Undercurrent – the end is nigh

Andrew L. Urban.

At around 6 minutes from the start of the final episode of Undercurrent (7 Network, Wednesday, March 6, 2019), a nervy Meaghan Vass arrives for a crucial tell-all interview with Colin McLaren in a Hobart hotel room, cameras rolling. She almost immediately turns round and tells McLaren she’s going out to her ‘family’ for 10 minutes “just so I can get a quick thing to calm me down.” In a nutshell, this moment captures the essential drama at the heart of the documentary series investigating the 2009 Bob Chappell murder – of which Sue Neill-Fraser has been convicted: getting a terrified Vass to tell the whole truth.

It was then homeless 15 year old Meaghan Vass’ DNA that was found on the yacht after Chappell had disappeared overnight on January 26/27, 2009, but it was not until March the following year that the match of the sample popped up in the DNA database, after

Meaghan Vass (fb 2019)

she had been arrested for an unrelated matter. By then, Chappell’s partner of 18 years, Sue Neill-Fraser, had been arrested for his murder and was on remand, awaiting trial. Yet, as we now know, the unidentified DNA was ignored but even the match to Vass didn’t propel the police or the DPP to re-examine their case against Neill-Fraser. (Trick question 1: What do TasPol do when they find a strong DNA deposit of an intruder at a crime scene? Answer: Nothing. Trick question 2: What does the Tasmanian DPP call such a DNA deposit? Answer: a red herring.)

The Hobart hotel meeting had been excruciatingly difficult to set up (as we saw in earlier episodes) and everyone was on edge. It was to be the culmination of the investigation, in which Vass would tell McLaren face to face what she had already told him by phone – what actually happened on the yacht that day.

A reasonable person could well form the view from the manner of Vass’ highly strung, almost hysterical behaviour and her words – and her evident anguish about the fate of Sue Neill-Fraser – that she does know what happened but is torn and terrified about disclosing it. Of whom she is more afraid, the police (who seem to be protecting their case, not seek the truth) or the underworld assailants from the yacht, Vass doesn’t say.

The filmmaking team (pictured: Colin McLaren and Eve Ash) continue to seek a statement from Vass that confirms her presence at the crime scene, complete with her signature – to be witnessed by solicitor Jeff Thompson. The episode – like the rest of the series – comes across as a combination of day-to-day real life crime investigation and personal crusade, run by filmmaker Eve Ash, Neill-Fraser’s most fervent advocate for justice, aside from the family.

TasPol detectives have seen all the footage. (Trick question 3: What have TasPol done now in the wake of the conviction, having found new leads, new information, all on camera? Answer: Charge or threaten to charge those who collected the information, but take no action to use the information in re-examining the case.)

The episode also records how the filmmaking team – accompanied by acclaimed Melbourne barrister Robert Richter QC – who back on May 11, 2017 delivered a 50 page dossier of their findings (and the basis for Undercurrent) to Tasmania’s top politicians responsible for the law – Premier Will Hodgman, Tasmania’s Acting Attorney-General Matthew Groom and Solicitor-General Michael O’Farrell. (Trick question 4: What do these leaders do with the information? Answer: You won’t believe it…)

The questions raised by Episode 6 – and indeed the whole series – will continue to reverberate around Tasmania’s legal system until answered. And the story of the case continues …

By fateful coincidence, this final episode will go to air (except in Tasmania) just about the time that Justice Brett delivers his ruling on Neill-Fraser’s seeking leave to appeal. One way or another, the bells are ringing for a reckoning. The end is nigh for all concerned, from Neill-Fraser’s hopes of a full – and successful – appeal to TasPol’s reputation.

It would not surprise if the called-for Royal Commission – a call which this series does much to turbocharge – views Undercurrent footage with greater interest in the search for the truth than TasPol ever did.

