Friday October 5 2012
– Andrew Roderick Fraser is what people call a “larger than life” character. It’s one of those euphemisms that covers a lot of ground.
The fallen lawyer is described as abrasive, charming, funny, rude, generous, manic, disgraceful and brave.
And that’s what his friends say. Enemies leave out the nice bits.
All of which explains why the story of Fraser’s spectacular rise and fall, from lawyer for the rich and infamous to cocaine user and convict, has attracted so much attention.
In the time it took to be handcuffed, he went from being attorney for the damned to being damned himself. And every police officer and prosecutor he’d elbowed on the way up kicked him on the way down, the way he tells it.
That’s why he has been the subject of books (his own) and a television drama series that starts on Channel 7 on Sunday. The books were rough and ready, and popular enough that he’s just done another one, “In any case”. (Published by Pier 9, owned by the “Herald Sun’s” parent company.)
The television series “Killing Time” is a polished drama that impressed the handful of people who saw it when it had an interrupted season on Foxtel in 2009.
The series starred David Wenham playing Fraser as an amoral, hedonistic anti-hero at home on the Grange (Hermitage) and coke. It’s a portrait of a hyperactive larrikin lawyer who’s easy to dislike but hard to hate.
Wenham makes a meal of Fraser’s unblinking depiction of himself, as reflected in a script edited by Ian David, the man behind the corrupt cop classic, “Blue Murder”.
“Killing Time’s” pay TV screening was interrupted because of an appeal by the monstrous sex killer Peter Dupas against his conviction for murdering Mersina Halvagis while she tended her grandmother’s grave in 1997.
Fraser had been put in the same prison unit as Dupas, who pumped him for legal advice – telling Fraser details of the Halvagis murder that only the real killer could know, miming the crime in detail.
Fraser pretended to give legal advice to the psychopath but when homicide detectives contacted him, he passed on the new information so they could charge Dupas. He also gave evidence against Dupas – giving the Halvagis family the comfort of having Dupas convicted of Mersina’s murder.
Fraser had defended some ugly and violent men in his time, including all the Moran family, Dennis “Mr Death” Allen and the accused Walsh Street police killers. But he could not contemplate helping a twisted sex killer.
By comparison with his high-security jail mates, says a friend, Fraser was “convicted of having too much fun”. That is, his cocaine use spiralled out of control so much he crazily advised a client on ways to smuggle the drug.
Fraser served all but a few weeks of the five-year minimum of his sentence.
By comparison, a multiple sadistic rapist imprisoned around the same time served eight years on multiple counts of raping and injuring several women – and re-offended soon after getting out.
Fraser, so cocky and cavalier before the fall, faced disgrace with a grace he’d rarely shown when on top. He didn’t make any excuses, and worked as a labourer on a friend’s farm to get by while he wrote his first book.
Many of his old high-flying friends avoided him but some stayed “staunch”, as his criminal clients would say. Among the loyal are some of the best-known QCs at the Bar.
In jail, Fraser had been thrown in with the worst killers – not just Dupas but Bega schoolgirl killer Leslie Camilleri and Raymond “Mr Stinky” Edmunds, among others – on grounds it was for his own “protection”. He says it was because his many enemies manipulated the system against him.
He habitually stood at the back of the jailhouse food queue to minimise the risk of being stabbed or king-hit, but in doing so missed out on most of the food. There are better ways to lose weight, he jokes.
Fraser got out of jail edgy but fit and well. He’d split with his long-suffering wife, Denise, but was on good terms with her and his two children. He moved in with a new long-term partner, Lindy Allen.
He couldn’t earn in a month what he’d charged Alan Bond for a day in court, but it didn’t worry him. He could go skiing, write, advise scriptwriters and actors, and make amends with his children. Most of all, he could run – resuming the athletic training he’d done as a top schoolboy hurdler at Wesley College.
It didn’t last. Fraser’s world fell in again late last December when he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma – cancerous tumours on his spine. “Merry bloody Christmas that was,” he grunts.
By March he had shrunk 12cm as his spine collapsed, reducing him from daily runner and gun snow skier to a bent figure shuffling behind a walking frame.
He’s off the frame now, although he still uses a stick. Yesterday he went into hospital for four days of intensive chemotherapy as a precursor to stem cell transfusions next month. All going well, he will be out of hospital on Sunday in time to see the screen version of his story screened again.
He says he will never run again. But he’s determined to ski next winter if it kills him. Which it might.
At least Fraser’s gallows humour hasn’t deserted him. He says his doctor’s prognosis is the same as his barrister’s before he went to jail: “About five to seven years.”
“But this time I want to do the maximum,” he says, deadpan – Andrew Rule


About Jumpin' Jack Cash
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