Meaghan Vass evidence ‘unreliable’, focus on DNA

Andrew L. Urban.

Sue Neill-Fraser’s legal team conceded before lunch on Day 2 of the appeal against her murder convction, that Meaghan Vass, highly stressed and agitated from the beginning, was delivering testimony during cross examination that would not be considered reliable, removing her testimony from the grounds of appeal – and focusing on the fresh new DNA evidence. 

Vass was already upset before the court session began, that the names of individuals she had mentioned on Day 1 as being with her on the yacht had been widely published in the morning media, when she had understood the names would be suppressed by court order. They now are. (Removed later in the day on application by the media.)

The court granted her immunity from prosecution for any crimes she may have committed in relation to the matter prior to her giving testimony.

Again testifying via video link, Vass was accompanied by an official carer but that did not calm her emotional state. The court adjourned until Wednesday, March 3, 2021.

COMMENT

It should be remembered that there is no direct evidence that Sue Neill-Fraser murdered Bob Chappell. The presumption of innocence with which our legal system operates means that she was not required to prove anything. The prosecution was required to prove its case against her – beyond reasonable doubt. The jury found her guilty.

In this appeal, the testimony of Meaghan Vass was intended to back up the discovery of her DNA on the deck of the yacht – the crime scene.

Her anguished mental state has impeded her delivery of coherent and reliable testimony; but the DNA is a fact. It was dismissed at trial and set aside as being a secondary deposit, not capable of being exculpatory.

Fresh new testimony that asserts it was a primary deposit is sufficient to argue that had the jury been aware of that pertinent fact, it would have had to entertain reasonable doubt about the guilt of the accused. And the judge would have no doubt so instructed.

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43 Responses to Meaghan Vass evidence ‘unreliable’, focus on DNA

  1. Felix Greenwood says:

    This case has certainly exposed a number of challenging and interesting problems that not only the police but also the lawyers (on both sides of the case) had to explain. The sighting of a grey dinghy on portside of Four Winds on the afternoon of the Australia Day was one of the important issues in the case that the defence is exploiting in this appeal.

    I don’t know about other people’s experiences but I noticed that under certain viewing conditions white boats looked grey to me. I was intending to take some photographs for the purpose of explaining it but then I realised that someone had beaten me to it. Here is a link to a Twitter account that has two photos of the same white boat. The key parameter in the explanation that is provided is: GLARE that is caused by the sunlight that is reflected from the water’s surface.

    https://twitter.com/ReitiredS/status/1367278266600497155?s=19

  2. Greg says:

    Meaghan VASS has provided names of two others who were on the yacht, and who committed Murder. No wonder she was in that state. She is frightened for her life. She was only 15 at the time, and she still fears for her life. Then, what she is depicting, happened on the yacht that night, more than likely, did occur. The court should re-exam her testimony, and accept it for what it’s worth.

  3. Keith says:

    I’m following the live updates on the Mercury site and am hoping they are being as biased as ever. From what they are reporting on the summing up, the defence has been hammered and rendered inept.
    I fervently hope that it is a different case in the court room.

  4. Jerry Fitzsimmons says:

    Lola Moth, your comments are priceless. Thank you for reaching out to those of us who are not, may never be, in the predicament that Meaghan Vass must be in, once again. I’ve said it before but, for all the ill feelings we may be having about this young woman remember, she has kept coming forward.
    Yes, we all want to know the truth of what actually happened to Bob Chappell, none more so than Sue Neil-Fraser and her family. But for those who have become a part of this awful ordeal and who keep presenting, allow the truth to unwind and be respectful of those who may know that truth but are in a very vulnerable position, like I suspect Meaghan Vass may be.
    We have all had a go at the ‘system’, including me however, there was a gesture of dignity when Sue’s legal team recognised what this young woman was experiencing yesterday. Think about it. Sue’s legal team are there for her but they will have recognised, or maybe I shall say, ‘smelt a rat’.
    Let’s see how this all plays out and I want to conclude by saying, keep safe Meaghan Vass and take care.
    Thanks again Andrew and the support group in Hobart for keeping us mainlanders up to date.

