Some 20,000 Fact Sheets (see below) about the Sue Neill-Fraser case will be distributed to letter boxes around Hobart ahead of her latest appeal that begins on March 1, 2021, in Hobart Supreme Court, as a community service on behalf of wrongfulconvictionsreport.org
In the Supreme Court, Hobart, starting on March 1, 2021, Sue Neill-Fraser, 65, is appealing her 2010 conviction for the 2009 Australia Day murder of her partner, Bob Chappell, on their yacht Four Winds. She is serving a 23 year sentence, with a 13 year non-parole period. The case has attracted much public and media interest, even controversy, over the years. This fact sheet provides an outline of the basic facts to help those interested to better understand the case and the reasons for the appeal, to be heard by three Tasmanian judges.
Q: On what evidence was Sue Neill-Fraser (SNF) convicted?
A: There was no primary evidence, such as a weapon or a witness; the body of Bob Chappell has never been found; the prosecution presented the jury with only circumstantial evidence. The prosecutor speculated that SNF murdered Chappell below deck with some weapon like a wrench, winched him up on deck and into the dinghy and then disposed of the body in the water, tied to a fire extinguisher.
Q: What new evidence has triggered leave to appeal?
A: DNA in a material deposit 26 cm x 21 cm on the yacht was matched to then homeless 15 year old Meaghan Vass, who denied at trial (and subsequently) that she had ever been aboard. She has since admitted that she had been there and witnessed an on-board fight between Chappell and two males who boarded the yacht with her, and that SNF was not there. Vass confessed on 60 Minutes (March 10, 2019, not shown in Tasmania) and in a sworn statement to the court. She saw a lot of blood … and claimed the material deposit with her DNA was her vomit. She finally came forward so “the lady could go home to her family”.
Q: Can juries get it wrong?
A: In most cases they don’t: but they can ‘get it wrong’ if given the wrong information. Convictions were overturned, for example, in the cases of Gordon Wood, Henry Keogh, Steve Fennell, Scott Austic – and in the second half of 2019 in NSW alone, five convictions were quashed on appeal because of significant doubts about the reliability of the prosecution’s case and the soundness of the jury’s reasoning. And in unanimously quashing the conviction of George Pell, the High Court said that “the evidence of the opportunity witnesses … required the jury, acting rationally, to have entertained a reasonable doubt as to the applicant’s guilt.”
A press release detailing the initiative will be distributed simultaneously to 548 national news, current affairs and legal media representatives.
We have been following Sue’s case since being aired on TV in 2018. So sad, so wrong, so incredible that Taspol can be so incompetent. Why do these things take so long?. We will support Sue by posting on FB and raising awareness among our friends. Wishing you all the best for 1 March Sue. Thinking of you from Bunbury in WA.
Thank you, Andrew, your Facts Sheet is timely and brilliantly written. I visited Sue today and she wants you to know that she will not be applying or accepting parole. She feels that to accept parole would look as though she is admitting guilt. She wants exoneration. In any case, she would be unable to show remorse for something she hasn’t done and she wishes she knew where Bob Chappell’s body is herself; initially, she was hoping the police could tell her that. Instead, she shot herself in the foot giving them information to help them find Bob or his body. She said, from the time she boarded the boat and saw his pipe and lighter there, she expected ‘foul play’ as he went nowhere without them.
There is another case matter that had the former DPP breathless in his urgency to indulge himself with the power of his distinguished appointment, only this occasion was to have all the charges laid against the accused absolved by his direction that there was insufficient evidence to provide a successful prosecution. The whole case-load of the 18 charges was no longer to be examined by the court.
A message had been handed to the presiding judge under the instruction by the former DPP that this case matter was to be discharged in the immediate instance on the receipt of this message.
(Bearing in mind that at this particular time it was to see to the discharge of a barely commenced Supreme court hearing just a few minutes after its commencement.)
Effectively, the charges having been read to all the people attending that day’s proceedings, only to learn that this entire case matter consisting of a total of 18 police laid charges against the accused, was there and then to be discharged.
The conduct of reasoning claimed by the DPP, was the insufficiency of evidence.
The legal, lawful, pursuit of justice in Tasmania even up until today, remains contiguous and continues to hold with the 1830s era State having created an extreme bias against any accused or defendant persons.
Since coming back to this insular little island from Queensland I have seen enough and heard enough that while the days of Tasmania’s penal settlement and its convicts have ended the colonial system of justice appears to remain. So like Bombs over Tasmania that the Tasmanian Integrity Commission (a report by the Australian Institute a think tank that conducts public policy research) had never fully investigated any matter never had anyone charged and never held an independent commission of inquiry. Other state integrity commissions were making huge strides in stemming corruption across Australia but TIC had zero to show. Says it all about this “Out of Sight out of Mind” state Now the British High Commissioner is on board with Sue’s case… The Rule of Karma will get those who have put Sue Neill-Fraser away.
