Justice delayed … and delayed …. by Covid19

Andrew L. Urban.

One of the “much loved and respected” inmates of Hobart’s Risdon women’s prison, Sue Neill-Fraser, has had to keep deferring her hope of regaining her freedom after 11 years incarceration; she is collateral damage of the Covid19 driven interstate travel restrictions. 

First it was March 24, 2020, then it might have been August 17, then November 2, but Sue Neill-Fraser’s last chance to appeal her controversial murder conviction has once again been deferred to a date beyond December 1, after Tasmania last week extended its border closure, thanks to Victoria’s latest outbreak. Her pro bono legal team reside interstate: instructing lawyer Paul Galbally in Melbourne, barrister Tom Percy QC in Perth. At a directions hearing in July both her team and the DPP agreed that the appeal hearing needs to be held in person, not on video links.

Sue Neill-Fraser, Australia Day2009

This is an especially disturbing example of the destructive ripple effect of state border closures spreading through every aspect of the community, because it involves what many lay and legal observers have described as an unsafe conviction – and is compared to the infamous miscarriage of justice in the Lindy Chamberlain case over 30 years ago.

Neill-Fraser was arrested in August 2009 charged with the 2009 Australia Day murder of her partner, Bob Chappell, on board their recently purchased yacht, Four Winds. At her 2010 trial, the prosecution presented a case relying entirely on circumstantial evidence. There wasn’t even a body found. The jury never saw a wrench that was claimed to be a murder weapon. The dinghy in which the bloodied body was supposed to have been dumped in the Derwent was found to have no blood stains in it.

The key DNA at the crime scene was matched to a then homeless 15 year old – who a decade later (March 2019) admitted it was her vomit on the deck. She had witnessed the altercation that led to Chappell’s death. But Neill-Fraser wasn’t there. Yet Neill-Fraser is still in prison, awaiting her chance to appeal the conviction under new legislation introduced five years ago.

Two former prison inmates attending the Hobart vigil held on Saturday August 1, 2020 to mark the 4,000 days Sue Neill-Fraser had spent in jail, were interviewed by the Hobart Mercury’s Sally Glaetzer. Neill-Fraser, the story said, made pavlovas on prisoners’ birthdays and gave legal advice; she is “much loved and respected by her fellow prisoners”.

Carley Watkins and Monique Lynch have become dedicated supporters of Neill-Fraser since spending considerable time with the 66-year-old in Risdon’s Mary Hutchinson Women’s Prison, Glaetzer reported.

The new date for Neill-Fraser’s appeal may be set at the next directions hearing, scheduled for September 28, 2020.

This article also appeared in The Spectator Australia (Flat White section) on August 30, 2020.

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10 Responses to Justice delayed … and delayed …. by Covid19

  1. owen allen says:

    Keep the comments coming please. If you think it, please write it.
    This is about the Nation and civilians.

  2. Jerry Fitzsimmons says:

    Andrew, what I am reading from the comments of your readers is a culmination of one word and one word only; exasperation.
    I also share the same feelings with many, in fact, most of your readers and the ongoing revelations that come to light in relation to the way this case was handled.
    Once more, no different from the same feelings that both Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton and her husband, Michael would have shared over and over again.
    There is little solace for Sue Neill-Fraser who, not unlike Lindy, has been locked up, not only on circumstantial evidence but, with vindictive proffering to secure a ‘wrongful conviction’ eg ‘The wrench’ among other things.
    I am reminded in both cases of the macabre convulsions that so readily led to an expressionless person being so wilfully scorned by many, both inside and outside the court, then who were so easily swayed by so called expert evidence.
    I conclude with only one final summation.
    It is a profanity to suggest that a CCRC would do otherwise than at least provide an opportunity to lawfully examine what the profligate’s have deemed unquestionable.

  3. Geraldi says:

    Andrew, when you write, “The jury never saw a wrench that was claimed to be a murder weapon”, I am told by persons who attended the Supreme Court trial, that then DPP Ellis had on his prosecutor’s table during the trial, ‘a wrench’ for full view by the jury. Any reader who did attend the trial can confirm this and, if the wrench was there for all the trial or only part thereof. It really matters not, the very fact it was there at all is more gravely wrong.

    How bad is that, when there was no evidence given through the witness box of any wrench being used? Ellis’ speculation and clever ‘dirty tricks’ to dupe the jury. Grrrrr

    • andrew says:

      Thanks for reminding me. Yes, A wrench, as distinct from THE wrench, eh? Not too subtle but oh so misleading.

      • Tom Cairns says:

        I honestly wish I had not now learned about the wrench on the DPP’s table. As if things were not bad enough. Was it meant to be ‘pseudo-evidence? Or was it simply a typically crude and despicable ploy by people not up to the job the taxpayer is paying for? How crude! And why did the presiding judge not have it removed? Surely he must have seen it, or had he already made up his mind about the verdict? It’s not impossible; he might have had personal problems and felt like kicking the family cat as they say.
        The recent series “The Vietnam War” discusses Richard Nixon’s allusion to the “silent majority”. Their inclination to vote for Nixon gave him opportunity to infer that they approved of him but although he was smug about it he probably saw them as a bunch of sheep too apathetic to think which is very similar to the problem we have in Sue Neill-Fraser’s case. It is no new phenomenon. It can have many names, The Apathetic Overburden, The Turgid Mob, The Dark Monolith. Make up your own. It should be a board game.
        Silent Majorities are unpredictable and dangerous too. In a flash they can be a lynch mob. The media had people saying that “Azaria” meant “sacrifice in the desert” which helped her mother be falsely convicted.
        So much to consider. A bunch of legal vultures and inept police officers sitting on a keg of dynamite praying it won’t go off.
        Bit late for that.

  4. Peter Leslie Martin says:

    I think it is time for the Tassy Police to now put in a bit of an effort to actually find the the real murderer. Why wait until she is proven innocent as she surely must? There is a greater possibility that a dingo did it than Sue.

    • Judy says:

      Peter do you really think the Tassy Police need to “find” the real murderer / murderers – they must already know who it was, and where to find them, as many Hobart people who have followed the story closely already know, of course we cannot publish name(s) here. I fear for the safety of Meaghan Vass, she must be living in fear, afraid of a number of people who would prefer the truth stays hidden.

      • owen allen says:

        Well thank you Judy for speaking out.
        I will give Meaghan and her boyfriend a safe place for for 3 months in NSW. That is free accommodation if they are frightened.
        If her family is or has been in anyway threatened, call the cops.
        Not all cops are in the loop. I believe there now is no way Meaghan will be hit, this is an INTERNATIONAL EVENT.
        Meaghan has no shame, but commendation; Meaghan was only a child when this took place.
        RHDF. OWEN the sidecar ride. what a ride.
        Andrew has my details.

      • owen allen says:


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