Sue Neill-Fraser appeal deferred (yet again) to March 1, 2021

Andrew L. Urban.

Just 18 months before Sue Neill-Fraser becomes eligible for parole after 13 years in prison, her new appeal will now be heard in the first week of March 2021 – coronavirus travel restrictions permitting, it was decided at a directions hearing yesterday afternoon (Oct. 7, 2020) in Hobart’s Supreme Court before Justice Wood. 

All parties agree, including Neill-Fraser herself, that this appeal needs to be held in the court room with everyone physically present. (Her pro bono legal team coming from Perth and Melbourne.) The first witness will be Meaghan Vass, whose DNA was found on For Winds at the crime scene in 2009, after Bob Chappell went missing – and was presumed murdered by, police claimed, Neill-Fraser. She was arrested in August 2009 and convicted in 2010, jailed for 23 years (on appeal), 13 years non-parole.

Meaghan Vass on 60 Minutes, March 10, 2019

A tearful and remorseful Vass told 60 Minutes on March 10, 2019, that it was her vomit on the deck and she was on board with two males when a fight broke out. Chappell’s body has never been found. Depending on the Vass testimony, the appeal is scheduled for five days.

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28 Responses to Sue Neill-Fraser appeal deferred (yet again) to March 1, 2021

  1. Sue Marsh says:

    I am in shock that this has once again been delayed until 2021. Daily I witness ridiculous leniency in shocking crimes and this woman is a threat to no one apart from those feeling threatened by the outcome!

  2. Tom Cairns says:

    Garry, you’ve got me looking for this wrench. I can not find a reference in a quick scan but I think it arose from outside these discussions either on a TV program or somewhere similar. I should have “saved” it for storage, an 83 year old memory does not help. I do remember a sense of shock on hearing about it, but then nothing surprises in this whole affair. I did not imagine it but was surprised that it was not highlighted earlier.
    Keep looking….

  3. LB says:

    One of the comments here refers to common sense…I say what happened to common decency?! AND faith in our justice system to do the right thing and correct wrongs if and when they occur? Everyone is at least a decade past waiting for Tasmania to wake up and do what is right in the case of the “disappearance” of Bob Chappell. Is nobody in power concerned that the real criminals are wandering around free? Beggars belief. Forget common sense! Arrangements COULD be made with Victoria and W.A. for essential services such as specialist legal teams to attend way overdue hearings IF Tasmanians et al actually had the will for this appeal to be held in a timely fashion. Now THAT would be common sense! It really is not that difficult…. Covid arrangements and exemptions have and can be made. Another convenient/inconvenient excuse. Poor Sue and her family.

  4. Jillian Jones says:

    We need an Australian wide petition and media support. Politicians don’t like being displayed for what they are, let alone the Authorities.
    We ALL NEED to keep turning the screws for Sue`s sake, and for Justice to come out of the dark ages.
    This could happen to anyone of us.

    • andrew says:

      I think you are right. As former justice Kirby says, it take public pressure to move politicians and the legal system

    • Garry Stannus says:

      Eve Ash initiated a petition quite some time ago. It’s still live, still growing. Perhaps Jillian, you might take a look at it and sign. I think you’ll find it here:

      In 2011, a petition was addressed to the Tasmanian Attorney General:
      “We the undersigned wish to express our concern regarding the circumstances of Robert Adrian
      Chappells’ disappearance on 26th Jan 2009, the subsequent investigation, trial and conviction
      of his partner of 20 years. We believe the verdict may have been unjust and ask that Susan
      Neill-Fraser be granted a retrial.”

      Sue didn’t get a retrial … she got an appeal which reaffimed her conviction, though her 26 year sentence was reduced by three years.

      Given the fresh evidence which has since been discovered and given that Justice Brett found that it would be open to the Full Appeal Court to find that such evidence is compelling … I find it difficult to understand why the Attorney General opposes an amendment to the Criminal Code so that Susan Neill-Fraser could be bailed while her second appeal keeps being delayed. So too do I find it difficult to understand why the Police and the DPP still insist on her guilt, ostensibly harassing witnesses in the case of the former and in the case of the latter, still fighting in court to the bitter end, to ensure that Sue remains convicted.

      I don’t understand it. I’ve seen various reasons suggested, such as shame-to-admit-error, pride, criminal complicity and whatever else, but I don’t get it. The only explanation that works for me is that they all still – to this day – believe in Sue’s guilt. When I say ‘works’, I mean that I could accept ‘belief in Sue’s guilt’ as a valid reason for fighting to keep her locked up, but I simply don’t see how any of them can still (given all that we now know) … can still fight to keep her in prison. Surely they must have their doubts. There is no shame in being wrong, though there is shame in maintaining mistruth – while knowing that there is at the very least … reasonable doubt.

