Meaghan Vass abandoned by the court

Andrew L. Urban.

 Our interview with Meaghan Vass, published yesterday, answers the question why she panicked. It doesn’t explain why the entire court abandoned its duty of care to this witness. 

Sue Neill-Fraser’s is arguably the most famous but least trusted murder conviction in Tasmanian legal history; and her new appeal is now in the hands of the three judges. Surely it is important to have Meaghan Vass on the public record after how the hearing ended – with her testimony excluded from the grounds of appeal. Our interview canvasses why and how that happened. One lawyer let her down, another lawyer (the DPP) brought her down.

But no lawyer in the court – and no judge, either – acknowledged that her testimony on the Tuesday – conflicting with the day before – was being given under duress. Her confidence had been betrayed – by another lawyer, and she felt her safety was at risk.

Justice was not served that day.

Was it the truth that the Crown was seeking? Or to protect the conviction. I think most people know the answer. There in Hobart’s Supreme Court, the altar of justice one would think, the onus of proof was again flipped; Meaghan Vass’ evidence was required to prove Sue Neill-Fraser’s innocence. Just as it had been at trial, where in the absence of any primary evidence, Neill-Fraser was effectively required to prove her innocence. Justice was not served that day, either.

As a key witness – THE key witness – she has been at the centre of the case from the very beginning. She made mistakes, like at first denying she had been on Four Winds at the relevant time, when she was 16. More mistakes followed, like the prosecution treating her DNA at the crime scene ‘as a red herring’.

I have argued that the trial of Sue Neil-Fraser should never have gone ahead under the circumstances, until the DNA evidence at the crime scene had been properly dealt with. Threatening to derail the prosecution’s case against Sue Neill-Fraser, it was left on the shelf…

The focus on Sue Neill-Fraser as the murderer resulted in what is – in the opinion of legal academic Dr Bob Moles of Flinders University, eminent barristers of the stature of the recently deceased Chester Porter QC (March 15, 1926 – March 15, 2021) among others – a grave and fermenting miscarriage of justice.  (Porter famously assisted the Chamberlain Royal Commission and was the author of The Conviction of the Innocent – How the Law Can Let Us Down (Random House, 2007.)

Some of the comments on yesterday’s interview:

Crime author Robin Bowles Death on the Derwent (Scribe)
the hammering of Meaghan (apart from being very unedifying professionally) by the DPP caused her to say she had made her story up for 60 Minutes, just to get out of his clutches. I would be willing to say under oath that Meaghan’s story was told to me about two YEARS before 60 Minutes and I was told by two close friends of hers (at the time). I was also told of the circumstances under which she’d willingly revealed this information. There’s also the hairdresser (forget his name) who gave evidence he saw a girl resembling her coming up from the beach that night with two older men.

There’s also credible information available that she was persuaded to tell the truth believing she could swear an affidavit and she’d only ever have to answer questions on the things in that affidavit, but of course under our adversarial legal system the DPP could attempt to elicit much more VITAL info, such as how tall the men on the boat with her were, how old, eye colour, etc! It’s a wonder he didn’t ask what they had for breakfast!! Why hasnt Sam faced questions under oath? Why has it all been on Meaghan’s vulnerable shoulders??

Alison Heathorn
so why is nothing done about Sam Devine and Stephen Gleeson, they have been named, their names have been published in the paper, yet we see nothing about them being questioned.

Reply
felix says:
They did NOT board Four Winds on Australia Day nor any other day.
Reply
aldo says:
It’s actually not unreasonable to suggest that they were on board the yacht prior to the night Bob Chappell was killed, in the company of Vass who presumably was either intoxicated or drug affected which caused her to vomit on the deck. That being said i do not for a moment believe that they were guilty of Chappell’s murder regardless of what Vass claims…
Reply
Andrew says
You have introduced really important new information here. It is incumbent on you to explain on what evidence you rely to make your statement. Please go ahead: I am listening. Meaghan Vass is listening. The police and the DPP are listening. The courts may be listening (secretly). Those men are certainly listening. The media, local and mainland, are definitely listening. And of course the families of Bob Chappell and Sue Neill-Fraser are all listening. Go ahead …

UPDATE: no reply from Aldo so far

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27 Responses to Meaghan Vass abandoned by the court

  1. owen allen says:

    I fluked finding this years ago and held on to it for future use.
    This applies in Tasmania also, and is abused in Tasmania.

    Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

    Adopted by General Assembly resolution 3452 (XXX) of 9 December 1975
    Article 1

    1. For the purpose of this Declaration, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted by or at the instigation of a public official on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or confession, punishing him for an act he has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating him or other persons.

