Transcript: 92. The Doorstep Murder of Alistair Wilson | Scotland

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It was 7pm on Sunday night, 28 November 2004 in the village of Nairn, Scotland. 30-year-old banker, Alistair Wilson, was upstairs in his charming greystone home, reading a bedtime story to his two boys when the doorbell rang. Downstairs his wife Veronica answered the door, and Alistair heard her voice calling for him.
When Alistair came to the front door, he saw a man wearing a cap, frowned and said hello. He didn't know the person and wondered why he was looking for him. Veronica made her way upstairs to continue the bedtime routine with the boys. 
After a couple of minutes, Alistair was upstairs again, holding a blue envelope with the name 'Paul' written on it. There was no card or note inside and Alistair was a bit confused. Veronica said the visitor had definitely asked for Alistair by name and also didn't understand what was up with the envelope.
Alistair went back downstairs and resumed his conversation with the strange caller. Then, Veronica, she heard a strange noise. She said it sounded like wooden crates falling onto the floor. One, two, three… She called for Alistair, but he didn't answer.
She ran downstairs and found him in a pool of blood. Her husband had been shot in the head by his visitor. The man was nowhere to be seen. The blue envelope was also gone. 
Who would want to end the life of this young, amicable family man? Was it personal? Or did his murder have something to do with his work? Was it a grudge killing? Was it a case of mistaken identity? Sixteen years on, this mystery still keeps investigators scratching their heads, an unsolved case that would become one of Scotland's most puzzling cases.
Alistair Wilson was born on the 4th of March 1974 in Ayrshire, Scotland. He was the youngest child of Alan and Joan Wilson, who had an older daughter, Jillian. Alistair grew up in Beith, a town 22 miles south of Glasgow. He was a quiet, well-behaved boy and enjoyed going to school. His idea of a good time was hanging out with friends, listening to music and never caused trouble. 
School friends recall that Alistair always wanted to be a banker and would do whatever it took to achieve his goal. After high school, he went to Sterling University, where he studied accountancy and business law. In 1996 he was invited to work as a graduate trainee at the Bank of Scotland. He took an interest in golf, he loved playing. But when his boys came along, he happily gave it up, so he could spend more time with his family.
During his time in the graduate program, he was sent to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands where he met graphic designer, Veronica MacDonald. Theirs was a case of love at first sight, and after dating for only six weeks, Alistair proposed. Veronica was head over heels in love with her reliable, generously loving boyfriend and could not think of anything better than spending her life with him.
Soon after they were married, Alistair was transferred to Edinburgh, and the couple lived south of the city in the popular commuter town of Peebles. Alistair worked as a specialist lender and was always pro-actively climbing the corporate ladder within the Bank of Scotland.
When he was offered a position in business banking in Inverness, he could not pass the opportunity by. Veronica already worked and lived there, so they would finally be able to start their married life together. He started his position in November 1999.
After two years, it was time to make another dream come true… They purchased a guesthouse-and-restaurant called Lothian House, in the idyllic seaside town of Nairn. 
Nairn was a favourite vacation spot since Victorian times because of its location and pleasant weather. Close to all Highlands attractions and a short drive from Inverness Airport, there was no better location. Havelock Hotel, a pub, was across the road from the house which meant there was always movement on the street – a great spot to start a new business.
Veronica's brother, Iain MacDonald, a qualified chef, signed on to run the kitchen, and for a while, Alistair and Veronica's home doubled up as a restaurant. Sadly, it didn't take-off, and the Wilsons were forced to close the doors. 
Together with their two young sons, Graham and Andrew, they lived in the three-storey greystone home. Life was good, and they had many friends. The family was settled, and they were happy to stay in Nairn. Alistair was still working at the bank but experienced a couple of set-backs.
He had also reached a ceiling in terms of prospects and realised it was time for a change. When he saw a position director's position at a new environmental consultancy firm in Inverness, Building and Research Establishment, he went for it. After many years at the Bank of Scotland, Alistair was looking forward to the new start.