  5. Tom Cairns says:

    It is true that Meaghan Vass did incalculable harm the day she went to pieces in court and made wild claims that she had been bribed to say she had been on the yacht. She was hysterical “I can’t do this…”
    It is also doubtful that she could ever be stabilised emotionally and made to feel secure so that she could relate with confidence simple facts so vital to the case. The prosecution depend on this and their first instinct is to unnerve her which is simply playing dirty, but then the whole affair has been dirty since the beginning, or rather since Eve Ash and Colin McLaren exposed the uncleanliness with no trouble at all.
    The police and their associates have stopped at nothing to save their own backsides and why has Taspol never investigated the names that Meaghan has been able to provide all along? Or rather, why have they avoided the consequences? Why the silence? Ongoing suppression and coverup.
    Now it is ‘unreliable’ evidence? Better than no evidence at all, like the void that was used to convict Susan Neill-Fraser.
    A Royal Commission? What else? Those backsides are waiting…

  6. Peter says:

    Mr Coates then asked: “You can’t remember being on that boat, can you?”

    “No,” Ms Vass said.

    When Mr Coates asked Ms Vass if she had been “harassed” into giving evidence, she answered yes.

    He also asked: “You gave evidence at the last proceedings that you’ve been threatened. That’s true isn’t it?”

    “Yes.”

    My interpretation is …..
    If I answered Yes to the first question that I can’t remember, then that means “Yes, I can’t remember”. By answering No to that question, I would mean that I can remember being on the boat.
    And it seems to me that she answered Yes about being harassed by the police into giving the evidence they want her to give.
    And it seems she was confirming she has been threatened by the police.

    That’s what her evidence looks like to me.

    • Tom Cairns says:

      And to me Peter. Mr Coates has been very cunning, just like the rest of them.
      Poor Meaghan. Makes you wonder what is wrong with the truth.

    • Robert Greenshields says:

      To me Peter, there seems to be an accepted pitiable standard operational within the Tasmanian Legal System, that not only leaves much to be desired, but is continuing unabated. Where was the intervention from the “Beak”, while Meaghan was clinically and systematically reduced to nothing more than seemingly an obliging obsequious mouthpiece?

  7. glenn says:

    police told us helen munnings murderer could not be charged as there was no body. neither would they charge him with underage sex helen 15 he was 28. we got all proof and evidence together and adrian bodnar. has not done as he said and prosecuted. there is no public confidence in police or courts

  8. Tom Spall says:

    Thank you Andrew and Robin for explaining Meaghan Vass’ evidence on Mar 1 and 2. Let’s hope the judges can see it too. My sequence: 2010 MV denies her DNA in jeopardy from 3 associates: 2018 MV runs from Mclaren Ch 7 interview because too many people in the room telling different things: 2019 MV concedes to Liam Bartlett Ch 9 she was on the boat with 2 unamed men, saw a fight with Chappell and blood but can’t say more: Mar 1 2021 in court names those men but Sue NF was not there: Mar 2 2021 in court MV retracts, saying it (Mar 1 testimony) was all because of heavy threat. Surely the threat came from somewhere later on Mar 1 and the court report of the three names was instrumental. Shakespeare could not have written a more dramatic farce. Again let’s hope this tragedy ends better.

  9. Robert Greenshields says:

    Extremely sad that the obvious psychological terrorism has left Meaghan in an absolutely dysfunctional and irrational state. To me someone must be quietly chuffed that she has collapsed under the weight of the calculating onslaught, and given she was as a much younger person a destitute street kid, who lacked any confidence in the machinations of society to honestly help or support her, I can only presume now that minimum characteristic has regressed to a status of fundamental absolute insignificance. This case is exposing other elements of choreographed brutality, and what seems to be an institutionalised bastardry that fits seamlessly into the degrading, confirmed, history of the Australian colonial era and the blatant deceit and venality of its prior constabulary and Judiciary.

