Review of Channel 4 programme “The Murder Trial”.
"The Murder Trial" detailed the retrial of Nat Fraser for the murder of his wife Arelene Fraser in 1998. This is a Scottish case so procedure is different in some respects to England & Wales and Northern Ireland but it was still a fascinating insight into a UK criminal trial. The programme featured footage from the court after all involved have their consent. It also featured interviews with those involved including lawyers, witnesses and Arlene's family. This
included her daughter who firmly believes in her father's innocence.
Clearly the evidence shown in the programme was a fraction of that actually heard by the jury. And closing and speeches and summing up was edited for tv. The prosecution case was that Nat Fraser had hired a hit man to kill his wife as she wanted a divorce. There was a suggestion he may have been jealous of her having other relationships after they separated. Mr Fraser has a cast iron alibi for the day Arlene disappeared and the hit man suggestion came from the witness, Hector Dick, previously a close friend of Mr Fraser. The programme focused a lot on his evidence, which was clearly crucial. He had sourced a car the day before Arlene disappeared and subsequently destroyed it. He said he got it at Mr Fraser's request, and it left his property for a few days then returned. Fearing it had been involved in Arlene's disappearance he got rid of it and it's never been traced. Mr Dick also claimed Mr Fraser told him on a later date Arlene was dead and also made claims he could get rid of a body and you couldn't be prosecuted without a body. Mr Fraser's defence was that Hector Dick, who admitted lying about the car for years, was responsible for Arlene's murder. Mr and Mrs Fraser's daughter, Natalie said in an interview she believed he was. She was aged 5 when her mother disappeared.
The remainder of the evidence against Mr Fraser were odd behaviour or suspicious comments made to various witnesses including saying there was a stash of money on the house he believed Arlene had taken, that the children would soon forget their mother and appeared not to be bothered by her disappearance.
Nat Fraser did not give evidence on his defence. No defendant has to. His defence, in closing, pointed to the unreliability of Hector Dick as a witness. The prosecution suggested motive of wishing to avoid losing money in a divorce settlement could apply to many men but they didn't murder their wives.
Mr Fraser was convicted of the murder. It was then disclosed Mr Fraser had previous convictions including for the assault of Arlene. It was said there had been a history if violence in the relationship. This could not be heard in evidence as it is consider prejudicial to a trial.
Whilst the programme clearly did not reflect the full reality of a trial given the editing and the interviews that were included it will hopefully have still highlighted some of the realities of a real life trial. It did also give the Arlene Fraser's family an opportunity to talk about the effect on them including Mr and Mrs Fraser's daughter who said she'd be the happiest person in the world if her father was acquitted. On his conviction she said she now didn't have any parents.
Apart from the revelation at the end of Mr Fraser's previous convictions there was no other mention of the history of his and Arlene's relationship and the abuse within it. In his sentencing the judge referred to the fact that Mr Fraser had arranged the killing of his wife and disposal of her body, calling his involvement "shocking and wicked", but no mention was made of how Arlene Fraser had suffered from violence at his hands in the past and how she had suffered then and with her killing. However, I don't know if this was an omission by the judge or edited for the programme.
On the issue of any "victim blaming" I felt there was none. The history of the relationship was not discussed and as Mr Fraser denied the offence he did not offer any mitigation ttat would have appeared either delibertately or through the use of language to blame the victim. The prosecution's case was that his motive was possible jealously because of her having relationships and not wishing to lose money in any divorce but there was nothing that would suggest Mrs Fraser had done anything wrong.
There was plenty of coverage of the family talking about Arlene and talk of her having been a good mother, as this was part of the prosecution case, that she would never have left them without any contact.Download this post as PDF? Click here