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60 Responses to Undercurrent – the end is nigh

  1. John Midson says:

    The Tas Government, Tas police and Tas justice system have all been compromised which should give rise to a Royal Commission. Police, politicians and lawyers are all complicit. They played an active role by knowingly charging the innocent who were seeking justice. It’s a clear case of conspiracy and acting in concert. They have charged the innocent with attempting to pervert the course of justice and in doing so in extraordinary circumstances, attempted to pervert the course of justice themselves. Should they not be held to account criminally themselves and at the highest end? Or are the elite in Australia above the law like the CEOs of the big banks. It makes for a great case study of human nature and how Hitler was able to marchall the SS troops last century…!

  2. M says:

    So much hope for complete absolution for Sue Neill-Fraser although it won’t give her back the past 10 years.
    Also hope that Meagan Vass finds peace and can move on to a better place.
    What a sad story from beginning to end.
    To Colin McLaren and Eve Ash – not enough thanks can be extended to you both.
    BUT Sue Neill – Fraser is not a free women yet.
    Can’t wait for the day when I read the news that she is…..

  3. George Burnett says:

    The detective in charge has (EDITED) written right across his stupid face, especially during the interview. Megan Vass DNA was found at the scene for heaven’s sake. It didn’t come off the bottom of a coppers boot (if it had, what did he do, kick her to death?). A total travesty of justice and someone other than that poor lady should pay for it!

  4. John says:

    I am now concerned about my business trips to Hobart,
    This could happened to any Australian.

    It’s unbelievable…….

  5. john bailey says:

    have planned a visit to tassie in september this bookings made and paid for am beginning to wonder how safe i will be over there

  6. Steve says:

    I dont doubt that law enforcement make mistakes, but an agency that encarserates people when the facts dont match the evidence, are as dangerous as the criminals that they deem they protect us from. Hang your head in shame Tasmania police. After watching this documentary, you cannot pervert the coarse of common sense and logic. You may be able intimidate some, but not all of us. Your actions beyond the initial investigation are a disgrace. Swallow your misplaced pride and look at the facts. This is not a Tasmania that i consider to be Australian, in any way shape or form.

  7. Tony says:

    Boycott Tasmania until the 3 stooges , the premier, Govenor general & solicitor general step down, or get sacked!

  8. Don Miller says:

    My wife and I have visited Tasmania for 2 weeks every winter for the last 10 years, HOWEVER we will NOT step foot there again until Sue is released.
    WE don’t wish to visit a corrupt area of the deep South of the US , we want to enjoy the wonderful places and people of Tasmania where truth and integrity are paramount.
    Can I plead with the residents of Tasmania at the next elections to discard the politicians that are currently ruining the reputation of your State.

  9. Liz R says:

    This whole ordeal just makes my heart so sad. The program Undercurrent just reinforced how incompetent the original police investigation was and the obstructive attempts by the police post sentence is simply shameful.
    I noticed M Vass is on 60 Minutes this week giving an interview.

  10. Kathleen Nash says:

    I greatly admire Colin and Eve’s attempts to right an horrific wrong. You can see that it’s taken a toll on their health.
    It makes me ill to see that Tasmania’s sitting government is working with their Police and utilising their powers to shut down members of Colin and Eve’s team thus shutting down what this team has uncovered. It is like a fictional movie and like in a movie, during the final episode, I was waiting for the murderers of a Bob and the corrupt Police to be arrested while Colin and Eve’s team celebrated the quashing of Sue’s conviction. But alas, no. This did not occur.
    What now? Surely someone powerful will intervene, won’t they?????

  11. Michele says:

    I’ve watched this series from the beginning and expected to see Sue walk free at the end of it. Sadly mistaken! All I saw was he validation of corruption amongst the authorities. I can’t believe with the evidence that is so obvious, that nothing is being done. Does anyone know if the Request for Appeal verdict has been handed down yet?

