Andrew L. Urban.
In the lead-up to her new appeal getting to court, and on the eve of the 10th anniversary of Sue Neill-Fraser’s arrest in Hobart on August 20, 2009 for the murder of Bob Chappell, we look at how the grounds of appeal focus on real evidence. (Our Special 10th Anniversary report will be published on Thursday, August 15, 2019.)
The key ground of appeal, as outlined in court papers on August 2, 2019, is to be built on the sworn statement by Meaghan Vass that matches her public admission on 60 Minutes in March 2019, and her DNA, that showed she was on board Four Winds at the crime scene when the murder took place – and Sue Neill-Fraser was not there. Others were….
Clearly, that is a ground that cannot be disputed nor can it be anything other than exculpatory. It comprehensively extinguishes all the flawed circumstantial evidence (thanks to a police investigation driven by tunnel vision) and unfounded prosecutorial speculation, that led to the wrongful conviction.
This evidence makes a mockery of the original police claim that Neill-Fraser lied about going to Bunnings that afternoon in trying to fake an alibi, or that she must be guilty because a lowlife crim claimed she had asked him to murder her brother a decade earlier.
The evidence also ridicules all those heated discussions on comment threads in the Tasmanian Times for instance, about how the position of winches might have supported the prosecution’s speculation, or how fire extinguishers could or could not be used to weigh the body down, or how Sue Neill-Fraser might have carried out the murder at around 11.35pm, cleaned up the bloody crime scene, hauled the body into the dinghy (with fire extinguisher bound to it) and on to a watery grave, then back to shore in time to be caught on a CCTV camera on Sandy Bay Road at 12.25am – which is the timeline that the prosecution’s speculation infers.
The transcript of the trial shows how the prosecution perpetrated the idea that it was Sue Neill-Fraser’s car that was photographed by a bank security camera on the fateful night: it helps their narrative, even if it is not in evidence.
As for the start of the timeline at 11.35pm, that comes from a witness who claimed to have sighted (in the dark of night) a ‘female outline’ in a dinghy between 11.30 and 12.00 pm, heading in the general direction of Four Winds. The ‘female figure’ has since been identified as the young and small framed, long haired, Grant Maddock in 2009.
He was heading to help another yachtie.
These are just some of the flaws in the case against Sue Neill-Fraser.
The biggest mistake in the trial was the prosecution dismissing the DNA that was found on the deck as a ‘red herring’. When it was first discovered on January 30, 2009, there was no match in the database. In March 2010, a match popped up, after Meaghan Vass (then 15 and homeless) was charged in an unrelated matter and her DNA recorded. Sue Neill-Fraser had been charged and was on remand, in prison.
At trial, a scared and vulnerable Vass denied she had been on board. The prosecution didn’t pursue her and claimed the DNA was probably a secondary transfer ‘on the boot of a policeman’ and had no significance. A ‘red herring’ ….
(Dates for the appeal hearings to be announced.)