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Free after 2-year jail

Avinesh Gopal
Saturday, December 01, 2012

HE sat with his head bowed and muttered a prayer as his fate was being read out.

What transpired in those few minutes yesterday was the best moment in Jack Anthony Fraser's life.

As the Court of Appeal adjourned for the morning tea, Mr Fraser got up and shook hands with his lawyer, Iqbal Khan, before hugging his wife Marica.

Mr Fraser was finally a free man yesterday after spending more than two years in jail for the murder of a jeweller.

"I thank all those who supported me, especially my lawyer for successfully fighting my appeal. I knew he would take me out of jail," he said.

The acting president of the Court of Appeal, Justice William Calanchini, Justice of Appeal Eric Basnayake and Justice of Appeal Prabaharan Kumararatnam allowed Mr Fraser's appeal and quashed the murder conviction.

On April 14, 2010, the trial judge in the High Court at Lautoka convicted Mr Fraser of murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment with a non-parole term of 16 years.

In doing so, the learned trial judge disagreed with the three assessors who had returned a unanimous opinion of not guilty.

The Court of Appeal said it was apparent that the evidence upon which the learned trial judge relied on in order to find Mr Fraser guilty was the confession made in the caution interview conducted over October 5 and 6.

It said it was quite clear that the circumstantial evidence alone could not support a finding of guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Furthermore, the Court of Appeal said the prosecution had failed to prove that the statements were obtained voluntarily and the learned trial judge had erred in allowing Mr Fraser's statements that were made on October 5 and 7, 2006.

Mr Fraser told The Fiji Times after being set free that all his hopes were on his lawyer who also hailed from Lautoka.

"While the judgment was being read out by one of the judges, I just sat on the bench and said a little prayer," he said.

"I thank my wife who has been with me all along during the difficult moments in my life and my three children aged eight, seven and five, all of whom are schooling. Also, I thank the legal system in Fiji and the Court of Appeal for allowing my appeal and quashing the murder conviction."

Mr Fraser said his lawyer did a lot for him because of the latter's friendship with his father, Franco Fraser, a former Lautoka and national soccer player.

He said his mother had made a few trips from New Zealand during the trial and was supportive.

"This was the first time that I was charged for a criminal offence and the only thing I want to tell everybody is to follow the law. I will turn a new leaf in my life now because of what I experienced and I will never go into a life of crime," said Mr Fraser.

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