VERONICA Wilson had enjoyed a day out with her family and got her two small boys into pyjamas, ready for their devoted dad to read them a bedtime story.
But a ring on the doorbell, at 7pm on November 28, 2004, was about to destroy their lives – as a cold-blooded killer gunned down banker Alistair Wilson on his own doorstep.
10Alistair was adored his wife and two boysCredit: PA10The devoted dad was shot at his Nairn homeCredit: PA:Press AssociationThe murder, in the quiet Scottish town of Nairn, has baffled police for 18 years, sparking theories of a link to the IRA and to a financial scandal at Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) where Alistair had recently handed in his notice.
Now a new documentary on Channel 5 claims the motive behind the hit was a planning row over a smoking area at a pub opposite the Wilsons’ home.
Murder on the Doorstep: Who Killed Alistair Wilson? – which airs tonight on Channel 5 – reveals a letter to the local council objecting to decking outside the Havelock Hotel may provide the key to the killing.
For wife Veronica, who found her 30-year-old husband lying in a pool of blood after being shot three times, finding answers will provide some closure after nearly two decades of heartbreak.
“This is a life sentence for us after losing Al in this way,” she says in archive footage in the documentary.
“For me with time, it’s another Christmas that I’ve got the boys with no dad. But they know (getting) answers is the one thing that can change.
“We’ll never have Al another Christmas. But it would be nice to know that Christmas will come when we have answers and that hopefully we are moving on in the right direction.”
Murder as kids put to bed
Described as a “very happy and devoted family man”, Alistair had fallen for Veronica while working in the highland town of Fort William and had proposed six weeks later.
A talented business banker, he moved to the seaside town of Nairn with his young family in 2002, buying an imposing detached house in Crescent Road.
On Sunday, November 28, 2004, he and Veronica spent the day with friends and went for a walk with the boys, then two and four.
“Just a regular Sunday evening,” says Veronica.
“Have our dinner, up for the bath, back through to one of the bedrooms for story time. The boys are in their jammies and Al’s just chosen their stories and is sitting down with them.
“I’m just picking up the wet towels and dirty clothes and things and I hear the door.”
Veronica opened the door to a man of around 5ft 7in, wearing dark clothing and a baseball cap, who said just two words: “Alistair Wilson.”
After his wife called him, Alistair came to the door and was handed a blue envelope, which appeared to be empty. Confused, he went back inside to show Veronica before returning to the doorstep.
“I just hear these shots,” says Veronica. “I keep questioning myself whether I knew they were shots or not.
“The minute I heard them I ran down so I must have known that they were. I go down and find Al lying in the porch just covered in blood, just lying there.”
She remembers seeing the gunman walking calmly away, along the residential street even as she called 999 in hysterics, shouting: “Oh my God, my husband’s been shot.”
She also ran over to the Havelock Hotel, opposite the house, begging for help to save him before attempting to stem the bleeding with towels.
Tragically, Alistair died in hospital an hour later.
10’Smitten’ Alistair proposed after six weeksCredit: PA:Press Association10Forensic teams examine the front gardenCredit: PA:Press AssociationIRA theory
The murder of the popular business banker, described as a “nice guy” with no known enemies, baffled the police.
Detective Inspector Gary Winter described him as “a quiet family guy, two young kids, trying to make ends meet. Very little social life.”
He added: “Life totally oriented around two boys at that age. And not anything within his lifestyle that should take him into conflict with anyone, certainly to a stage where somebody produced a gun.”
But the killer had asked for him by name, so there was no suggestion of mistaken identity, and forensic experts believe that the style of the killing – with two shots to the head and one to the heart – was consistent with a professional hitman.
Rumours of IRA involvement began to swirl after it was revealed that the use of an empty envelope, perhaps as a distraction, was often used by the terrorist group.
A caller to a local radio station pointed the finger at a local businessman who he believed had Alistair, his banker, killed by an associate who was a former paramilitary.