  5. John Biggs says:

    I have written to the two Greens, who theoretically stand up for justice perhaps more than other parties, but have received no reply. The only politician who showed some sort of sympathy was Vanessa Goodwin who allowed the “new and compelling evidence” reason for an appeal after other channels had been exhausted. Hodgman’s attitude after being visited by Colin McLaren was simply appalling. Reminded me of Pence in the VP debate: any criticism of the police is an attack on American institutions and is unpatriotic. Clearly Hodgman and his henchpersons thought the same way and all other current politicians in the Tasmanian Lower House still do. As Ian (?) says above, the Government, all three parties and the Police /Justice department are joined at the hip in denying any sort of miscarriage of justice has occurred when the evidence is 100% that it has — MV’s DNA on the boat and a public confession. Christ in Heaven what more evidence do these denialists want that the SNF conviction is not beyond reasonable doubt?

    • owen allen says:

      (edited) The cronyism and corruption in Tasmania is beyond belief.
      Think about it.
      The place is so small, confined, tight nit in the mafia way.
      The police have the power because they have the guff on everyone and its nod nod wink wink, shut your mouth or.

  6. Mary Lewis says:

    I agree with all the comments. This is absolutely atrocious. I don’t know Sue as I am in Queensland, but I hope Sue has been able to accept the situation she is in at the moment and has not given in to bitterness. She is “the victim” but I really hope she has been able to rise above vicimhood and peacefully go about obtaining every penny of compensation she might be entitled to upon the eventual quashing of her conviction. Or does the Tasmanian Government hope to keep putting it off until she is released anyway and then say, “Oh well, she is free now so there is no need for an Appeal”? This must not be allowed to happen. And especially it must not be allowed to happen if, God forbid, she should die before an Appeal is heard. And is Meaghan Vass getting protection? Obviously she is at enormous personal risk.

  7. Lynn Giddings says:

    It looks to me, Keith, as though the problem lies with Western Australia not lifting their restrictions, meaning Tom Percy and his assistants would have to be in quarantine for 2 weeks on their return home. Having defended Sue pro bono, they are unlikely to want to give up the clients already booked in for the fortnight they would spend in quarantine and that might be at their own expense. There is not much point in seeking exemptions for the Victorian legal team if Tom Percy QC can’t get here.

  8. Jill Sutcliffe says:

    The things that the system will do to avoid/delay the inevitable of being caught out. Australia needs a Criminal Cases Review Commission!

  9. LB says:

    Suitable Covid safe arrangements could be made. Aren’t courts an essential service? Especially if an innocent person is sitting in jail. What an utter disgrace.

  10. Tom Cairns says:

    There are many voices raised in protest and have been for some time. Perhaps we are all wrong. It could be that the guilty people who hold the reins of power are in some twisted and sick way revelling in this impasse and their perception is just that “might is right”. If one has a small enough mind one can accept such a situation.
    Strange how readily our media latch on to any breach of “human rights” in the People’s Republic of China or Saudi Arabia and other uncivilized places.
    Tasmania’s reins of power are composed of red tape.
    Maybe if we had all kept quiet they would have quietly allowed Sue to go home to her family pending her appeal.
    Who knows? Who knows?

    • andrew says:

      Tom, I think it more likely that the fear of ridicule, loss of credibility, authority and fearsome criticism that they all made so many mistakes has been motivating the Tasmanian legal and political club. They want to avoid being shamed – but I don’t think they will succeed. Truth will always out … just takes too much time sometimes. Example: Meaghan Vass confesses to being at the crime scene… a decade late.

      • Williambtm says:

        Andrew, you are correct, at the end of the day and some 10-11 years later, the only evidence relied on by the jury, had been the hypotheticals given by former DPP Tim Ellis.

        • Tom Cairns says:

          And what could be more hypothetical than a phony adjustable wrench that just happened to be lying on the table in front of the jury?
          The ‘judge’ had blinkers on but the jury none.

          • andrew says:

            Perhaps that wrench didn’t ‘just happen’ to lie on the table…. just maybe it was a bit of prosecutorial theatre, prejudicial because it wasn’t tendered as evidence. And that’s because it was a hypothetical wrench. Clearly contrary to the rules but as you say, maybe the judge couldn’t see it. Or mistook it for a paperweight. Or for a spare wig….

          • Garry Stannus says:

            Tom, you write:
            “ And what could be more hypothetical than a phony adjustable wrench that just happened to be lying on the table in front of the jury?”
            I hadn’t heard of a wrench lying on the table in front of the trial jury. I recall one trial attendee telling me that a ‘knife’ was left lying on the table during the trial. What is the source of your ‘wrench’ information?

