Sue Neill-Fraser guarded optimism at appeal start

Andrew L. Urban.

Sue Neill-Fraser and her family have responded with guarded optimism to the lodgement of appeal grounds with the Supreme Court yesterday (2/8/19), the first step towards the hearings that will determine whether her 2010 murder conviction was wrong and should be quashed. See yesterday’s report.

Neill-Fraser’s daughter Sarah Bowles said her mother had been told that the papers were lodged and was glad, but with the history of delays and complications, she was quietly optimistic. Sarah and her sister “Emma and our whole family is very lucky to have these wonderful lawyers (Paul Galbally and his team, Tom Percy QC and his team) but we don’t really know what to expect.” Or when to expect it … a hearing date is yet to be set, and there are indications that it may not be too far away. “The family certainly hopes so,” Bowles told

The Mercury, August 3, 2019

Neill-Fraser was convicted of murdering Bob Chappell on Australia Day 2009, but Meaghan Vass, the eye witness whose DNA was found at the crime scene, has recently (March 10, 2019) stated on 60 Minutes and in an affidavit to the court that Neill-Fraser was not the killer. This will be the leading (and compelling) ground on which the appeal will be built.

Three judges will be assigned to hear the appeal.

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10 Responses to Sue Neill-Fraser guarded optimism at appeal start

  1. Robin Bowles says:

    Different angle from Loretta! Hope she continues her support.

    • GarryStannus says:

      Hi Robin,

      I’m not sure that it’s a ‘different angle’ from the journalist. I distinguish The Mercury’s “Why Sue Should Be Free” headline – from the substance of the journalist’s article. The writing seemed neutral in style. I did not see anything that indicated support for Sue – by and large the article provided background and a ‘heads-up’ to the reader.

      Having had the benefit of reading the ‘Tasmanian Times’ article, ‘Sue Neill-Fraser: Two Views of Her Guilt’ [ ] one might be forgiven for wondering whether the Mercury journalist actually shared some of the views that were expressed in that much earlier Tasmanian Times piece.

      A close reading of this present Mercury article led me to see a subtle questioning of the major part of the case for the new appeal: the journalist writes that:

      “Neill-Fraser’s lawyers tendered a document that purported to be a statutory declaration signed by Ms Vass, signed on April 27, 2017…”

      and the journalist also writes that in a second affidavit (25Feb2019)

      “Miss Vass claims the she cannot recall leaving the yacht…”

      Perhaps I am nit-picking, but use of the words ‘purported’ and ‘claims’ suggests to me that the reporter is questioning the evidence associated with Meaghan Vass. The headline “Why Sue Should Be Free” seems to be supportive of Sue, but I don’t find such support inside the article.

      PS: Incidentally, in the time line accompanying the article, it is stated:

      “MARCH 14, 2019: Neill-Fraser’s legal team asks to provide two further affidavits to support Neill-Fraser’s appeal bid.”

      Can a reader let me know what the second affidavit was and/or who it was signed by?

      • andrew says:

        RE: “MARCH 14, 2019: Neill-Fraser’s legal team asks to provide two further affidavits to support Neill-Fraser’s appeal bid.” This is not at all clear: “asks” who? Should it be “asked”? If so, who asked? It just doesn’t make sense.

        • Garry Stannus says:

          Hi Andrew, I think that the use of the present tense ‘asks’ is just a stylistic device which we sometimes see, especially in recounting a story… ‘first he goes into the bank, then he asks to see the manager and lo and behold, when the manager comes out, he pulls out a gun and robs them!’

          In our case, it seems that the journalist is saying that it was Neill-Fraser’s lawyers who asked leave from Justice Brett to be allowed to tender these two last-minute affidavits. As I recall, this was after the hearing of witness evidence and of counsel submissions had finished and Justice Brett had retired to consider the leave application.

          I have a feeling that the second affidavit might have been from a person who could give evidence that certain materials were not disclosed to the defence earlier on in this whole saga – but I’m not sure.