But he would never get to take the job, seeing as his life was cut short in the cruellest of ways.
Saturday the 23rd of November, Alistair had invited family friends to visit for the night. The guest room was full of Christmas decorations, ready for decorating, so Veronica and Alistair spent the day tidying and cleaning, getting ready for their friends. They arrived at dinnertime, the families ate together and had a fun night with conversation and laughter. 
The next morning, the dads took the bigger kids for a walk in the nearby Culbin Forest, while the moms took the smaller ones to a play centre in town. They all had lunch together, then the friends left. The afternoon was relaxing as the Wilsons were getting ready for the week ahead. 
As it grew dark, Alistair, Veronica, Andrew, Graham and Veronica's dad, Ronnie, who lived with them, had a light meal at home. It was a Sunday night like any other. Alistair usually did the bath and bedtime routine with his boys, just like he did on this night.
A neighbour's 18-month-old boy was also there, and he joined in. Veronica was around, putting dirty clothes in the basket, tidying the room, getting the beds ready.
While Alistair was reading the bedtime story, the doorbell rang. They assumed it was the neighbours who had come to pick up their child. They usually came in through the back door – which was always unlocked. But perhaps one of them had inadvertently locked it on that day. 
Veronica went downstairs and opened the door to and an unknown man who simply said: 'Alistair Wilson'. She did not think it was strange, and she also did not sense any danger from the clean-shaven, stocky man.
After she called out for him, Alistair came downstairs. Veronica headed for the boys' room to take over the storytime duties. As she walked up the stairs, she heard a muffled conversation between Alistair and the man but did not pay attention to what was being said.
Moments later, Alistair was back upstairs with Veronica and the boys. He showed her a blue envelope the man at the door had given him. Alistair seemed bewildered and confused and showed her that there was nothing inside the envelope that was addressed to someone named Paul.
He asked Veronica if she had any idea what it was all about. She said it was strange, but told Alistair that the man had asked for him by name. They had a short conversation, the details of which police asked Veronica to keep confidential. 
The Wilsons decided that Veronica would finish the kids' story, then go downstairs to help Alistair figure out what was going on. He said he would go to the front door to see if the man was still there. 
Alistair went back down, and moments later, Veronica heard popping sounds. Instinctively she ran downstairs to see what was going on. She would never have thought that her husband had just been shot inside their home. He was lying in a pool of blood. At first, she thought the man must have punched him, but when she got to his side, she realised it was far more severe. He was still breathing but struggling to remain conscious.
She looked out the door and saw the unidentified man calmly walking away, towards the beach.
Veronica immediately called emergency services, a phone call that shows her desperation. Her father was also in the house, so she called for him to keep the boys away. 
Then she ran across the road to the pub to ask for help. She was distraught, and an off-duty paramedic told her to get towels, which she did when she got back home. But she realised that she could not save Alistair. When first responders arrived, Alistair was in a critical condition.
He was rushed to Raigmore Hospital in nearby Inverness where he passed away at a quarter past eight, an hour after the shooting.
Police took Veronica and her sons to an undisclosed location, and they were under police guard. Not only had they lost their husband and father, but their home was also the crime scene. 
Alistair had been shot twice in the head and once in the body. The gunman shot to kill. There were no signs of a scuffle or evidence that Alistair had time to defend himself. He was shot, point-blank with his killer facing him.
Crime scene investigators fine-combed the stairs and doorway of Lothian House at 10 Crescent Road, but the killer did not leave anything behind, nor could they find any footprints. 
The killer must have known exactly where all the CCTV cameras in the surrounding area were located because he wasn't caught on any of them. Neighbours and patrons of the pub were questioned at length. A couple of people said that they saw a man wearing a cap walking away from the Wilson home towards the seafront, but could not provide a more accurate description.
It is important to note that he was walking, not running. This was moments after shooting a father of two young children in his family home. The killer was calm and collected, a professional. 
