True Crime

Wife killer – caught by a lip reader

He thought he'd committed the perfect murder...

Nat Fraser thought he’d committed the perfect murder and would never be caught. He was wrong.

On the morning of April 28, 1998, the scene in the Fraser’s home was no different to that of many young families.

At 8.15am, Arlene Fraser, 33, hung washing on the line and 35 minutes later, still in her dressing gown, she kissed her children, Jamie, 10, and Natalie, five, goodbye, waving as they walked down the street to school.

An hour later, Arlene called the school to ask a question about an upcoming excursion.

But when the school secretary called her back around 10 minutes later, there was no answer.

And that afternoon, Jamie and Natalie returned to an empty house.

Arlene had vanished.

One of the biggest searches in the country’s history was launched, with friends and family assuring police that Arlene was a devoted mother who would never willingly abandon her children.

‘She made a very good mother,’ Arlene’s mum Isabelle Thompson said. ‘She took them swimming, she took them dancing. She was always doing something.’

The Frasers
The Frasers

The only person convinced that Arlene had run away was her husband Nat, 39.

Appearing on TV, and offering an $18,000 reward for any information on his wife’s whereabouts, Nat, a fruit and vegetable wholesaler, begged for Arlene to come home.

‘Come back. The children are missing you terribly,’ he pleaded.

Married since 1987, Arlene and Nat’s relationship was one peppered with domestic violence.

Arlene left Nat several times but he always charmed his way back into her life.

At the time of Arlene’s disappearance, Nat was on bail, charged with attempted murder after trying to strangle his wife five weeks earlier.

Solicitor Loanne Lennon confirmed that on the day Arlene went missing, she was supposed to meet the mum to discuss filing for divorce. Arlene had previously told Loanne that she wanted custody of the children and half the couple’s almost $1 million fortune.

Nat had told Arlene that if she didn’t accept $40,000, he’d make sure she got nothing, Loanne said.

While the attempted murder charge and impending divorce raised police suspicions, Nat could prove he’d been at work on the day Arlene disappeared.

Arlene was a devoted mother
Arlene was a devoted mother

But investigators weren’t prepared to discount his involvement, so when Nat was sentenced to 18 months in prison for a downgraded charge of assaulting Arlene, they kept a close eye on him.

In July 2000, Nat’s friend Glenn Lucas visited him in jail.

Surveillance footage of their interaction was shown to professional lip reader, Jessica Rees.

‘I knew nothing about the case at all, but it was pretty obvious they were talking about something horrible,’ Jessica told The Daily Telegraph. ‘How often do you say, in the course of a normal conversation, “Her arms are off and I pulled her teeth out. They can’t find her. It’s impossible.” It sounded pretty suspicious to me.’

‘I’ll get away with it. It’s all right. There’s no evidence. It’s all down the plughole,’ she reported Nat saying.

Nat also bragged to other inmates that he’d committed the ‘perfect murder’.

His only concern was that his best friend Hector Dick would flip and turn him in.

Glenn and Hector were charged with conspiring to murder Arlene but, in a tactical move, prosecutors dropped the charges against Glenn.

They told Hector that if he shared what he knew, his charges would also be dropped.

The gamble paid off.

In court, Nat maintained his innocence, but Hector took the witness stand and stated that Nat paid a hitman $27,000 to kill Arlene.

Nat Fraser
Nat Fraser (Credit: Getty)

Hector also said that weeks earlier, Nat had asked him to help buy a new car.

Hector obliged, taking delivery of it early on the day Arlene disappeared.

The car was collected from Hector’s farm then vanished, leading police to believe it was used in the disposal of Arlene’s body.

‘When Arlene said she was leaving and starting a new life, he just couldn’t accept it,’ Hector said. ‘Nat is the only person who knows where Arlene is.’

In January 2003, Nat was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison, but in May 2011, he won an appeal when his lawyers argued that in the absence of a body, physical evidence or witnesses, Nat had been unfairly convicted.

Arlene’s family were shocked when, just a few days later, Nat was released.

His freedom was short-lived however, with prosecutors successfully applying for a retrial and Nat being taken back into custody a few months later.

Arlene's father, stepmother and sister at court
Arlene’s father, stepmother and sister at court (Credit: Getty)

Nat Gordon Fraser was found guilty of his wife’s murder for a second time and is currently serving 17 years to life.

While Arlene’s family are hopeful they may one day recover her body, Alan Smith, a former detective superintendent with Grampian Police, doesn’t believe the killer will ever do the right thing and reveal her whereabouts.

‘I think the real Nat Fraser is a very dark and cunning individual,’ Alan says. ‘The last piece of control he has is that secret that he’ll probably take to his grave.’

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