The Northern Scot's Arlene Fraser and Nat Fraser files: 2003 – Vital 'silent witness'
This story appeared in the Northern Scot, January 31, 2003.
FRESH leads in the Arlene Fraser inquiry had all but dried up when detectives were given the breakthrough that they so desperately needed to nail her killer.
The evidence that confirmed what they had suspected all along – that Nat Fraser was behind the killing – came in the form of a whispered conversation.
While serving an 18-month prison sentence for throttling Arlene in a life-threatening attack, Fraser had a visit from old friend Glenn Lucas.
The meeting at Porterfield Prison in Inverness was filmed on CCTV – a security measure used to spot drug or weapon smuggling.
No one else in the room could hear what the pair were discussing.
But there was one silent witness who knew exactly what they were talking about.
The tapes from two visits in March and April 2000 were passed on to expert lip reader Jessica Rees, who has been profoundly deaf since the age of four.
She was able to pick up key words and snatched phrases from the video, and gave police the crucial evidence they needed to charge Fraser with murder.
The Crown was always going to be on shaky ground by using the CCTV footage in the case: the defence had indicated that it would object to it being shown on human rights grounds, claiming it was a breach of Fraser's right to privacy.
In the end, prosecutors took a huge risk in deciding not to present Ms Rees' evidence to the jury.
But, as brutal Fraser was sentenced to life imprisonment, it was a gamble that paid off.
The snatches Ms Rees was able to translate provided a damning indictment of Fraser's involvement.
She saw him talk of "arms off'' and "teeth out".
In other parts of the conversation he said: "It's all wrapped up" and "They can't find her''.
Ms Rees also translated the words: ''There is no evidence. It's all down the plughole, so the police don't know shit, so f*** the lot of them."
Although the tape was never produced, it was still crucial to the prosecution case.
Numerous references were made to "Hecky" – Hector Dick's nickname – and this allowed police to charge him, along with Fraser and Lucas, with plotting to murder Arlene.
With the threat of a life sentence hanging over him, Dick turned Queen's evidence a few days into the trial, and the charges against him and Lucas were sensationally dropped.
Dick went on to tell the jury how a hit man had been hired to kill Arlene, and how Fraser had later burned her body and ground up her teeth.