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.