Sue Neill-Fraser appeal will rest on real evidence

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.

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.)



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31 Responses to Sue Neill-Fraser appeal will rest on real evidence

  1. This sounds like a Grimms fairy tale. Only it’s being read out not by a father to his child but TasPol reading it out to the public.

  2. Williambtm says:

    A DPP is gifted with a power of discretion that is largely unchallengable, unless there is substantial evidence to the contrary, I have seen the evidence that makes a mockery of that power of discretion. A guilty party walked free from the Supreme Court with the result that the charged person was removed of all her serious police laid charges and able to retain the proceeds and the freedom from her crimes.
    Tasmania has a unique State Justice System that is driven by the powers of the persons I allege to be the State’s Exclusives, no matter that these external persons ever remain external to the reaches of the State’s appointed Supreme Court Judiciary Officials.
    I make a separate reference toward Justice Brett, that he alone may have escaped the mould and the stigma of his appointed judiciary colleagues.
    I do not include the State’s Magistrates appointed judicary officials as there are small number of well-intending and respected Magistrates in this State of Tasmania.

  3. LB says:

    DNA was found on the boat that was shamefully in my view, dismissed as a “red herring”…..can’t (ethically) retract that!

  4. Deb Drummond says:

    Yes I saw this adding of links to the chain of evidence in a trial I researched from 1947. The additional links can be weak and completely irrelevant to the actual crime but delivered in a way to have an effect.

    • andrew says:

      Exactly. In this trial, the prosecution showed the jury the Four Winds dinghy stained with lumninol – ‘a test for blood’ which was not found, as the DPP himself emphasised well after the trial; referred to CCTV footage of a car that may have been driven by the accused after midnight, which the DPP has claimed was not part of their case; introduced a witness who claimed (without evidence) to have been asked to murder the brother of the accused a decade earlier; hammered the accusation that Sue Neill-Fraser lied about visiting Bunnings on the relevant afternoon as if it were a false alibi, yet also speculated at a different point in the trial, that the murder occurred later that night … and that’s just for starters. All links in the ‘chain of evidence’ that fit the narrative against the accused. And ‘have an effect’ they did.

  5. Di Kemp says:

    Thank you Andrew. It is very apparent from the comments lodged here that the plan to discredit information in the appeal has already started. Perhaps people are starting to get agitated as the appeal date comes closer and accountability hopefully is on the way at last.
    All that is now needed is to have the 3 judges on the panel show the same integrity and ability to be analytical as Justice Brett on the evidence and facts – not fairy tales – that will be presented.

    • K says:

      Is the ATM photo part of the appeal ground?

    • K says:

      You were asked on another thread by another person whether you thought of the possibility that the police videotaped Meaghan’s interview. The Assistant Commissioner’s last statement about this interview, on 21st March, indicates that they have some more evidence to pass onto the DPP.

      If the prosecution can prove that Meaghan retracted her statements on 60 Minutes then the appeal will collapse. I think that the police have a video recorded retraction.

      • andrew says:

        This is just pointless speculation.

        • K says:

          Without hearing what proof the police have to back up their claim that Meaghan retracted her latest version of events you have already made up your mind that what she said on 60 Minutes is the truth. Is it not wise to wait to see what evidence the police have to back up the Assistant Commissioner’s statement that, in essence, Meaghan retracted?

          • andrew says:

            I didn’t just make up my kind … I rely on evidence or lack of it. Please stop flogging this dead horse again. Subject closed in this thread.

    • Debbie says:


  6. LB says:

    How is this relevant? Of more relevance is the conjecture of a wrench used as a weapon when there is no body, no wrench and no motive. Some would call this an utter fabrication misleading the court !

    • Gruntle Massey says:

      Yes the wrench….what a beauty. Correct me if I am wrong, from memory it was missing from its designated place on the boat, so this was ample proof it was used to murder Bob Chappell. I mean, who needs forensics, right? Just make it up as you go along.

      Reminds me of the Dead Bishop sketch in Monty Python. They pray for divine intervention to solve the murder.
      “Oh Lord we beseech thee, tell us the one who croaked Leicester ”
      *** boom from Heaven…. followed by a voice.***
      “The one in the braces, he did it!”

      Tasmania would be the perfect setting for a Hollywood re make of the Keystone Cops.

  7. Gruntle Massey says:

    “This evidence makes a mockery of the original police claim that … or that she must be guilty because a lowlife crim claimed she had asked him to murder her brother a decade earlier.”

    Triffit’s testimony never made sense to me. If it was a genuine attempt to procure him to commit a murder, whey then did he not immediately tell her brother about it, or report it to Police? Pre meditated murder is a very serious offence. Chappell did find out about it later, and yet he did not leave SN Fraser. Wouldnt you leave your partner if you thought they were a murderer?

    The conlcusion to be drawn is that if such s a statement was ever uttered by SN Fraser, it was clearly a joke of some sort. This is what I would, as a juror, determine on balance. Why did the jury not arrive at the same logical conclusion?

    • K says:

      Triffet’s evidence isn’t part of the appeal.

      • andrew says:

        There are many aspects that are not listed in the appeal grounds, but that doesn’t prevent them being brought up at the appeal. However, with the key ground being overwhelming – an eye witness with DNA to match – no other ground is of much relevance really.

