Sue Neill-Fraser and the self contradicting DPP

Andrew L. Urban.

There are many flaws that have been identified in both the investigation and the trial of Sue Neill-Fraser, sometimes so many that some crucial details are overlooked.  We remind our readers of a conflict between what the DPP, Mr Ellis SC, said in front of the jury while speculating about the murder, and what he told the judge – jury absent.

Sue Neill-Fraser was on trial for the murder of Bob Chappell. The prosecution speculated that on board their yacht, Four Winds, Neill-Fraser murdered Chappell below decks with a blow to the head with a wrench (or something), hauled it up on deck, deposited his body in the dinghy and dumped the bloodied body in the water somewhere. He produced no evidence to support his speculation.

Trial transcript extracts below (emphasis added) – readers can draw their own conclusions:

You lowered his body into the dinghy and you took it somewhere into the deeper channels of the Derwent ….

… you completed the work and disposed of Mr Chappell’s body by using winches to haul him out and the fire extinguisher and other things. You wrapped him up in some form of doona or cloth or a sail cloth or something with the carpet pieces which were bloody and which you’d removed …..

MR ELLIS SC: The next point is, it was attributed to me that I said it was Mr Chappell’s blood in the dinghy. Now I don’t believe I did.
MR GUNSON SC: Yes, you did.
MR ELLIS SC: Okay – I don’t know why I’d say it
HIS HONOUR: – Well –
MR ELLIS SC: – because I’ve never believed it.
HIS HONOUR: In opening.
MR ELLIS SC: Oh in opening –
MR GUNSON SC: Yes, in opening.
MR ELLIS SC: Oh okay, I abandon that, if I said it in opening.
HIS HONOUR: All right. Well I’ll do nothing about that point. What’s the next point?

(His Honour Justice Blow indeed did nothing about this point, not even telling the jury.)

Tim Ellis SC, former DPP of Tasmania

He (Ellis) never believed it – but he painted a picture for the jury as if he did.

This exchange was first published four years ago – in The Australian, 25/3/2015 as “Justice cast to the four winds” (p. 11) and on 26/3/2015 on this blog.



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28 Responses to Sue Neill-Fraser and the self contradicting DPP

  1. MM says:

    Seems weird that NSW would allow an investigation into withheld evidence but TAS won’t. Isn’t the hand-towel (possibly containing DNA evidence) the very same situation?

    • Onesimus says:

      I don’t know whether they’ve allowed it yet.
      It’s just the judge who presided over the case (now retired?) who thinks such an investigation should be carried out.

      That same judge has always considered the wrong verdict was reached by the jury.


      • MM says:

        True, but it’s a good start. Not too many judges come out and admit a case they presided over was a sham… but when they do, they always make damned sure they’re retired first! Still looking after their own asses GRRR!

  2. Rossco says:

    How do you make comments on this blog?
    Or make a comment elsewhere on this ongoing saga?
    So many women who want her hung up to dry.
    Where are the sisters out there to support her. NO! seats on Boards, equal opportunity in jobs, okay! Not much fun when it is when one of “yours” is held up in a jail. Then again, there are bigger fish to fry. As you girls did to Lindy. (Remember her)?
    Lest we remember.
    Please, please support her. From a male posting. Get on board!

  3. Rossco says:

    @ Dixie, Evidence:
    The specimen DNA was “probably” transferred, or “most likely” transferred.
    That was from a Detective looking at (wisely) the evidence, seven or so years ago. Assuming that his/her boot transferred the blood sample to the yacht then one must ask who was that Officer? His name etc. The DNA sample, as part of the case, was assessed in Victoria. It was deemed in that State as not a “secondary” transfer. If it were not the Officer, and putting him/her to one side, who was the “primary” transfer of that sample? Or, the “secondary” transferee.
    (Victoria is a mainland state in the Commonwealth of Australia and adheres to the conventions that we, as Australians enjoy, particularly with reference to justice. Our two Territories also enjoy similar rights).
    How goes it in Tassie at the moment?
    Do we know who was the bearer, or bearers, of the DNA on the “Four Winds”? It just happened. We do know however that there was a witness on the “Four Winds” that night and her DNA proves that she was there, on or about the time of the disappearance of Bob Chapple. Beyond that, who knows. And who will tell?
    Not Sue, she was not there Dixie.