          Best wishes, Garry.
          info on the 2nd affidavit? … my email is

        • Garry Stannus says:

          Thank you to the reader who supplied me with the following information:

          “𝑈𝑝𝑜𝑛 𝑠𝑒𝑒𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑝𝑟𝑜𝑔𝑟𝑎𝑚, 𝑁𝑒𝑖𝑙𝑙-𝐹𝑟𝑎𝑠𝑒𝑟’𝑠 𝑑𝑒𝑓𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒 𝑙𝑎𝑤𝑦𝑒𝑟𝑠 𝑐𝑎𝑙𝑙𝑒𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑝𝑟𝑜𝑑𝑢𝑐𝑒𝑟𝑠 𝑜𝑓 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑠𝑒𝑔𝑚𝑒𝑛𝑡 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑔𝑎𝑖𝑛𝑒𝑑 𝑎 𝑐𝑜𝑝𝑦 𝑜𝑓 𝑀𝑠 𝑉𝑎𝑠𝑠’ 𝑎𝑓𝑓𝑖𝑑𝑎𝑣𝑖𝑡.

          𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝑐𝑜𝑢𝑟𝑡 ℎ𝑒𝑎𝑟𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑠 𝑎𝑓𝑓𝑖𝑑𝑎𝑣𝑖𝑡 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑎𝑛 𝑎𝑓𝑓𝑖𝑑𝑎𝑣𝑖𝑡 𝑓𝑟𝑜𝑚 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑝𝑒𝑟𝑠𝑜𝑛 𝑤ℎ𝑜 𝑤𝑖𝑡𝑛𝑒𝑠𝑠𝑒𝑑 𝑀𝑠 𝑉𝑎𝑠𝑠 𝑚𝑎𝑘𝑒 ℎ𝑒𝑟 𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑚𝑒𝑛𝑡, 𝑖𝑛 𝑜𝑟𝑑𝑒𝑟 𝑡𝑜 𝑒𝑥𝑝𝑙𝑎𝑖𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑐𝑖𝑟𝑐𝑢𝑚𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑛𝑐𝑒 𝑢𝑛𝑑𝑒𝑟 𝑤ℎ𝑖𝑐ℎ 𝑀𝑠 𝑉𝑎𝑠𝑠 𝑚𝑎𝑑𝑒 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑎𝑓𝑓𝑖𝑑𝑎𝑣𝑖𝑡, 𝑤𝑖𝑙𝑙 𝑏𝑒 𝑚𝑎𝑑𝑒 𝑎𝑣𝑎𝑖𝑙𝑎𝑏𝑙𝑒 𝑡𝑜 𝐽𝑢𝑠𝑡𝑖𝑐𝑒 𝐵𝑟𝑒𝑡𝑡 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑝𝑟𝑜𝑠𝑒𝑐𝑢𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑓𝑜𝑟 𝑐𝑜𝑛𝑠𝑖𝑑𝑒𝑟𝑎𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛 𝑖𝑛 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑐𝑜𝑚𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑑𝑎𝑦𝑠.”


          The affidavit that I had mistakenly referred to concerned a different one that may have been made in relation to Justice Brett ‘granting leave’ for an affidavit to be sought from David Gunson, relating to whether he’d had knowledge of an additional forensic report during the trial. Gunson’s death prevented the affidavit, however ‘it is understood’ that another affidavit was made. It affirmed the then lack of knowledge of such an existing additional report. On this question hinges the matter of ‘due diligence’. The forensic material – if known of to Gunson during the trial – would thus not be available as ‘new evidence’ during a subsequent appeal.

          I believe that following Gunson’s death, and due to his illness and death occurring before being able to make his own affidavit on this matter, another affidavit was made which affirmed that during the trial that information was not available to Neill-Fraser’s defence counsel.

          I’m sorry for having got into ‘minutiae’ here … the short answer is that the second affidavit referred to in the recent The Mercury article, was probably one made by Jeff Thompson who I think was present when Meaghan Vass made her own ‘on the yacht’ statement … after Colin McLaren had returned to the mainland. Please be careful with your comments, as Jeff Thompson has some matters which are currently ‘before the court’ … i.e. sub judice.

        • Garry Stannus says:

          Further to my post (August 7, 2019 at 5:20 pm), I’m a little clearer about the ‘2nd affidavit’ issue:

          -Meaghan Vass signed a stat. dec. on 27 April, 2017. She was (according to Colin McLaren: 𝘚𝘰𝘶𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘯 𝘑𝘶𝘴𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘦, pp 170-171) in the company of ‘Snapper’ (i.e. ‘Sharkey’) and Jeff Thompson. From McLaren’s account, Thompson seems to have officiated and presumably had status as an authorised person:- stat. dec.s need to be signed in the presence of an ‘authorised person’.

          -Meaghan Vass later (30Oct2017) repudiated this statement in court.