        • K says:

          What will happen if the prosecution proves, via a video recorded interview of Meaghan, that she retracted the affidavit?

          • andrew says:

            This is just pointless speculation.

          • CB says:

            Meaghan Vass’s statement still stands as evidence, even if she later retracted it (as Andrew says, there is zero evidence that she retracted it.. but IF she were to do so). The statement she made om 60 minutes (and accompanying affidavit) saying that she was on the boat and saw the killer remains as evidence that is backed up by DNA. Any retraction would not be backed up by DNA evidence. The court would need to assess the various statements and whether, in total, they amount to “reasonable doubt”. So no, the Appeal would not collapse in such (hypothetical) circumstances.

      • Gruntle Massey says:

        Again, I didnt imply it was. I was just musing about aspects of the case generally.

        IF SN Fraser is acqitted though, you can expect all this to be sifted through again in fine detail. The media is going to have a field day with it.

  8. Christine says:

    The prosecution argument was that within a few days of that photo being shown to Emma and Sarah, Sue changed her version and for the first time admitted going out late at night. Since it was an important event in the case then surely it was up to the jury to consider whether that car looked like Sue’s car. The prosecution needed to prove to the jury that the ATM photo existed but it was up to the jury to consider what relevance to attach to it. Why are you making an issue of this in your above article and in a misleading way?

    The only person whon stated that it was Sue’s was Emma.

    Your article on this issue is very misleading because if says that “the prosecution perpetrated the idea that it was Sue Neill-Fraser’s car”.

    • andrew says:

      Why did the prosecution need to prove the photo existed if it was not their intent to suggest it was Sue’s car? Like I said……but in any case, as we know, the whole case against Sue Neill-Fraser was a sham. Car included.

      • Chris says:

        My opinion is (EDITED)

      • Geraldine Allan says:

        My recollection without checking is:
        Emma said “looks like” Mum’s car.
        Fact – The prosecution have a history of presenting video evidence of cars that ‘look like’ that of accused when it knows it is not. If it suits a timeline that supports crown case, it will be used. Bugger Crown as Model Litigant obligations.
        I write this from my own personal knowledge- it is not speculation or belief. I know it to be FACT & have direct supporting evidence

  9. Christine D says:

    The following is from the Trial Transcript and it contradicts your statement:

    “Now to go back, the point isn’t necessarily that this is her car, the point is that this was thought to be her car by her daughters and immediately after them being shown that, which might be her car, or I’ll tell the jury, might not, she changed her story in a very significant way and that which had been previously withheld and, if her later story is correct, lied about was then offered, but rather exclusively even then.”

    Your statement is:

    “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.”

    It is evident from the Trial Transcript that the prosecution did not perpetrate the idea that it was Sue’s car. The prosution stated that it looked like her car. Your attention to accuracy and detail is lacking.

    • andrew says:

      I think that is a deliberately naive view. Here is the full context:
      Jack Shapiro for the Crown tendering exhibits; electronic copy of photographs (Exhibit P20):
      Commonwealth Bank at 185 Sandy Bay Road had an external security camera which captured footage of Sandy Bay Road on the 26th and 27th January 2009. From that footage police printed a still photograph from the time of 0025 hours on the 27th January 2009.

      Mr Ellis SC opening:
      Detective Sergeant Conroy spoke to the accused’s daughters, Emma and Sarah, different surnames, Emma Fraser-Mieke and Sarah Bowles, and those ladies naturally asked about the progress of the investigation, particularly closed circuit television, and he told them of some footage from an ATM, automatic teller machine, in Sandy Bay that has a bit of a view of Sandy Bay Road and he showed them a still from it and it’s a vehicle similar to a Ford station wagon going along Sandy Bay Road at 12:25am on the 27th January, okay. So that’s just after midnight, 27th January a car similar to the Ford station wagon was captured going around Sandy Bay Road and Mr Conroy, Detective Sergeant Conroy, showed the accused’s daughters a still from this closed circuit TV. Now it’s not our case, it’s not our case, let me be clear, that you can say with a degree of confidence just on that photo that that was the accused driving although one of the daughters said that that was mum’s car and the other one said it looks like – it looks like the car, so it’s similar, it’s similar. …. (her daughters) would have said down at the police station, “Sergeant Conroy showed us a car that looked like yours at 12:25am on the 27th”.

      Mr Gunson SC cross examining Detective Sergeant Conroy:
      …you managed to obtain a photograph which is now in evidence showing a bit of a vehicle on Sandy Bay Road in the early hours of the 27th January 2009? – That’s correct.

      His Honour Summing up:
      Ms Neil-Fraser told the police initially that she was home on the night of the 26th of January. During her second DVD interview, or the interview of the 5th of May, she told the police that she decided to reveal that she hadn’t stayed home after her daughters had told her what they’d been told about the photo of a passing car that had come from the DVD of the Commonwealth Bank on Sandy Bay Road.
      No, as Mr Ellis stated it’s “not the Crown’s case … that you can say with a degree of confidence just on that photo that that was the accused driving although …” etc. So why lead it? Because the various references to the photo of the car were meant to work their quiet poison on the jury’s mind.

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