  10. owen allen says:

    Call me in at the Royal Commission Tasmania.

  11. Robin Bowles says:

    Today was a disaster for the Appeal. The DPP succeeded in his strategy of totally discrediting the witness who was the ‘anchor’ of the Appeal. By the time Sue and her team graciously conceded that it was becoming inhumane to continue to watch the DPP badger Vass into continuously giving contradictory evidence, severe damage had been done. Will the judges see through the smoke and mirrors? One would hope so, but their job is to consider ‘fresh and compelling’ evidence, as it’s presented to the court. There’s no doubt that Vass’s evidence has been ‘compelling’, the atmosphere in the court today was electric, but was it ‘fresh’? Which part of it was true?? Sue’s supporters were subdued outside the court after witnessing all this legal argy bargy, but they have said whatever the outcome of the Appeal, they will fight on.

    • Keith says:

      Surely Richter and Co did a risk assessment in preparing for this trial and have a plan to cater for just this event. I was surprised they walked away from two other of their reasons to appeal before they even started, surely this would have been some insurance in the event of Vass reacting. My main concern is that the three judges appointed by their boss who adjudged the first trial will be looking for the smallest opportunity to avoid throwing him under the bus.
      Could this be grounds for an appeal higher up?

    • Jessica says:

      Robin, your book really opened my eyes to what had occurred in the original trial. Especially your notes about “the Establishment”. As someone whose family have been here since colonial settlement I can certainly attain to that! Although my family were mostly all convicts!

      I sincerely hope Robert Richter can pull apart the original conviction and turn the tables for Sue. I will be watching eagerly for updates.

  12. Monique says:

    What a blow. Thinking of Sue and the family and how this must have intensified their anxiety and fears today. So cruel, but hopefully will end with a righteous victory.

    Perhaps a psychiatric assessment may have been helpful for the legal team to fall back on, as the sadly dysfunctional Ms Vass continued to unravel. This would have been especially valuable to understand severe complex mental health, for those who are going to make the final decision on Sue’s life.

    Recently a case in WA – judge alone – only had 2 experts on the stand – Psychiatrists. The poor man was found not guilty of murdering mother, sister and half-brother on grounds of insanity due to the severe impairment of many years of drug abuse. Mr Petersen-Crofts will be detained in a mental health hospital under the Mentally Impaired Accused Act.

    Was Meghan Vass in a sound mind? It may help.

  13. Jillian says:

    Vass can’t be trusted. Her lack of character speaks for itself!
    SHE was happy to let Susan rot in prison, only thinking of herself, and STILL DOES.
    Tired of people making excuses for her and congratulating her.
    This ENTIRE situation is disgraceful, to say the least.
    I had hopes for Susan’s release, but given that Vass has played the Court perfectly, I can’t see anything changing.
    Vass says, she has had enough and can’t do it anymore. Still being selfish and thinking ONLY ABOUT HERSELF!
    Hey, Vass, how do you think Susan and her family feels….ever care about that?
    Angry as hell with the BS, SHE gets away with. :-(

    • Lola Moth says:

      Jillian, your anger and lack of empathy colours your words.
      Ms Vass was a homeless child when she witnessed a terrible crime and it was only self-preservation that silenced her. Had she had any kind of support at the time she may have told the truth when first questioned, but nobody was there for her.
      Ms Vass can be trusted but her understandable fear makes her an unreliable witness. Her character cannot be assessed by the account of her the media has presented.
      Ms Vass is being selfish only if you think that refusing to sacrifice yourself for a stranger is a selfish act.
      Unless you have been in a similar situation you have no idea of what this young woman has gone through or what her motives are if she has changed her testimony or refused to testify.
      I have been in her shoes and anyone putting shit on her right now is doing so from a safe place where they will never have to endure her circumstances.

      • Fiona Peate says:

        Lola, I certainly agree that Meaghan has had a difficult life but I don’t think her answers can be relied on, nor can she be trusted answer consistently because of her agitated state when asked difficult questions she’d rather not answer.