But Detective Supt. Graeme Mackie dismissed the idea, saying: “There is no substance to any information that would suggest that specifically the IRA were involved in Alistair’s murder.
“There’s nothing in Alistair’s personal life or work life that would even suggest or hint that he was in any way associated with paramilitary groups or organised crime groups. Absolutely not.”
10Police found no IRA linkCredit: Collect10Police search a nearby beach for clothesCredit: PA:Press AssociationBank link
At the time of the murder, Alistair had become disillusioned with his job as business banker at HBOS.
It would later emerge that serious fraud was taking place at the highest levels of the bank, between the years of 2003 and 2007, which eventually led to colossal failure.
This sparked the theory that Alistair, who had recently handed in his notice, was a whistleblower who had uncovered the scandal and was about to expose his bosses.
Graeme Mackie, who insists every aspect of his banking life was investigated, dismisses the link.
“Alistair’s role shouldn’t bring him into great conflict with anyone,” he says. “He’s not a guy with the keys to the safe. He’s not handing out massive sums of money. He’s developing business plans.
“We do not believe from all the enquiries that we’ve conducted that his murder was a result of anything to do with his work.”
10Veronica is desperate to know why her husband diedCredit: Channel 4Clues
With no obvious motive or suspect, the police were desperate for physical evidence and a breakthrough appeared to come when a gun was found by a council worker investigating a flooded drain near the house.
The tiny German handgun, made between the World Wars, fits into the palm of a hand and ballistics confirmed it was the murder weapon – but there were no prints and no DNA to identify the killer.
The turquoise blue envelope handed to Alistair on the step was missing but Veronica told police the only writing in it was the name Paul.
One theory was that the murder was intended as a message to someone with that name and another suggests it might stand for “Pay Up and Live.”, but it has never been recovered.
More recently, a dog walker has come forward, telling police she saw two men on the beach, one about 20 and the other between 40 and 60, with the younger aiming what they thought was a pistol into the sea.
10A 1920s handgun was the murder weapon10An envelope similar to the one handed to the victimCredit: Universal News (Europe)Planning row
The most promising twist in the tale, revealed by the documentary, is a new theory centred on a planning row between Alistair and the Havelock Hotel.
With a recently introduced smoking ban about to be enforced in Scotland the landlord had installed a decking area in the car park, close to the Wilsons’ home.
Alistair had objected to the increased noise, with rowdy punters outside at all hours.
When the hotel applied for retrospective planning permission, in November 2004, Alistair wrote an objection letter to the council, listing his complaints.
A letter to the licensee, outlining local objections and naming Alistair, was delivered on Friday November 26, two days before the murder, and feelings among the regulars were running high.
Witnesses revealed there were “heated arguments” about the issue among drinkers in the pub and “some kind of threat or nasty remark” was made.
The landlord has never been a suspect and was among the people that came to Alistair’s aid on the night.
But investigating officers interviewed everyone in the pub that night, and now believe the planning row could be the key to the mystery. They have now launched a fresh appeal.
10The Havelock Hotel could be at the heart of the mysteryCredit: Ken MacPherson“There was a level of conversation within the pub being upset towards Alistair complaining about it and the potential that it could be taken away,” says Graeme Mackie.
“We want to find out if during that weekend was anyone making any threats, was anybody speaking disproportionately about taking action against Alistair?
“We believe it’s the motive or part of the motive, and we need the community’s help with those that are associated with the Havelock, those that might have been in the Havelock, just to get a better understanding of what was being discussed.”
Detective Inspector Gary Winter adds: It’s massively important for Veronica, the boys, his mum and dad, his sister in Australia, and all of those that have been impacted by the crime over the years that we continue to relentlessly try and get justice for the family, to give them some answers that they haven’t had for a long time.
Murder on the Doorstep: Who Killed Alistair Wilson? Channel 5 Thursday, 9pm and online at My5.
Story Credit: thesun.co.uk