    • Iam says:

      Utter disbelief that the court system cannot make suitable arrangements as they have done so with lots of cases during the COVID crisis. It leads me to wonder that the court system, the Tasmanian Government and the Tasmanian Police are joined at the hip in trying to hide the truth. This poor woman is suffering in jail whilst gin swigging bureaucrats are probably worrying about their golf handicap and how much Xmas pudding they can consume. I really hope that when the truth comes out that heads will roll including the equivalent in jail sentences and loss of superannuation payments. This farce is equivalent to what happened to Lindy Chamberlain and is so un-Australian. What are our Federal Politicians doing about this? Bring on a Royal Commission now! Shame! Shame! SHAME!

      • owen allen says:

        Tasmania has long tentacles get my drift.
        Don’t confuse tentacles and testicles.
        No testicles, long tentacles;
        Long tentacles makes them sufficient, having no testicles.
        Get my drift, Angry?

  11. Keith says:

    As I have said previously, I fail to understand why the Tasmanian legal system cannot set a much earlier date and the Government give all interstate participants Essential Worker status. To leave SNF in gaol one day longer than necessary continues this travesty of justice.

    • Garry Stannus says:


      All I ask, is that the Govt. might change the law so that Sue Neill-Fraser could be released on bail while her second appeal was delayed. After all, to be granted leave to make her second appeal, she had to come up with fresh evidence … evidence not just fresh, but compelling. Justice Brett found that it was open to the Appeal Court to make such a finding, and so, granted the appeal.

      Meaghan Vass has informed Justice Brett that she was on the Four Winds that night, that Sue was not on the boat, and she has named/will name: two males who she says were present and are responsible for Bob Chappell’s death.

      Sue Neill-Fraser first put in her papers for her second appeal some five years ago … and still … still she stays in prison.

      I wrote to our Attorney-General, Elise Archer, asking that the Criminal Code 1924 be amended to allow for bail while a second appeal is in train. She replied to my request thus:

      “[…] At this time, the Government has no intention to pursue an amendment to allow an application for bail by a person awaiting the hearing of an appeal under section 402A. I am satisfied that section 402A provides an adequate balance…”

      To ‘cut a long story short’, Elise Archer was saying that the amendment allowing a second appeal was only introduced by her predecessor to balance what was perceived as some sort of pre-existing bias in favour of the prosecution side of things. It was not actually about the granting of justice to someone who may have been unfairly convicted, it was simply about providing an appeal balance where the law was obviously one-sided. No, not motivated out of concern for a wrongful imprisonment, but simply to address a legal anomaly … There’s a person in jail? No mate, we’ve righted the imbalance.

      Bail Amendment?
      -No thank you. We’ve righted the scale.

      Bail amendment for Sue?
      -No thank you.

      My point to the Attorney-General, that to be allowed a second appeal was/is tantamount to admission from the legal system that the conviction was faulty… and that (in this case) the fresh evidence places on the Four Winds two persons allegedly involved in Bob Chappell’s killing, as well, of course, as Meaghan Vass. Yet Elise Archer has ‘doubled down’. Sue Neill-Fraser has been allowed a second appeal based on ‘fresh and compelling evidence’ … but she will stay in jail – ‘from here to eternity – until a court is able to hear her appeal. The Government will not budge.

      I ask Elise Archer again, not in her capacity as Attorney-General, but as our Minister for Justice, to bring on an amendment to the Tasmanian Criminal Act 1924 to allow for bail in the case of someone who has already been granted leave to make a second appeal on the ground of ‘fresh and compelling evidence’.

      Sue lodged papers for a second appeal some five years ago. Now we are looking at six years. How good is that?

      If I had a hammer
      I’d hammer in the morning
      I’d hammer in the evening
      All over this land
      It’s the hammer of justice
      It’s the bell of freedom
      It’s the song about love between
      My brothers and my sisters
      All over this land
      All over this land.

      • andrew says:

        All over this land … except the land of Tasmania …

      • Diane Kemp says:

        Totally agree Garry. I also have written Ms Archer several letters regarding Sue being placed on home detention while awaiting her appeal to actually be heard – all to no avail. We all know a mistake was made based on no factual evidence provided let alone what has since been discovered. That the Tasmanian Government still refuses to acknowledge this demonstrates the fear they feel. A humane government would be able to acknowledge they got it wrong and work quickly to correct this. Instead, delay, delay, delay. Once Sue is free, they will deserver everything that will come to them. In the meantime, justice delayed is justice withheld. I am sure that Judge Brett did not consider this would still not have been heard!!!

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