        • Lola Moth says:

          Fiona, I don’t think Meaghan Vass was in an agitated state in court. I think she was bloody terrified out of her wits.

          I know what it is like to be in her shoes. She witnessed two men commit a vicious and unprovoked murder in front of her and she would have shared Bob’s fate if she hadn’t pleaded with these murderers that she wouldn’t tell a soul about what she saw. For all these years she has been living in fear that anything she says or does may cause them to distrust her so one step out of line would see her killed.

          She finally found the courage to speak up after many years but when the threats were renewed yesterday it was like she was back on that yacht covered in her own vomit and pleading for her life again.

          Characterising her very real terror as her casually not wanting to answer difficult questions is wrong.

          • Greg says:

            I agree Lola. VASS fears for her life. Which proves to a point, that what she has said, might just have some truth about it. And also, that the names of the others on the yacht have been suppressed adds to the fact that her story has merit. However the Defense Council see it, VASS’ evidence must carry some weight, as I see it.

        • Andy says:

          No doubt youd breeze through it with no emotion fiona.
          Its not agitated. Its terrified. Scared for the next day after the no supression glitch.
          If she had no emotion shed be looked upon as a cold heartless bitch n with emotion its the drug addled story.
          Maybe its because on a daily basis her friends dont see her as the girl off the boat and its never talked about. Then this brings it all up in a second.

      • Geraldine Allan says:

        🙏 thx Lola. I’m aware of your experiences, thus only someone who has walked in your shoes can reliably comment. You are indeed brave.

        To have witnessed Meaghan Vass’s torture (and it was torture) at the hands of DPP Coates today, was excruciatingly stressful for those attending. One cannot even feel a glimpse of what Meaghan was enduring.

        Why it was allowed to continue as long as it did is at best questionable, at worst appealable.

      • Elaine Goodyer says:

        Thank you Lola..I agree with you. Anyone who is condemning Meghan have absolutely no understanding of the real world out and what goes on outside their own safe place. She would have a very real fear for her safety during all these years. She was a 15 yr. old kid at the time..using drugs , involved with drug users and living in a world most people are’nt even aware of so could’nt possibly understand her fear. The system that we should all be able to trust has failed her right from the very start, and again by breaking their word that the names she gave them would not be made public. Anyone with any brains knows what that could mean for her..She has reason to be scared..so just back off with your nasty cruel comments and try and have some compassion and understanding.

  14. owen allen says:

    I tend to agree. Her levels of anxiety could have been so high she might have agreed to anything.

  15. Lola Moth says:

    I have only read of Ms Vass being distressed but nowhere have I read that she recanted or backtracked on her evidence. Did she recant?

    The false reassurances to Ms Vass that the names would be suppressed seems like a deliberate action to me. How better to compromise the proceedings than to frighten the key witness into silence. It’s a disgrace.

    • andrew says:

      Meaghan Vass did not recant as such but in her agitated state she simply accepted everything put to her by the DPP in cross examination, including that which contradicted her evidence in chief.
      She was desperate to get it over with and get out of there…as she kept saying.

      • Robert says:

        (This comment is hard to decipher. Resubmit more clearly if you wish.)

        • Robert says:

          I thought my initial comment was fairly straight forward.

          You mention above that Meaghan Vass didn’t recant her original statement as such, she simply agreed to what the DPP was putting to her. That isn’t plausible given the circumstances of what’s unfolded.

          The appeal team is asking for her testimony to be removed. Essentially they’re asking the judges NOT to believe their own witness. That means Miss Vass has at least recanted her version of events but more likely, she’s said something that severely damages the appeal case.

          It’s a big move for the appeal lawyer to side with the DPP and ask the court not to believe his own witness.

          • andrew says:

            Your comment mischaracterises the situation. It was said that the witness would be regarded to have given unreliable testimony. The appeal team did not ask for her testimony to be removed.
            Robert Richter QC: “We are in a situation in which we concede that the evidence of Vass cannot support the notion of fresh and compelling evidence leading to a miscarriage of justice,” he said.