A local resident, named Tommy Hog came forward, saying that he saw a strange man on the 6pm bus from Inverness to Nairn. He immediately had a bad feeling about the weird guy. Tommy and his wife both recalled the muscular, clean-shaven, 5ft9 man getting off the bus at a stop near Alistair's home. When he walked off, he had his hands in his pockets.
Tommy was able to provide police with an accurate description of the man and police managed to track him down but were able to rule him out as a suspect. 
The most vital witness was, of course, Veronica. She had opened the door and looked at the man on her doorstep. She provided police with a description of the stranger: a white male between, 35 and 40 years old, around 5ft6 to 5ft8 tall, of stocky build and his face was cleanly shaven.
He wore a baseball cap with no markings, light or dark blue zip-up jacket and dark blue jeans. She had never seen the man before and had no idea what his connection to Alistair was. From her brief last moment with Alistair, she felt that he also didn't know the man.
Police looked into Alistair's private life, trying to ascertain if he was involved with something he shouldn't have been: an illicit affair, drugs or gambling perhaps. But there was nothing to be found, Alistair was in fact the loving husband and father he seemed to be. There were no lies or scandals to be had.
Detective Chief Inspector Peter MacPhee said this twelve months into the investigation: "We have not found a dark side to him. If there was, we would have expected to find it by now."
Police moved on to Alistair's professional life. One of the reasons he was not happy at the bank anymore was that his superiors had declined a business loan he was positive his client in Orkney would receive. He was caught in the middle and had to break the bad news with a loyal client with whom he had built a stable working relationship. However, nothing about this indicated that Alistair's life was in danger. 
He was wrapping things up at Bank of Scotland and preparing for his last day, which was going to be on Friday the 3rd of December 2004. His new job at Building Research Establishment (BRE) was set to start the Monday after. Shortly before his death, he had started handing out his new business card to people.
Without much concrete evidence, police had to review what they knew. Alistair's last movements raised questions: why did he go upstairs to ask Veronica about the blue envelope? And if he sensed any danger, why did he willingly return downstairs, essentially offering himself up to his assassin. He obviously did not think the man was there to harm him. 
The fact that the gunman didn't shoot Alistair immediately is also strange. If his sole intention was to kill him, why did he let him go back upstairs? In a planned murder, this would have been valuable time. Anyone from the street could have recognised the man, one of the Wilson children could have been downstairs, Alistair could have left through the back door or call the police.
But yet he let him go, which shows that he had confidence that whatever they were discussing gave enough reason for Alistair to return. And also, to return without suspicion.
The blue envelope is a confusing element. When Veronica saw it, it was empty. It looked like an envelope for a greeting card. And who was Paul? Could there have been a threat inside, but Alistair left it downstairs? Perhaps the man wanted Alistair to fill the envelope with something – a cheque or cash maybe - money that was intended for someone by the name of Paul.
Police also had to consider that the envelope was simply a red herring, a distraction to cause Alistair to drop his guard. The killer must have taken the envelope with him because it was not there when Veronica discovered her injured husband.          
Veronica said that they knew a couple of people named Paul. Police looked into every single one, but there was absolutely no reason why any of Alistair's acquaintances would want him dead. 
Besides, the manner of the murder was done with such precision, that police believed it was committed by a professional killer, a hitman. This broadens the scope of the investigation: the actual killer had no connection to Alistair, but who contracted him?
On the 8th of December, ten days after the shooting, a road sweeper was clearing a blocked drain when he made a significant discovery. Among the leaves and other debris was a discarded Haenel Schmeisser semi-automatic pistol. He called the police and reported what he had found, not realising how important it was.
It had been discarded down a drain on Seabank Road, less than a mile away from the Wilson home. Tests confirmed that it was the firearm that was used to kill Alistair. There were no fingerprints or DNA evidence on the gun. It had been lying in the drain during the last week of November, with an average rainfall of about 66mm a day – if there was evidence, it washed off. 
