BUSINESSMAN Nat Fraser has suffered a blow in a bid to clear his name over the murder of his wife Arlene after a judge said an appeal would be a waste of time.

Appeal court judge Lady Dorrian dismissed his efforts after reading legal papers submitted by his legal team to the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh.

Fraser, 53, is serving a minimum of 17 years in prison after being convicted, for a second time, in May this year of murdering Arlene, 33, whose body has never been found.

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His legal team is claiming the former fruit and vegetable salesman, who hired a hitman for the murder more than 14 years ago, suffered a miscarriage of justice. The grounds for this claim have not been revealed.

Lady Dorrian's ruling followed a process known as sifting, which weeds out appeals that are unlikely to succeed, avoiding the need for a costly full hearing in the courts.

Fraser, from Elgin, Moray, can now ask three judges to review Lady Dorrian's decision.

During Fraser's recent trial at the High Court in Edinburgh, judge Lord Bracadale made two decisions which could be open to challenge.

A witness revealed Fraser had been in prison before the disappearance of wife Arlene, who went missing from her Elgin home in April 1998.

And an investigation was ordered after complaints that a member of the jury had supposedly betrayed a bias against Fraser at an early stage.

In both cases Lord Bracadale ruled the trial should continue.

After more than five weeks of evidence and speeches a jury decided on May 30 that Fraser had paid a hitman to murder his wife.

They rejected Fraser's alibi – that he was on his delivery rounds that day – and his claim that his former friend, farmer Hector Dick, 56, of Mosstowie near Elgin was the real killer.

Fraser was jailed for life and cannot ask to be freed on parole for at least 17 years.

He was first convicted to murdering mum-of-two Arlene in January 2003 but continued to protest his innocence.

The Court of Criminal Appeal confirmed his conviction, but Fraser successfully went over the heads of Scottish judges and the UK Supreme Court ruled he had suffered a miscarriage of justice.

The successful appeal hinged on claims key evidence relating to the mystery reappearance of Arlene's rings in the bathroom of her Smith Street home, nine days after she vanished, had been kept from defence lawyers.

After the Supreme Court decision, which led to a political storm over the independence of the Scottish legal system, prosecutors demanded a new trial. A second jury reached the same conclusion as the first jury, nine years ago.

Both juries heard Fraser was seething with jealousy because he suspected his wife might have a lover. He was also worried divorce might mean Arlene walking away with a large chunk of his money.

Sentencing Fraser in May, Lord Bracadale told him: "You instigated in cold blood the premeditated murder of your wife and mother of your children, then aged 10 and five years.

"The murder and disposal of the body must have been carried out with ruthless efficiency for there is not a trace of Arlene Fraser from that day to this and her bereft family continue to live with no satisfactory knowledge of what happened to her remains."