  12. Roberta says:

    This is corruption of the highest order. How far exactly will the authorities go to cover incompetence and mal practice. I fear for the life of Vass. She holds the key to the corruption. The extent the authorities have gone so far, ? Happen

  13. Maliziosa says:

    Just shocking! I come from a corrupted country. I had a very good job and social status but I was disgusted by the way things worked : “Justice” serving politicians and only the well connected. I am in shock to see that Tasmanian Police and Justice system is as bad…

  14. Rod Hurley says:

    I can’t believe how bad things are in Tasmania , after watching every episode of undercurrent it’s just unbelievable. I thought this case had a very bad smell about it after watching Colin mclaren interview a retired senior Hobart detective. Did he jog 10 km to get there? This gentleman during this interview drank 2 jugs of water, developed a itch that he couldn’t for the life of him get rid of, and couldn’t sit still in his chair, all the while really struggling to answer any question with any conferdence. For someone who spent a lifetime interviewing criminals he shaw looked nervous sitting across the table from Colin. From that point on I think most of Australia thought ” what is going on here” during this series Colin said that Megan vass is “holding a big bag of secrets” Well in my option the Tasmanian police force is holding a even bigger one.

  15. Les says:

    How do they explain Megan’s blood found on the boat? This proves she was there, doesn’t it? This is so sad for all of us, who do we trust or believe in anymore. Not the Church, not the police, and not even the State Premier or Attorney General. There is no way they could read that report/White Paper and not agree that something is wrong with this case. It is scary, and very sad. God help us.

    • Onesimus says:

      Not blood, DNA.

      The show suggested (2nd last episode?) that it may have been vomit. The sample was about the size of a dinner plate, and yet according to the police was a “secondary transfer” from a policeman’s boot.

      Big boots?

  16. Marc wirtel says:

    Just astounded by the apparent level of cover ups at the highest levels of government in Tasmania regarding this case ??Has over tones of the Qld Government back in the 1980’s under Joh Bjelke-Petersen !!
    Tasmanians in general must be embarrassed & appalled by these seemingly 3rd world handling of an extremely public case that has cover up written all over it ??
    Persons legally involved in uncovering the truth are being arrested??
    That’s just pure stand over tactics which I would have thought was behind us this century ??

  17. L.B. says:

    Dear oh dear….after watching Episode 6 of Undercurrent the simple question that needs to be asked REPEATEDLY, UNTIL THERE IS ACTION, is why is nobody in law enforcement or government in Tasmania concerned about the search for the truth in the disappearance of Bob Chappell ? It isn’t as though there have not been enough opportunities presented to act on the shakiness and flaws in the conviction of Susan Neill – Fraser. Where is the decency, integrity, transparency and duty to properly administer justice? Where is the Tas Premier, DPP and Solicitor General now?
    It is my view that Damien, whomever he may be, needs to be questioned under oath.
    I AM DISGUSTED, DISMAYED AND ENRAGED THAT SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE SUFFERED AND ENDED UP AS COLLATERAL DAMAGE IN WHAT LOOKS TO BE AN ORCHASTRATED COVER UP. Justice in Tasmania? – in my mind, in this case, it is beyond reasonable doubt that there isn’t any!
    PEOPLE SHOULD NOT STOP AGITATING UNTIL THIS WRONG IS WELL AND TRULY PUT RIGHT.

    • Clare says:

      Are we living in the 1506 century or 2019?

    • JF says:

      I agree! Is this 1870s Tasmania?
      Hopefully the slimy Premier has just kissed his job goodbye, pulling that on national TV. And shame on his gutless legal buddies Matthew Groom and Michael O’Farrell – disgraceful from the supposed leaders of Justice in Tasmania.
      My hat off for the effort by Eve and Colin, to expose this corruption, and get it out in the public eye – true champions.
      Heads will roll!

      All the best to Sue and her family – the day you’re set free imagine the 20 million people applauding you.

  18. Bev says:

    For the police to go so far means that Sue’s incarceration is only the tip of the iceberg. Is it all possibly to do with drugs? Should the legalised growing of medical drugs be taken out of Tasmania and cultivated in another place where people are more law-abiding than Tasmanians. Look at what is involved:
    * Boats
    *Bikies
    *Police looking in another direction
    *Obstruction of justice.
    Poor beautiful little Tasmania

  19. Tracy says:

    what can we do to demand a royal commission? This poor woman and her family. All those corrupt arsehole police should be the ones behind bars,it’s disgusting!

    • andrew says:

      Go sign the petition for one at savesue.com

      • Katrina says:

        Signed petition and shared.