  4. Dixie Lee says:

    The DNA specimen taken from the deck of the yacht Four Winds had no match at the time it was taken however at a later date a match was found which belonged to a young girl Meghan Vass. The police and prosecutors stated that the specimen was probably carried on board by a policeman’s boot. I have also read that the specimen was approximately the size of a 50 cent coin.
    The expert who took the swab stated that it came from some vomit about the size of a dinner plate.
    Meghan Vass, when questioned about the DNA on the yacht stated that she had not been on the yacht. She was not required to give any evidence at the trial although the defence lawyer requested she attend. This was not allowed by the judge. Someone mentioned that the DNA evidence was “A RED HERRING”.
    The whole world should know that the Tasmanian judge and police deserve a place in the Guiness Book of Records stating this is the first time a DNA specimen was ignored in favour of a girl’s statement.
    The High Court of Australia refused the application for a hearing which makes me believe that they did not read any documents associated with this case.

    • Andy says:

      In favour of a girls statement? They only went near her to sign papers when it looked like they would come undone… Let me ask you this… The statement that Meaghan did to recant her prior statement because she was under duress, do you think it’s professional as a police officer to have her sign an already typed document at the Brunswick hotel…. Surely if she wanted to recant she would make her way to them… No they went hunting just like last week to put weekly sign in on her… Maybe to have contact and a bit of pull?… Pathetic

      • Geraldine Allan says:

        GRRR Andy.
        Brunswick Hotel the new ‘obtain a signature office’ eh?
        Professional in the same sentence as police officer? I’m not including all Tas Pol officers in that — I am including those who have their fingers/mouths in the SN-F wrongful conviction.

  5. Rossco says:

    So true Peter,
    “and the evidence that was presented to the jury”. Love Bob Dylan; “If I had a hammer, I would use it in the morning, Sorry Bob, it was a wrench. Cant trust a wench with a wrench…..” Sorry, it was a low Blow.
    Apologies to Bob Dylan, but so brave of him to help free a persecuted individual in Ruben Carter so many years ago. As an excerpt from his lyric said, “and the all white jury agreed”. So brave of Dylan in such a dark period of racism at that time. And from a Jew.
    For those of whom are skeptics and doubt the infallibility of our system, get “Hurricane” the movie. Watch it and imagine that you too could be part of it. Especially if you are black, or a woman. Or live in a gaol in Tassie, awaiting a “review”. Patience Sue, Ruben was only incarcerated for 25 years I believe.
    “Btw, Ruben Carter’s people that eventually gained him a “fair” trial, and later freed him still lives in Canada. The former illiterate black guy, showed in the film ,is A DA now in BC. The film, like most “true stories” does take a lot of licence in relating the story. But hey, Ruben was free, until his death.
    Hang in there Sue. If you have not watched “Hurricane” please do so.

  6. Garry Stannus says:

    Andrew, in my opinion a close examination of what Mr Ellis told the court (in his opening address at the trial of Susan Neill-Fraser), confirms that he did use words to the effect that blood was found in the dinghy of the Four Winds. Here is the relevant courtroom transcript excerpt:

