involved in Arlene's abduction and murder.
He was jailed for 12 months in 2001 at Dingwall Sheriff Court for lying to the police about the car and six days into the evidence at the High Court he dramatically became a Crown witness after the charges against him were dropped.
In a lengthy statement to the police Dick had admitted destroying the car six days after Arlene disappeared.
He also claimed Fraser confessed to him that he had hired a hit man to strangle his wife and Fraser himself dismembered the body, burned it and ground up the remains.
Asked about what he thought of Hector Dick, Ch Insp Smith said: "Only that man can answer the question why he kept a family, who were clearly agonising over what had happened to their daughter and sister, in the dark for so long and why it took to the point where he was in the dock in the High Court in Edinburgh on a murder charge for him to reveal what he knew."
Ch lnsp Smith said the determination of the inquiry team to achieve justice and bring the person responsible to book, drove them on.
"I have been privileged to work with a team of officers who throughout the investigation have displayed the highest level of integrity, motivation, commitment and professionalism," he said.
The police established a close rapport with the fami1y – DS Willie Robertson acted as liaison officer – and that has been maintained throughout the highs and lows of the investigation.
"There were times when we never could have imagined getting this case into the High Court and some brave decisions were taken along the way to get us there," said Ch Insp Smith.