        Looks like corruption goes further up the chain than just the Tasmanian police and Meaghan is under the influence of that cop who she’s clearly terrified of. I just hope this poor girl is safe and protected by the bikie gang. She is so tormented by this, so I think it’s safe to deduce that there’s so much more at stake here.

        I truly hope the whole truth does comes out and Sue is released & cleared of all charges and all those covering this up and responsible for Bob’s death are locked up for a very long time! Else, what’s the point of having a justice system.

  20. DB says:

    It seems that being innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt does not exist in Tasmania. We seem to now know that crooks are in areas of power and law.

  21. The Tasmanian legal system will do anything to make this go away the reason I believe is this case is the tip of the iceberg. It will lead to based on the precedents set a flood of appeals as this level of corruption is not isolated to this case alone. Costing Millions and possibly some criminal charges against police and legal people .

  22. Bill says:

    As the chorus grows louder and louder, the cracks will start to form, the creaks will become rumbles, the rumbles thunder, until the silent can remain silent no longer, and the mountain of lies and deceit will go crashing down.,
    The vested interests in this case have a lot to answer for, the Police for their rudimentary investigation, the Judiciary for gaoling a seemingly innocent person, and Tasmanian DPP for not acting sooner , while a woman counts away the days of her life in a prison cell. Do the Police really have to resort to Mafia style tactics to intimidate a film crew, how shoddy. This will be exposed in any future examination of the facts, the last thing they need.
    Well done Colin and Eve and team for your exhaustive investigation, Im sure we are only seeing a small part of your work on Undercurrent.
    As a convict tatoo once read “May the sun never set on the cottage of the slave, nor rise on the palace of the tyrant.”
    There’s tyrants at work here protecting their interests, and keeping those responsible for this crime walking our streets. What could be so bad about bringing these people to justice. TasPol either had a number done on them or chose an easy target. Isnt it time to fix this mess Mr Hodgman.

  23. Teresa Clark says:

    If the TAS police have nothing to hide then why go after the filmmakers and break into their hotel room? Obviously they are involved up to their necks and are leaving Sue in goal to cover their tracks. They are the real criminals here and so is the Government for not calling a completely new trial. Hope they can sleep at night.

  24. D says:

    A federal election is in May. Maybe pollies wanting to be elected can step in to see that the case is re examined by an independent (read:interstate) judge. To those who know Sue et al, please tell them to stay strong. Sue is in the company of greats like Mandela. Stay strong, never give up

    • Judy says:

      I have been thinking the same thing about the pollies getting involved, the truth needs to be told, this is Australia 2019 we would hope our police enforcement & justice system are better than this, disgusted.

  25. AnneMarie Archos says:

    Sounds & looks like lazy policing ie Tas not Colin Maclaren. Let’s convict a woman because the useless Tasmanian corrupt cops can’t be bothered to get off their backsides. I better stop complaining or I’ll be charged with murder next!

  26. Mark says:

    Sue should be released imediately Blind freddy can see that a terrible injustice has happened here And she should be compensated enough money by the pathetic tassie police force so that she never has to work another day in her life It doesnt surprise me that this happened in Tassie because I have been there and know that there are some scary people living down there especially around queenstown

  27. Leanne Davis says:

    Fix it
    Fix it NOW Tasmania!

  28. Catherine OBrien says:

    An horrific injustice just so incompetent heirarchy can save their careers. Breaking though the barriers has been courageous and one can only hope Sue is saved and those who sent her to rot reap the consequences of their actions.

  29. William Boeder says:

    https://wrongfulconvictionsreport.org/2019/03/02/what-do-justice-kavanaugh-cardinal-pell-and-this-man-have-in-common/
    I have since learned of a case in Victoria’s recent past that had been overlain by the extremes of prejudice and bias, 2 Court Juries had been discharged for not providing a favoured by the Judge, guilty verdict, the 3rd Jury advised by the presiding Judge to their finding the accused as guilty.
    One must bear in mind that the defendant had applied to the Court for the Court’s ruling, hoping to validate her claim that she had been raped, no DNA evidence, no police investigated evidence had been submitted to support the claims of the defendant.
    An ‘appeal’ was lodged before the Court (against the harsh sentencing regimen relative to a proven case of rape) by a parent, the parent full-knowing the falsity of the claim by the female claiming her rape, but that appeal was not permitted to influence the sentence handed down of 6 years in prison, yet was doubled by the presiding Judge who had become annoyed by the aforementioned appeal against a severe imposed prison sentence.
    One has to wonder what steps need to be taken to correct this case with its prejudice, its bias, and its preconception to the charge of guilty?