The discovery was crucial, and because of the type of pistol, it looked like the police would be able to solve it. It was an antique German-manufactured firearm, dating back to the 1920s. It has been called a 'handbag gun' or a 'pocket pistol' because it is so small, only four inches big. It is easily concealed but rarely used in Scotland in 2004. In fact, handguns had been illegal in Scotland since 1997, so whoever had sourced the weapon must have gone through alternative channels. 
Investigators established that there were only 11 of the kind in the whole of the UK, of which two could be traced to the town of Nairn. To put this into perspective: Nairn is a small town on the east coast of Scotland, the likelihood of such a rare World War II relic being in the town is slim, let alone TWO. And the third – the murder weapon. Both other pistols were handed in to police in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
Police were able to establish that the two other pistols had never been used in crimes. The first one was brought to Scotland by a Scottish prisoner of war, taken after Dunkirk, who was in a camp in what is now Poland. The gun served as a war trophy or memento of sorts and was never used after his return to Scotland.
The other pistol belonged to a Polish Allied serviceman who had stayed with a Scottish family. Could the third pistol – the murder weapon – perhaps also have a Polish link? Police later said that they believed the gun and ammunition were smuggled into the country. 
The bullets used to kill Alistair were .25 calibre Sellier and Bellot, made between 1983 and 1993 in – what is now - the Czech Republic. The gun was a relic, the ammunition was newer. Both items were from Eastern Europe, but police could not establish a link between the gun, or the ammunition and a person. 
On the 20th of December, the community of Nairns held a memorial service for Alistair. Hundreds attended the ceremony, supporting Veronica and the boys. Veronica spoke and said that her husband's killing would haunt her forever.
It was the first Christmas without Alistair, and the community wanted to help somehow but didn't know what to do. People left Christmas presents for the boys on the doorstep where their father was killed, hoping it might distract them, make them happy, even if it could help just for a while.
A reward of £10,000 was offered to anyone with information that would lead to the arrest of Alistair's killer.
Three months after the murder, police invited 150 people to volunteer DNA samples. During the initial search of the crime scene, police found a cigarette butt on the Wilson's doorstep. with more advances technology, some DNA evidence could be found. In the end, more than 1000 samples were offered by local men.
Alistair was not forgotten, and even the people of Fort William, where he had started his professional life and met his wife held a memorial service in April 2005, honouring his memory.
A year after his death, police were at a loss. They made an unusual appeal to the public for information. They released Veronica’s 999 (triple-nine) call to the public. You can hear her gut-wrenching plea for help as she tells the operator that her husband has been shot. The operator kept asking if she wanted fire, police or ambulance and Veronica kept saying: my husband has been shot, my husband has been shot… 
Then Veronica can be heard calling for her dad to 'get the kids'. Police also released a video of a child psychologist, Helen Kenward, telling four-year-old Andrew that his father was no longer alive.
Police did this, hoping that someone's conscience would make them come forward with relevant information. Many people called in, but none of the leads brought them any closer in solving the case.
In 2006 police informed the public that they had traced the origin of the murder weapon. Unfortunately, it had been sold to an unknown person and records did not go back far enough to disclose who the buyer was. They appealed to the public for any information regarding the rare firearm.
Many theories have emerged over the years. Some more far-fetched than others. In the months after the killing, police questioned Veronica to rule her out as a suspect. 
When police had processed the Wilson home, Veronica and the boys moved back in. Locals were sceptical about her moving back into the house where her husband was shot. Neighbours said she never locked the back door – which showed she wasn't scared.
The rumour mill around the town of Nairn gossiped about the possibility that she had ordered the hitman. Or that Alistair's murder was perhaps faked, as part of an insurance scam. Fortunately, police were able to squash all of the rumours pretty quickly. Veronica wanted to raise her and Alistair's son in the home they bought together and have some semblance of the life they had dreamt of. 
She said that people who were talking about her like that did not know her and they had no idea what a happy and loving relationship she had with her husband. She did not blame people for wondering, though.
