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Stuart Hutchinson: Oil worker brutally killed his Aberdeen wife in Spain and got out after four years

It was a killing that a senior north-east policeman described as one of the “most horrific” crimes he had ever seen.

When Stuart Hutchinson was sentenced to 24 years in prison for killing his wife, Alice, and chopping up her body at the couple’s luxury villa in Fuengirola in Spain, her family at least had the small comfort of thinking he would spend decades behind bars.

But they were distraught when the former North Sea oil executive was released just four years later, in October 1996, although he had admitted to the crime.

And, even as Hutchinson attempted to portray himself as a cuckold who had been trapped in an unhappy marriage, Alice’s best friend and cousin, Audrey Sutherland, expressed her family’s revulsion at the news of his premature freedom.

It’s a case that will strike a chord in the current climate where violence against women has become an increasingly contentious issue, in the aftermath of the recent murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa.

But, 25 years ago, there was no remorse from Hutchinson in the aftermath of a case that put the Spanish judicial system under the microscope after it introduced new legal rules which allowed some prisoners the possibility of early release.

Hutchinson, a former Aberdeen-based oilman who earned upwards of £80,000 a year, was found guilty in a Malaga court in 1992 of brutally killing his wife with a baseball bat and disposing of her remains three years earlier.

The couple, both of whom had previously been married, met in the popular Aberdeen nightclub Mr G’s and enjoyed a lavish lifestyle after moving to the continent, including regular skiing holidays and a three-week trip to Disneyworld in Florida in 1988.

In an interview with a Spanish journalist, Hutchinson said he had committed the crime as his 14-year-old daughter from his first marriage, Katinka, slept upstairs.

The prosecution revealed grisly details of how he had subsequently hacked up her body, burned her remains in a stove and packed them into paint pots which he dumped along different parts of the Costa del Sol.

Hutchinson killed his wife, Alice, at their villa in Fuengirola.
Hutchinson killed his wife, Alice, at their villa in Fuengirola.

Mrs Hutchinson’s body was never found and Hutchinson persisted in his claim that she had left the villa almost three years previously following a bitter row between the couple – despite the fact they were seen on several different holidays as recently as 1988.

He argued that she had put him through “seven years of hell” and been unfaithful to him on a regular basis, but this cut little ice with the authorities in 1992 when the 48-year-old was finally given a lengthy jail sentence.

All of which made it doubly astonishing when the news of his release was unveiled, not least to the victim’s grieving family members in the Granite City.

‘We thought it was an awful hoax’

Jim Davidson, Alice’s father, could barely credit the news and described himself as “sickened” by the decision, which effectively gave Hutchinson his life back at just 52.

He added: “He was sentenced to 24 years and, after what he did to my daughter, that is what he should have served.”

His sense of outrage was backed up in strong terms by Mrs Sutherland, who told The Press and Journal: “When I first heard that he was out, I was dumbstruck and I just could not believe it. I was praying it was a hoax.

“He has done it once and I firmly believe that he has it in him to do it again. A leopard never changes its spots, so I think that letting him out is totally insane.”

She wasn’t prepared to let the matter drop. On the contrary, she penned a passionate plea to the Prime Minister, John Major, asking him to intervene.

The victim's mother wrote to John Major and "poured my heart ou to the PM". 
The victim’s cousin wrote to John Major and “poured my heart out to the PM”.

Mrs Sutherland, who played a pivotal role in helping convict Hutchinson by talking to him on the phone while police taped the calls, told the Evening Express on October 11: “I sent the letter yesterday and I have just poured my heart out to the PM.

“I want to see Hutchinson back behind bars and I want to see justice done.

“Why did the Spanish authorities not contact Britain if they could not keep Hutchinson in a Spanish jail? And why was the killer not deported to this country?

“What has justice come to when a murderer only ends up serving four years? You can get a longer sentence for drink-driving.”

‘This will bring it back for the whole family’

Detective Chief Inspector Alex Den, formerly of Grampian Police, was one of two officers who flew out to Spain in 1989, alongside his colleague Detective Sergeant Gordon Thomson.

And, seven years later, the now-retired officer was among the many people who sympathised with the anger felt by Alice’s relatives at Hutchinson’s release.

He said: “What I feel is disappointment, more on behalf of the family than anything else.

I killed her. Let’s lay that ghost to rest.”

Stuart Hutchinson speaking to a Spanish newspaper

“The trauma they went through (after Alice went missing) was considerable and this will bring it all back once more.”

He confirmed that, in the aftermath of the lengthy investigation, he had become very close to Mr Davidson and the rest of his family and had kept in regular touch.

As he added: “When you have an inquiry like that, you do build up quite strong bonds with people. It is such a difficult thing for them to have to deal with.”

Hutchinson was dismissive of criticism

The killer’s lawyer, Pedro Apalategui, provided a bizarre glimpse into why Hutchinson had been freed despite being convicted of such a serious offence.

Mr Apalategui said Hutchinson’s early release was partly because of his “exemplary behaviour” and that the controversial new penal code in Spain allowed for further sentence cuts if a prisoner was studying a career.

He added: “He told me some time ago that he wants to stay and live in Spain and practise law. So I expected his early release. His freedom does not surprise me.

“He worked hard at the law course while he was in jail. And you should also remember that my client spent a long time in custody awaiting trial.”

No signs of contrition from Hutchinson

However, this was treated with contempt by Alice’s family. As they pointed out, Hutchinson had never shown a shred of remorse for his actions.

Instead, he told a Spanish newspaper: “I killed her. Let’s lay that ghost to rest. Now I am free to make a new life and do what I really want to do.

“The seven years I was married to Alice were another kind of hell.”

One of the most poignant aspects of Alice’s death was the fact that a commemorative event was organised in her home city as early as 1989.

As the Press & Journal reported on May 3: “A memorial service for Costa del Sol murder victim Mrs Alice Hutchinson will be held in Aberdeen tomorrow.

“Mrs Hutchinson’s distraught parents, Jean and James Davidson, have arranged the service to be held at Mastrick Parish Church on Greenfern Road at 2pm.

Piper Alpha team helped family

“Mrs Hutchinson’s cousin, Audrey Sutherland, said the family had been inundated with phone calls from friends in Aberdeen.

“The couple had lived in Rubislaw Den North before moving to a luxury villa near Malaga four years ago (in 1985).

“Mrs Sutherland also praised the support given to the family by the Piper Alpha social work team and added: ‘I have great respect for them – they have been really good to us.”

Sadly, the same could not be said for the Spanish judicial system.