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Was Alistair Wilson murdered because of a planning application? Police reveal construction of decking close to his home could be ‘significant’

A planning application for the Havelock Hotel in Nairn could be significant in the Alistair Wilson case.
A planning application for the Havelock Hotel in Nairn could be significant in the Alistair Wilson case.

The construction of decking close to Alistair Wilson’s home could hold the key to catching his killer, police have revealed.

Detectives are appealing for information from the public about a planning application lodged in 2004.

Mr Wilson had objected to a large decking area outside the Havelock Hotel, across the road from his home in Crescent Road, shortly before he was shot dead on his doorstep.

The killing of the 30-year-old banker on November 28, 2004 sent shockwaves through the Highlands and beyond.

Police recently travelled to Canada to interview key witness Andy Burnett about the planning application.

What have police said?

Officers from Police Scotland’s major investigations team have also confirmed that they now believe the answer to Alistair’s murder lies within his personal life – and is not connected to his job with the Bank of Scotland.

Detective Superintendent Graeme Mackie said: “While we cannot rule out any scenario, we believe this planning application could be significant to our inquiries.

“I am asking anyone with information about this issue to please come forward and speak with officers.

“Alistair did not disclose his disapproval regarding the decking to many people.

Detective Superintendent Graeme Mackie.

“However, we understand that his formal objection was sent by the local authority to the Havelock Hotel on the Thursday before his murder. Knowledge of his objections became public before his murder on the Sunday, which may be significant.

“I would also appeal to anyone who was involved in the building of the decking area at the Havelock Hotel in 2004 to come forward.

“Through significant inquiries being carried out we believe the answer to Alistair’s murder lies within his personal life and not in his role with the bank.

“Someone locally will have that piece of information that could be crucial to catching his killer and providing answers for his family.”

What did Alistair Wilson’s objection say?

The dispute over the planning application has been suggested as a possible motive in the past.

But most experts believed his work as a bank manager was far more likely.

The planning application is still available to view on Highland Council’s planning portal.

It was lodged on November 8, 2004 – just 20 days before Mr Wilson was shot.

Highland Council received it on November 25 and it was passed to Mr Burnett on November 27.

Alistair Wilson and his wife Veronica in happier times.

The decking had already been built by Mr Burnett. He was unaware he needed planning permission, so the application was a retrospective one.

Mr Wilson’s objection read: “I write to formally object to the planning application.

“There appears to be no recognition that this is a retrospective application as the ‘decking’ was constructed in May this year.

“It is with the benefit of experience of living with a beer garden outside my front door that I raise the following points.”

He went to complain forcibly about a number of things, among them:

  • The decking had been open late at night with the bar doors open, causing a noise disturbance
  • Broken glass was found strewn across the street on a regular basis
  • During the summer, he and his family felt uncomfortable using their front door and looking out their front windows, because customers would look back at them
  • The decking had used up parking space, causing increased traffic on Crescent Road and for the Wilsons’ driveway to be blocked

‘People have been killed for less’

Peter Bleksley, a former Scotland Yard detective, has studied the Alistair Wilson case in depth and wrote a book about it.

While discussing various theories, he previously said: “Now I know a planning dispute over some decking may not be the most serious matter and should not provide a motive for murder.

“But people have been killed for less.”

On Monday, he told the Press and Journal he was surprised to hear that police had ruled out a connection between his murder and his work.

Ex-policeman Peter Bleksley in Nairn in 2017. Picture by Andrew Smith

He said: “That may put paid to some rampant speculation, gossip and rumour which has gone on over the years.

“It would appear to me from the recent press releases from Police Scotland, all of which have come close together, that they have someone in their sights.”

David Wilson, a criminologist who has advised on numerous live murder investigations, said the latest police intervention left several unanswered questions.

He said: “This is a tragedy, it’s not a parlour game.

“Nothing that is being said by police was not known several years ago by people who have studied the case.

Professor David Wilson

“What’s never been in the public domain is why this witness and this issue is now so significant.

“On what basis is this now the focus? And on what basis have they ruled out it being linked to his professional life?”

No motive for the Alistair Wilson mystery has ever been uncovered

Police have collected more than 3,500 statements, spoken to more than 14,000 people in connection with the case and conducted door-to-door inquiries at more than 1,000 addresses in Nairn since the murder.

No motive has ever been uncovered for the fatal shooting. And no one has ever been arrested.

Officers from the major investigation team travelled to Nova Scotia province to carry out witness interviews in February.

Detectives spoke to Mr Wilson’s former friend and local landlord Andy Burnett, who was running the Havelock Hotel in 2004.

Speaking to The Sun, he said: “We’re not hiding over here, but we’re trying to move on from this.

“It’s not something we want.”

Last month, Police Scotland issued an appeal for information about two men seen with a handgun on a beach in Nairn.

Detective Superintendent Mackie added: “We have been very clear that time is no barrier to justice.

Alistair Wilson on the beach at Lossiemouth with his eldest son. Picture issued by Northern Constabulary

“I hope these recent appeals will further reassure the public that we are determined to bring Alistair’s killer to justice.”

Anyone who believes they can assist police is asked to contact 101.

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