    “𝐵𝑢𝑡 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑡𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑟 𝑖𝑡𝑠𝑒𝑙𝑓 𝑤𝑎𝑠 𝑎𝑙𝑠𝑜 𝑠𝑢𝑏𝑗𝑒𝑐𝑡𝑒𝑑 𝑡𝑜 𝑎 𝑠𝑐𝑟𝑒𝑒𝑛𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡𝑒𝑠𝑡 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑏𝑙𝑜𝑜𝑑 𝑐𝑎𝑙𝑙𝑒𝑑 𝑙𝑢𝑚𝑖𝑛𝑜𝑙, 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑤ℎ𝑎𝑡 ℎ𝑎𝑝𝑝𝑒𝑛𝑠 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ 𝑙𝑢𝑚𝑖𝑛𝑜𝑙 𝑖𝑠 𝑦𝑜𝑢 𝑝𝑢𝑡 𝑖𝑡 – 𝑦𝑜𝑢 𝑝𝑢𝑡 𝑖𝑡 𝑜𝑛 𝑜𝑏𝑗𝑒𝑐𝑡𝑠 𝑤ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑚𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡 ℎ𝑎𝑣𝑒 𝑏𝑒𝑒𝑛 𝑏𝑙𝑜𝑜𝑑 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑡𝑢𝑟𝑛 𝑜𝑓𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑙𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡𝑠 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑖𝑡 𝑔𝑒𝑡𝑠 𝑙𝑢𝑚 – 𝑖𝑡 𝑔𝑜𝑒𝑠 𝑙𝑢𝑚𝑖𝑛𝑜𝑢𝑠 𝑖𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑝𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑏𝑙𝑜𝑜𝑑, 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑠𝑜 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑐𝑡𝑒𝑑 𝑞𝑢𝑖𝑡𝑒 𝑠𝑡𝑟𝑜𝑛𝑔𝑙𝑦, 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑡𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑟 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑖𝑛𝑠𝑖𝑑𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑡𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑟 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑝𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑏𝑙𝑜𝑜𝑑, 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑠𝑤𝑎𝑏𝑠 𝑡𝑎𝑘𝑒𝑛 𝑓𝑟𝑜𝑚 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑡𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑟 𝑤𝑒𝑟𝑒 𝑓𝑜𝑢𝑛𝑑 𝑡𝑜 𝑚𝑎𝑡𝑐ℎ, 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ 𝑎 ℎ𝑖𝑔ℎ 𝑑𝑒𝑔𝑟𝑒𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑝𝑟𝑜𝑏𝑎𝑏𝑖𝑙𝑖𝑡𝑦, 𝑀𝑟 𝐶ℎ𝑎𝑝𝑝𝑒𝑙𝑙’𝑠 𝐷𝑁𝐴. ”

    In the passage above (an excerpt from pg 71 of the trial transcript) the jury was told by Mr Ellis that:
    1 luminol is a “𝑠𝑐𝑟𝑒𝑒𝑛𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡𝑒𝑠𝑡 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑏𝑙𝑜𝑜𝑑”
    2 luminol “𝑔𝑜𝑒𝑠 𝑙𝑢𝑚𝑖𝑛𝑜𝑢𝑠 𝑖𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑝𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑏𝑙𝑜𝑜𝑑”
    3 “𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑠𝑜 𝑡ℎ𝑎𝑡 𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑐𝑡𝑒𝑑 𝑞𝑢𝑖𝑡𝑒 𝑠𝑡𝑟𝑜𝑛𝑔𝑙𝑦, 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑡𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑟 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑖𝑛𝑠𝑖𝑑𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑡𝑒𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑟 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑝𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑏𝑙𝑜𝑜𝑑.”

    Notice how the third quote through the use of the words “𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑠𝑜” allows the listener/reader to conclude/understand that blood was present.

    Look at that third quote again, stripped to its elements: “[the luminol] 𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑐𝑡𝑒𝑑 𝑞𝑢𝑖𝑡𝑒 𝑠𝑡𝑟𝑜𝑛𝑔𝑙𝑦, […] 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑝𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑏𝑙𝑜𝑜𝑑.”

    Andrew, those words of Mr Ellis to the jury, were in my opinion, unjustified. Certainly, it is obvious (from the evidence, including the photo) that the luminol reacted to something when sprayed onto the surfaces of the dinghy, but again in my opinion, in that sentence with which I began my comment, Mr Ellis was not entitled to tell the court that the screening agent luminol (sprayed variously on and inside the dinghy) reacted “𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑝𝑟𝑒𝑠𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒 𝑜𝑓 𝑏𝑙𝑜𝑜𝑑.” He was entitled, in my opinion, to say that by glowing in the dark, it could be concluded that it had reacted to something, (just as, for example, it may have reacted in the presence of bleach, or, again for example, even glowed because it [the luminol] had been oversprayed [i.e. too much had been sprayed and it was perhaps reacting to itself]).