  30. Gordon Pullman says:

    Incredulous that the police themselves are protecting the criminals. Unless this is corrected by the police and legal teams to get Sue Neill Fraser another fair trial, Australia will continue to be tainted by this kind of corrupt police force. Isn’t there ONE honest person on the force that wants to do the right thing? SHAME ON THEM.

  31. Andrea Brown says:

    It’s a steven avery case all over again

    • MM says:

      On the weight of your comment I looked up the Avery case, now I get the ‘Making a Murderer’ connection. Doh! Silly me!

      I’d heard Avery’s case long before the docuseries and knew he’d been framed right away. There’s a 36 million dollar motive there… which, ironically, is also 36 million reasons not to commit murder!

  32. Andrea Brown says:

    I live in tasmania and have been behind Sue from the start. I don’t understand how tas police think we are so stupid and blind to what’s gone on here. And indeed Meaghan is terrified, I know the girl. She is terrified of the one who are meant to keep us safe in the community…. Not stroke their own egos

  33. nola scheele says:

    I totally agree with all the comments that has been posted.
    I have followed this since the first episode and I am shocked that Sue Neill-Fraser has not been able to be on bail until the Police have investigated further, which should have been done before this lady has spent 9 years behind bars.

  34. Brian Johnston says:

    It can happen to anybody? It has happened a hundred times before. A thousand times.
    A Criminal Cases Review Commission would be help though not the answer. It may get an innocent person out, we have to stop an innocent person going in. For example, in the Sue Neill-Fraser case it appears the police within 24-48 hours? had identified that Bob was murdered and Sue was the culprit. From there rather than investigate to determine what happened it appears that all the police energies went into confirming their belief. Meaghan Vass is obviously terrified. Giving her immunity – and it should be given – would only allay some of her fears. Innocent and ten years in gaol. The system has to change. You could be next.

  35. Deb Drummond says:

    Age old modus operandi of building the crime around the suspect….thank God for the dedicated team seeking the truth

  36. SH says:

    Just thinking of that energy used in covering their tracks and trying to save their own necks… could have come up with a cure for cancer!

    • Clare says:

      Love it!
      One can only be lost for words…the lengths the police and their associates will go to cover up their continual mistakes!

  37. SH says:

    And coming to you now, from that 4th world continent, breaking news:- the scapegoat has copped the blame, has been in jail a good 10 years of her life, but them’s the breaks in a foreign country with dictator government and police state… don’t think we’ll see her again, more’s the pity, because if you read the transcript, it’s all there – she’s been set-up!!!!!
    I’d advise sticking to your travels in Australia, you’re safe there!!!
    That is, MAINLAND Australia!!!

  38. Rodger Warren says:

    The case against Susan Neill-Fraser is obviously flawed.
    Its unbelievable in a country like Australia that a person is convicted when there is no body, no witness, no confession and no credible evidence.
    I refuse to go to Tasmania again until Sue is released.
    The huge worry is, if this can happen to Susan Neill-Fraser it can happen to anybody.
    I urge the Tasmanian Government to open their eyes and sort this mess out.

  39. MM says:

    Ha! And here I thought I came into the investigation at season 1 episode 1. Took me hours to find the previous episodes, Google gave me zero hits. It will be interesting to compare what the media has said with the REAL investigation next week. Can’t wait!

  40. How is such head in the sand operations possible in Australia ??? There is a lady’s Life at stake here. It’s cases like this that makes me ashamed of our police and judicial system. If there is a lead FOLLOW IT UP. Don’t railroad someone because it’s convenient. We are not a third world country !!! Tasmania is making us look like one.
    How is it possible that they are allowed to get away with it.

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