            “There is not much point in any of it and we don’t want to waste the court’s time.”

          • Robert says:

            I don’t believe it was mischaracterising at all, as the quoted statement you’ve just posted proves that. Richter is asking for her testimony to be abandoned. That being the case, there’s little possibility other than she has, in fact, recanted her story and said things that damage the appeal case. Being anxious and playing along with the DPP so she could leave early doesn’t account for why Richter would ask for what he’s asking. He’s asked the judges to not believe his material witness and to remove the witness evidence from the appeal.

            I’d love to know what she’s actually said for this situation to arise but it’s probably suppressed.

    • Helen says:

      Absolutely .They are calling Ms Vass Unreliable . To print the names given by Vass when they said they wouldn’t is dispicable. No wonder this witness is so
      fragile . She is obviously in fear for her own safety.Seems the DPP is up to its
      old tricks in this appeal too. Who can this poor young woman trust.She has said
      what she witnessed as a 15 year old kid which would have been horrendous plus having to live with that event all these years under the fear of opening her mouth. For goodness sake just when she trusts to tell who the person or persons
      were who committed the crime and she is again put in a vulnerable position.
      Makes you wonder if the system wants to get the real
      Murderer or if they are just trying to save face from making a Huge mistake in the past .

  16. Keith says:

    So many questions! Why was Vass under the impression the names of her accomplices were going to be suppressed? Who gave her that impression? Was it the defence council? Was it the court? If the names have now been suppressed, why did decide to do so? Anyone with half an interest in the case has known this info for years.
    What amuses me is that if Sue is exonerated, the police will need to pursue the named culprits and have to use all the evidence dredged up by McLaren, Ash and others to get a conviction. All the stuff they are denying now!
    Let’s hope Vass’s recant hasn’t killed the case. Surely the judges can see that the only explanation that fits with the facts is the one Vass recanted.

    • Andrea says:

      Firstly stuart wright the lawyer for meaghan was the one who said he can 100% guarantee that the names or àny info from the affadavit etc would be suppressed. Then he didnt do it and said that hed arranged it for day two. Well but late for that. Then we were ten mins late as car had issues yet called him and he still told megs hed put a warrant out for he arrest if she didnt show. We were already in a taxi.

      • Andrea says:

        Also yes the info was already in circulation re who did it but not to the whole world

      • Jessica says:

        Andrea, it sounds like you know Meaghan closely. If you see this, please give her my well wishes and I sincerely hope that she can find peace in her life and come out of this stronger.

        • Andy says:

          I will indeed. I was with her from start to finish. The unsuitable support haha. So i sat right outside the door the whole time.
          Mind you they were told about it a month earlier……
          Besides all this she is just megzy.
          Shes funny
          Shes kind
          She loves food
          She loves her friends.
          Shes not just the girl off the boat

  17. Jessica says:

    I find it very interesting she was willing to name people under the impression the names would not get out. Now she backtracks her statement after she finds out they were? Obviously frightened of someone out there. This girl should have been offered witness protection from the very beginning.

    • Diane Kemp says:

      Agree Jessica however that would not fit with the continued determination that Sue is guilty. I also am not sure that I would accept any witness protection in Tasmania – would not feel safe to do so.

    • owen allen says:

      I am suffering anxiety today and still right now for Sue and Meaghan, because I fully understand Tasmania sociology and injustice system, am a victim, spy, and whistleblower.
      Stay strong everybody.

    • Jillian says:

      No way. WHO PROTECTED SUSAN??? NOT VASS. She should be the one in prison.

      • owen allen says:

        Well I think it is a crime to ignore a crime.
        But I tell you she is a disposable witness. You are talking about Tasmania. I have collected through personal experience guff most people would not believe. How it all works on a small island with a small population.
        And my experience goes back as far as 1990/91 and nothing has changed. Murder rules the burbs.

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