    Thank you for your article,
    Garry Stannus.

    • MM says:

      Well done! I recall reading it somewhere but couldn’t find it for the life of me. I felt it was misleading presenting a photo that contained no evidence as soon as I read it. If Ellis denies linking it to blood evidence then it is irrelevant and shouldn’t have been tendered as evidence. Judge’s error! Relevant evidence = The evidence must prove or disprove an important fact in the criminal case. Otherwise it is inadmissible.

    • MM says:

      In fact, looking through uniform evidence legislation I can’t even find how it the photo even had probative value. Without blood that’s the only other reason it could have been tendered

  7. Brian Johnston says:

    Here it is, the blood in the dinghy

    it goes luminous in the presence of blood, and

    so that reacted quite strongly, the tender and the inside of the tender
    for the presence of blood,

    Ellis Led or attempted to lead the jury into believing there was blood in the dinghy.

    Ellis refers to Sue lowering Bob’s – bloodied – body into the dinghy. Bob’s blood.

    What people have to realise and that includes you Peter is that Ellis is painting a picture. The picture is fiction. All this about cracking Sue over the head with a wrench is invented. Peter, it is invented. Ellis is acting a role. This case is not circumstantial, it is made up. It is fantasy. There is not one shred of evidence supporting the belief that Sue murdered Bob.

    Did you ever consider that if Sue took Bob’s body into the channel and pushed him over the side of her little inflatable she would have flipped the damn thing.

    The whole world knows Vass was on the boat with 2 males.

    The sooner Sue is released the better. We then go after all the shonks that messed up this case.

    Mark Tedeschi used the same tactics in NSW. Gordon Woods.
    I believe there is a good chance that Ivan Milat could be innocent

    It is happening the world over. Barry Beach USA.

    Montana USA have the innocence project with a crew of people working hard. It is exactly what Australia needs. The Montana Innocence Project relies? on funding.

  8. Glemonsec says:

    DUNCAN ABEY, Mercury
    June 2, 2015 12:00am
    SACKED former Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis is preparing to reprise his legal career after being granted a practising certificate by the Law Society of Tasmania.

    The society told the Mercury it understood Ellis, who was removed from the lifetime position in January after being convicted late last year of negligent driving causing death and given a four-month suspended jail term, planned to practise again in Launceston.

    Before he was appointed DPP in 1999, Ellis was a partner with a leading Launceston law firm.

    Law Society president Matthew Verney said those applying for a practising certificate had to satisfy a “fit and proper person requirement” that was unaffected by offences that did not involve character.

    “Mr Ellis was convicted on a matter of negligence, not a matter of an intentional act,” Mr Verney said.

    “Has a person’s conduct been such to call into question their character and whether they’re a fit and proper person – an act of negligence simply doesn’t fall into that category.

    “And act of negligence by definition isn’t relevant to the question of someone’s character.”

    But the parents of Natalia Pearn – the young Launceston woman killed in the crash with Ellis’s vehicle on the Midland Hwy in 2013 – expressed disbelief that the former DPP could practise law again.

    Natalia’s mother, Kris, who now lives in Queensland with husband Alan, said she was upset that Ellis would be practising again in their former home town.

  9. Mieneke Haynes says:

    Peter I was in court when a photo was shown of Sue’s dinghy, after it had been sprayed with luminol. Large area’s of the inside of the dinghy were glowing, this was a positive reaction to luminol. We all thought there had been a blood bath. If the DPP thought there was no blood in the dinghy, why did he show that photograph in court?

    • Dr Peter Lozo (Adelaide) says:

      (EDITED) I outed myself on Tasmanian Times as being the Peter who posted above I will use my full name (EDITED)

  10. Peter says:

    “MR ELLIS SC: The next point is, it was attributed to me that I said it was Mr Chappell’s blood in the dinghy. Now I don’t believe I did.