Murder was extremely uncommon in Nairn. Nairn was a safe town with a holiday feeling: sandcastles and ice creams as the BBC Podcast 'The Doorstep Murder' describes it. Residents knew if crimes occurred, because it was so unusual. The last murder in Nairn, before Alistair's death in 2004, took place in 1986, when one wedding guest stabbed another. 
The theory that most people in Nairn believe to be true is that Alistair was killed by a professional hitman for reasons unknown. 
In recent years and ex-colleague of Alistair's named Paul Moore came forward with a chilling story. Weeks before Alistair's murder, Paul was fired from Bank of Scotland when he exposed their loans strategy – a strategy that ultimately brought the bank to its knees, needing a £20 Billion bail-out.
Paul felt that, at the time of Alistair's murder, the scandal was still contained and powers-that-be would have been prepared to take extreme measures to silence someone if needed. Alistair had quit his job and was two weeks away from starting somewhere new.
Was someone within the Bank of Scotland trying to silence him before he left? Was the name 'Paul' on the blue envelope, Paul Moore? Was Alistair planning on exposing the scandal and his killer showed him the name Paul so he could receive the message.
Perhaps the hitman was told to threaten Alistair and if he didn't comply… Paul Moore said police never interviewed him regarding the issue, which he believes could hold the key in solving Alistair's murder. He said:
"I would not be surprised if there were people at the bank at the time who would have been prepared to go to the ultimate degree in this way – not necessarily themselves, but getting someone to do it."
It is a compelling theory; however, Paul has never been interviewed by police. 
For people who knew the area, it was unimaginable to admit that a murderer could be among them. The town had 11,000 residents at the time, and people knew each other, lived their lives together. They believed that someone came into town from Inverness, confronted Alistair, killed him and then left. That was the only explanation that made sense. 
Veronica Wilson believes her husband's murder was a case of mistaken identity. Perhaps the killer was looking for another Alistair Wilson. It is quite a common Scottish name. In fact, an older man by the same name also lived in Nairn.
He bore no resemblance to 30-year-old Alistair, but perhaps the killer only went after a target by the name of Alistair Wilson. Police did consider this theory, but could not find any evidence that the older Mr Wilson had any enemies either. 
Investigators looked into Veronica's personal life to see if she had any motive to want her husband gone. Again they came up empty: this was not a crime of passion. Money was also not a plausible motive.
Despite being a finance ace, Alistair did not have a will. He was only 30 years old, and he probably didn't think he would die young. Veronica had to apply through the Inverness Sheriff Court to be appointed the executor of his estate. She inherited Alistair's half of their £230,000 home as well as money owing to him from Bank of Scotland as well as tax rebates. 
The more police looked into the Wilsons, the more they discovered that they were, in fact, what they seemed to be: a happy family who loved spending time together. They had no hidden secrets or betrayals.
In 2005 a theory came to light when an anonymous man called a local radio station and said that he knew the people who had contracted Alistair's murder. According to the tipster, Alistair was approached by two businessmen, one who was a former Loyalist paramilitary from Northern Ireland – the IRA. He reached out to Alistair with a proposal to help them launder £26 Million, through real estate loans. Alistair refused and ended up paying with his life. 
The tipster was fearful of his own safety and said that the same businessman had approached a friend of his. When the friend did not want to comply, the businessman threatened that he would do the same to him as he did to Alistair.
Investigators looked into the named businessman and analysed his connection to Alistair. They certainly knew each other, as it was a part of Alistair's job to attend business functions in the Highlands on behalf of Bank of Scotland. However, there was not enough evidence to support the accusation and police had to concede that the businessman was probably not responsible for Alistair's murder.
Alistair was an honest, hardworking young father. If the IRA (or any organisation for that matter) needed help with illegal activity, someone like Alistair, who never liked causing trouble would not be a very likely candidate. Sure, he was ambitious, but he would not have gone rogue. But perhaps he knew too much.