Helen you raise relevant points about the standards of penal colony cultures still apparent in Tasmania, but realistically you could easily include all the other states as well. The ongoing practice of the policing and judiciary types to cling to yesteryears fundamentally failed status quo as a recognised standard is farcical. The fact that our nations states policing organisations still recruit from the lower echelons of society (fundamentally unskilled, ego centric opportunists, many with ethno chauvinistic beliefs and backgrounds), confirms the inadequacy of the institutions capabilities to move on from the now recognised, degrading colonial era. Sue is suffering because of the accepted willingness by policing officers, and probably others to close ranks, and support unprofessionalism, and a venal judiciary. I strongly believe that it takes a certain strong natured individual to be an impartial and professional policing officer, and I do respect those who aspire to and maintain that standard, but I also believe that they are few and far between. Stratified in house cultured promotional systems, sadly though, enables the buffoons and psychologically unbalanced bullies to exercise the imposed position of their incredible rank, to cull honesty, facts, and credibility. Sue is one strong woman to withstand the wrong bought down on her by obviously tainted Tasmanian officialdom, and to read your input confirms to me that irrespective of the cultures and cowards filling and regressing much needed public service positions, the light of humanity and caring still shines through. All the best.
Thank you for this Andrew. A beautifully concise and compelling summary.
What a contortion is this whole affair. Hardly anything is normal or even natural. Poor Meaghan Vass already an emotional wreck goes to pieces in court and blows any chances of helping Sue, claiming bribery and intimidation which were the reactions of panic. Then she leaves more disturbed and confused than ever to endure even sharper pangs of guilt and to leave us wondering if she had been “got at” by our old friends at Taspol?
Yet hardly any of that matters, what is immeasurably sad is the years that Susan has lost of her beautiful life and what is equally repulsive is the knowledge that the authorities in Tasmania know full well that she is innocent and it is they themselves who are on trial, and still they want to tough it out.
Time for a rescreening of DELIVERANCE guys, filmed in Tasmania, or equivalent.
Unfortunately, it the old case of assumption, and not looking at the bigger picture. There is no body, so how can it be murder. The partner is focused on to bring a swift end to the investigation. Its assumed she’s to blame. Why aren’t the “other two males” said to have been on the yacht, been sought, and interviewed?
Great idea Andrew
I am in Albany Wa
I can circulate by Facebook and emails
And I’m in Perth and I forgot to thank Andrew for his superb idea. Bring it on!
Great initiative, Andrew. Horrendous that Neill-Fraser still languishes in prison. It’s surely an intransigence issue, much like the late Andrew Mallard’s case here and the WA COA’s myopic refusal to accept that there was Police and prosecutorial impropriety in that case.
Wishing Sue Neill-Fraser all the best on 1 March.
Andrew, the most startling piece of evidence in the “fact sheet” is the matching material deposit from Meaghan Vass eg by her own admission “from her own vomit”.
Many of us are aware of the reason put forward/alleged by police/prosecution at the trial that this “vomit DNA evidence” was transferred onto the yacht from a police officers footwear. Was any particular police officers footwear ever provided or tested to support this proposition to test for eg footwear sizes similar to the size of a plate!!! Or was this also an added piece of “circumstantial evidence”? Did any police officer ever give evidence that this may have occurred? If so, is it clear where this footwear pick up may have occurred that matched Meaghan Vass’s DNA?
Now I realise this is all ‘after the horse has bolted’ but when Lindy Chamberlain was cleared it resulted from the matinee jacket being found.
Could Meaghan’s vomit have been on any material/s like a wiping cloth to cover up her being on the yacht and if so was such evidence, if it existed, provided at the trial?
We now know the DNA tested matched Meaghan. Not unlike the “matinee jacket” finding, I raise these points having recalled that a vital piece of material evidence went missing prior to Sue’s trial.
Can you jog my memory on this?
Your letter-box fact sheet is a great idea and with your approval I would like to distribute a similar letter around my district. This would be carried out on behalf of “wrongful convictionsreport.com” and if you approve, would you forward to me a copy of the finalised letter, with headings via email.
There was a blue rag …I will have to check the details of what happened to. As for the fact sheet, you are more than welcome to distribute it around and I will send you the word document.
I too would like to support Sue in my area – Tweed Heads
Would you send me the word document
On the way…
The Letterbox drop is a great idea, lets hope it galvanises public opinion.
Even Agatha Christie would have discarded the story that the police concocted about Sue.
Agatha Christie would have thought the story too improbable to be believed.
Thank you Andrew.
I hope this is picked up Australia wide as those of us who do not live in Tasmania strongly support this wrongful conviction being overturned.
If only it was being live streamed!!!!!
Well done, Andrew. Your initiative is both timely and warranted. The case of Susan Neill-Fraser is quite concerning. It must be around five years [actually it’s more] since she (under new legislation) applied for leave to make a second appeal – on the grounds of fresh and compelling evidence.
And yet, here we are: the 2nd Appeal still not heard and Sue still imprisoned, after all these years. The Government – through the Attorney General – has refused to release her in the interim.
Neill-Fraser … the case will go down in our history as one of legal and political intransigeance, similar to that which Lindy Chamberlain had to overcome.
We are a small, out-of-the-way part of Australia. Perhaps what happens here passes unnoticed by Aussies in general. Even in Tasmania, I suggest many are unaware of the particulars of this case. Also, there are many Tasmanians who seem simply to be unaware of it at all.
Your initiative is thus welcome and opportune. Thank you, Andrew: Free Sue!
👏👏👏👏👏👏👏 well said