    MR GUNSON SC: Yes, you did.”

    But where in the trial did Mr Ellis say what Mr Gunson claims?

    It is obvious to me that Mr Gunson misinterpreted what Mr Ellis said.

    If you can find in the trial transcript the very location where Mr Ellis said what Mr Gunson claims was said by Mr Ellis then please point it out to your readers.

    • andrew says:

      Flogging … dead horse … wasting … time

      • andrew says:

        But to make the bigger point: Mr Ellis paints a picture to the jury of Neill-Fraser lowering a bloodied body with bloody mats into the dinghy … when he never believed there was blood in the dinghy. He then tells the judge he doesn’t believe blood in the dinghy…and judge says nothing to the jury. As to Gunson’s mistake thinking he had said there was blood in the dinghy (Judge seemingly agreeing), the jury could have thought so too. Do you wish to find the truth about this case?

        • Peter says:

          Andrew, I was being very specific and was addressing the point made in your blog on whether or not Mr Ellis made the statement that Mr Gunson attributed to him. Clearly, Mr Gunson misinterpreted what Mr Ellis said in his opening statement. That is what I wanted to emphasise via my above posts.

          If we are after the truth in the matter of happened to Bob Chappell then surely we want to first make sure that we have the correct interpretation of the trial proceedings and the evidence that was presented to the jury

          • Sam Reid says:

            Well said Peter. There were a number of things put to witnesses by the defence, which were not proven. Are those statements attributable to Mr Gunson?

            The judge in his summing up articulated that things put to a witness or accused are not evidence unless that witness or suspect agreed to that matter.

            Whether Ms Neill Fraser is guilty or not it is mischievous to suggest that matters put to her would have led the jury to that conclusion.

          • Mieneke Haynes says:

            Peter I was in court when a photo was shown of Sue’s dinghy, after it had been sprayed with luminol. Large area’s of the inside of the dinghy were glowing, this was a positive reaction to luminol. We all thought there had been a blood bath. If the DPP thought there was no blood in the dinghy, why did he show that photograph in court?

  11. Peter says:

    This is the closest I found (page 71 trial transcript) but even that doesn’t show what you are saying:

    “But the tender itself was also subjected to a screening test for blood called luminol, and what happens with luminol is you put it – you put it on objects where there might have been blood and turn off the lights and it gets lum – it goes luminous in the presence of blood, and
    so that reacted quite strongly, the tender and the inside of the tender
    for the presence of blood, and swabs taken from the tender were found to match, with a high degree of probability, Mr Chappell’s DNA. But on the other hand another screening agent for blood taken
    on that tender showed negative and one of the forensic scientists looked under the microscope to try and find some – what they look for is red/brown indications of blood and couldn’t find any, so some
    indications of blood, his DNA, but others – others, no.”

    I do not interpret any of the above sentences in a manner that would suggest that the DPP stated that there was blood on the dinghy. It is reasonably valid for the DPP to state what he had stated.

    My understanding is confirmed by what Dr Mark Reynolds said under cross-examination:

    “However, under cross examination from Director of Public Prosecutions Daryl Coates SC, Dr Reynolds conceded no witness at the trial had said there were tests confirming blood in the dinghy. “No, no one said it,” Dr Reynolds agreed.”

    • andrew says:

      Like so many of those trying to protect this wrongful conviction, you are being purposefully naive (if I give you the benefit of the doubt…). What do you imagine the jury would have made of the prosecutor saying in the excerpts I publish? Please don’t insult our intelligence.

  12. Peter says:

    Andrew, again, where in the trial transcript did the DPP state that there was blood in the dinghy?

  13. Peter says:

    Can you please point out to the page in the trial transcript wheher you think that the DPP said that Mr Chappell’s blood was in the dinghy.

    I ask because I couldn’t find it anywhere in the transcript.

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