Former detective, Peter Bleksley, wrote a book called 'To Catch a Killer' about the case. He claims to have received a phone call from someone explaining what had happened that night on Alistair's doorstep. The killer was sent to negotiate, not assassinate, but something went wrong, resulting in Alistair's death. According to Bleksley, the killer made Alistair an offer which he didn't accept. Had he accepted, he would not have died.
Bleksley came to a different conclusion altogether. He believed that soccer club, Livingstone FC was behind Alistair's murder. Although the club was performing well on the field, their finances were in shambles.
By February 2004 they were forced into administration by the Bank of Scotland. They had millions of pounds of debt, and many players and administrative staff lost their jobs. Bleksley believes that Alistair was made to pay for a decision made by the Bank of Scotland.  
In 2016 Police had another look at the investigation into Alistair's death, an assessment referred to as a 'homicide governance review'. With DNA testing evolving all the time, they re-tested all evidence to see if any additional clues could be found. If something has surfaced, police have not made it public.
This is still an active investigation and police prefer to keep their cards to their chests. Chief Superintendent Julian Innes said:
"There was a lot of DNA work done with that but it never came up with a full sample. New forensic science may come. There might be enough product there and then with new techniques to get a DNA sample from that. I am ever hopeful that it will be solved."
Another report was made that the murder did not only seem like a gangland hit, but it was also one. According to the information given to police, Alistair had borrowed £50,000 from loan sharks and did not realise what he had gotten himself into.
He had not kept his side of the arrangement and was made to pay for it with his life. Police could find no evidence that Alistair had any dealings with loan sharks or that he was in desperate need for money, so this theory did not hold a lot of credence.
In 2017, criminology professor David Wilson from Birmingham City University received a document in the mail. It was an eight-page essay, named 'Alistair Wilson: A Cold Case Thesis'.
The piece relates the facts of the case, as it was reported in the media. It was signed by an anonymous person called 'Nate'. He or she goes on to claim that there was a witness who saw the gunman at the Wilson's doorstep on that November night. The professor handed the information to the police and admitted that after reading it, he was convinced that this case could finally be solved.
Police are keeping an open mind and refuse to exclude any information. More than £1 Million has been spent on Alistair's case, the most significant investigation in the Northern Constabulary to date. 14,000 people have been questioned in the course of the investigation. 
Police have also had their fair share of criticism over the years for not solving the case. Mainly because they have never released a composite sketch or e-fit image of the killer. Detective Superintendent Gary Cunningham of Police Scotland explained why not:
"There is limited detail available about the facial features of the suspect from witnesses and as such, there is not sufficient information to produce an e-fit."
But sixteen years on, the public is growing impatient. Some people accused police of purposefully NOT solving the case, due to sensitive information. They were protecting someone, like an informer perhaps.
Police vowed not to be taken off course by criticism. To this day, they are looking at Alistair's death as an open and active investigation. Veronica said in a BBC interview that she is thankful that they are still trying to find his killer.  
Scotland Police appeal to anyone who has information to come forward. If someone with information fear for their own safety, police offer protection. If anyone listening has information relating to the case, get in touch with police – you'll find a link to Crimestoppers in the show notes.
Veronica and the boys still live in the house her and Alistair bought together in 2002. Their dream life ended in a nightmare on Sunday the 28th of November 2004. The community supported her, and she never regretted her decision to stay in Nairn.
The town of Nairn took Alistair's murder personal, and everybody is still holding out for answers. The day he died, the town changed forever. The fact that his killer or killers have not been brought to justice leaves the village with an open wound.
For decades the name Nairn made people think of beach holidays and fun, but after Alistair's death, hearing the name Nairn was synonymous with murder. And worst of all: an unsolved murder.
If you'd like to read more about this case, have a look at the resources used for this episode in the show notes. Also listen to the six-part BBC podcast dedicated to Alistair's case, called 'The Doorstep Murder'.
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This was The Evidence Locker. Thank you for listening!
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