Returning jewellery to the estranged husband of an alleged murder victim was a mistake, a former senior police officer has told a court.
Alan Smith, 51, who was a detective superintendent with Grampian Police, said the decision to hand over Arlene Fraser's wedding, engagement and eternity rings to Nat Fraser was not something he was happy with.
Fruit and vegetable wholesaler Fraser, 53, denies acting with others to murder his 33-year-old wife. He pleads alibi and incrimination.
The mother-of-two, of Smith Street, New Elgin, Moray, vanished on April 28, 1998.
Mr Smith, now a company director, was deputy senior investigating officer throughout the investigation into Mrs Fraser's disappearance.
It was "well known" that he was not happy with the decision to return property to Fraser months after she went missing, he said.
The decision to return property to Fraser was not taken lightly, Mr Smith told the High Court in Edinburgh.
"In this case, my assertion was that the return of the rings was a mistake. It was a mistake," he said.
"I did not like the idea of returning property to Nat Fraser at that time. I felt it was the wrong thing to do. Did I have reasons to justify that? Probably not because we did not have a crime. He was not a suspect, so we could not just retain that property indefinitely."
The court later heard the police then asked for Fraser to return the rings to officers.
John Scott QC, defending, asked: "When asked to return the rings, Nat Fraser did so without any difficulty?" Mr Smith replied: "Yes, absolutely."
The rings were found on a peg in her bathroom by her stepmother nine days after the disappearance, the court has heard.
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