          – According to further advice, Meaghan Vass (25Feb2019) made an affidavit in Sydney. It was suggested that it was ‘𝘩𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘭𝘺 𝘶𝘯𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦𝘭𝘺’ that Jeff Thompson witnessed this affidavit and rather that it was witnessed by a lawyer representing 60 𝘔𝘪𝘯𝘶𝘵𝘦𝘴.

          Recently, Matthew Denholm (𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘈𝘶𝘴𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘭𝘪𝘢𝘯, (3Aug2019) wrote: “𝘔𝘴 𝘝𝘢𝘴𝘴 𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘭𝘺 𝘮𝘢𝘥𝘦 𝘢𝘯 𝘢𝘧𝘧𝘪𝘥𝘢𝘷𝘪𝘵 𝘰𝘯 𝘍𝘦𝘣𝘳𝘶𝘢𝘳𝘺 25, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘨𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘢 60 𝘔𝘪𝘯𝘶𝘵𝘦𝘴 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘷𝘪𝘦𝘸 𝘣𝘳𝘰𝘢𝘥𝘤𝘢𝘴𝘵 𝘰𝘯 𝘔𝘢𝘳𝘤𝘩 10, 𝘣𝘰𝘵𝘩 𝘦𝘭𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘯 𝘢𝘯 𝘢𝘤𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘵 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘷𝘪𝘰𝘶𝘴𝘭𝘺 𝘨𝘪𝘷𝘦𝘯 𝘪𝘯 𝘈𝘱𝘳𝘪𝘭 2017, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘭𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘳 ­𝘳𝘦𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘦𝘥”. I am pleased to note that Matthew Denholm no longer includes in his latest report the police claim that after the ’60 𝘔𝘪𝘯𝘶𝘵𝘦𝘴’ affidavit, Vass had been interviewed by police and had retracted the affidavit. Thanks to Andrew’s work in providing a transcript, we now know that a police prosecutor subsequently told a magistrate that Vass had made no such admissions/comments. Matthew Denholm seems to have accepted that his ‘witness alters her tune again’ slant … was incorrect.

          • Anon says:

            Garry, I think that you have some very useful and logical comments about the Susan Neill-Fraser case. I also think that your comments show a dedication to the understanding of this case to minuete detail. I sincerely hope that the truth in the matter will come out during the appeal.
            There is one thing that concerns me with respect to the re-interview of Ms Meaghan Vass by the police on the 8th of March of this year. Do you think that given the significance of Ms Vass’ statement on 60 Minutes that the police interview of Meaghan on the 8th March about her statment on 60 Minutes was recorded on a video/audio tape? I ask this because, after watching many TV programs on real crime since about late 2011, I noticed that witnesses to murder generally get video/audio recorded when interviwed by police in police stations. I wonder whether such was the case when Vass was interviewed in March by the police about her statement on 60 Minutes. If this is the case then I suspect that the video will be released to Sue’s legal team now that the appeal was submitted. What is your opinion on this?

  2. Di Kemp says:

    I will keep saying that Sue could be on home detention until the court date occurs if the AG and Governor choose so. My concern is how to find 3 judges who will not be coerced by those in authority however many eyes will be watching. If there is any justice in the world, Sue will be cleared as many people hope.

  3. Williambtm says:

    Then to follow should be a compensation package, this will cost the State rather than the perpetrators that held their biased views.

    Finally, the incompetence of the Crown finding or naming a preferred a person to fit into the Tasmanian police profile.

    No, not necessarily the murderer, but anyway someone in this State’s hierarchy may have been decided just to bang her up in prison, this would please the investigatory work of the police investigating personnel and also bring a wry grin on the top front end of Tasmania’s former DPP.

    All of the former DPP’s power of suggestion prosecution will be revealed for what it was, a court trial loaded with an extraordinary amount of bias that demonstrates how the system in Tasmania is not as good as we are frequently told it is.
    So much for the crowing by various legal practitioners, judges, then others in this State with their perfunctory mannered ilk.

  4. Tom Cairns says:

    There can be no legal precedent to justify the retention of Sue Neill-Fraser’s person in a criminal confine that is intended for the violent and the corrupt.
    Every jury has an obligation to decide in the face of absence of reasonable doubt, so why is someone kept locked up like a felon and a threat when the doubt is screaming not just reasonable.
    Are the authorities hoping for a miracle to get them off the hook? Well they got one: It’s a miracle that Sue Neill-Fraser is still alive or at least still has her sanity.

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