    The key words in Tasmania are;
    torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, or mental, is intentionally inflicted by or at the instigation of a public official on a person for such purposes as punishing him for an act he is suspected of having committed, or intimidating him or other persons.
    I am sure this has occurred in this case and it certainly did in my case. They were unashamedly blatant about it.

  2. owen allen says:

    After rereading through, back to keep Meaghan off the boat, I am starting to spiral into depression. It only reinforces what I previously stated.

    “And I would say, some commentators are plants to confuse and disable reasonable thought. This is mind control technique associated with psychological warfare.
    It is obvious who these people are. Pathetic.”

    We may as well be living in Europe in 1939 with this Justice Tasmania.

    • Andy says:

      I watched robert richter on 60mins speak so fluently and with passion over the injustice. In court he was a scared lil mouse who looked either to scared to say anything or too old to do the job.
      He didnt object or help meg, not once

  3. felixg1968co@gmail.com says:

    I won’t comment on the evidence against or for Sue’s innocence/guilt but will offer a useful comment on whether or not the evidence supports the defence claim that Meaghan boarded Four Winds on the Australia Day afternoon when there was a grey dinghy at portside of Four Winds, witnessed the attack on Bob and then vomited on the deck in front of the starboard boarding gate (known as location 11 in the evidence log).

    There are by now at least 5 factors going against the argument that Meaghan Vass boarded Four Winds on the Australia Day, witnessed what happened and vomited on the deck at location 11:

    1. The very small amount of blood at the crime scene doesn’t match her statement of seeing “a lot of blood”.

    2. She said she was on the deck but the fight was below. On that basis, she wouldn’t have seen any blood from above.

    3. The timing doesn’t match (the grey dinghy was at portside of Four Winds at the time that Meaghan left Mara House at 3:50 pm).

    4. The quality of DNA (according to Mr Jones’ 2014 report, and his testimony in October 2017) was good quality DNA – none of the alleles dropped out.  As such, the DNA couldn’t have been deposited 3 full days (or more) before it was sampled.

    5. Photo of the walkway on 27th at Constitution Dock doesn’t show a visible stain at location 11 (which one would expect had there been a vomit from the day/night before),

  4. Andy says:

    For so called really smart people the judges i hope can see this for what it is. A sham, a set up to fail from the start.
    Megs lawyer knew what he was doing from the minute the appeal started. Keeping an eye on us like we were criminals. Werent allowed to leave for lunch had to ask to use the loo…. ridiculous.
    Then everything that happened seemed like it was already scripted.
    If the powers that be can’t see through this circus i’ll give up all faith in this loopy barbaric system we are part of.
    I dont know sue. I feel like i should or do already. Ive invested soooo many years in this and im meaghans friend and will continue to be but the truth needs to be told. As at the moment its not even looking like a true story. Only true story i know is that tas police are crooked as a dogs hind leg…. not all but the ones involved in this are tainted with corruption so badly it reeks.

  5. owen allen says:

    1991 I became a victim in Tasmania.
    Whistleblowers Tasmania had many victims of local injustice.
    I will do my best.

  6. owen allen says:

    I have been committed. To work the last few nights, so am catching up.
    And I would say, some commentators are plants to confuse and disable reasonable thought. This is mind control technique associated with psychological warfare.
    It is obvious who these people are. Pathetic.

  7. aldo says:

    I want to make one thing clear ie. i have zero bias and have assessed what i’ve read in a dispassionate manner which is essential for clarity. As i’ve already stated it is entirely believable that Vass was on board the Four Winds at some point given that she vomited on deck with the DNA evidence identifying her. The bone of contention is as to when precisely she vomited on deck. SNF gave evidence that she believed that the Four Winds had been boarded on two to three occasions prior to the 26th January and that is quite plausible. It is accepted that Vass along with Devine and Gleeson had boarded a number of vessels during that time looking for money or possessions they could sell to fund their alcohol/drug habit.

    Let’s be mindful of the incontrovertible fact that Vass is an unreliable witness who has flipped and flopped on numerous occasions stating one minute that her accomplices killed Chappell and the next claiming that she was pressured to make that assertion and that it didn’t happen. It is obvious that most of you here are emotionally invested in this case and therein lies the problem.

    I could go on ad infinitum re the reasonably strong evidence that most here have totally dismissed which is precisely why SNF was charged and subsequently found guilty but that would be pointless given all of you have totally neglected to consider her motive as to why she wanted Chappell dead. C’est la vie….

    • andrew says:

      You don’t need to go an ad infinitum with that ‘reasonably strong evidence etc etc…’ Just a couple of examples of evidence that you regard as ‘reasonably strong’ would be of great interest to me and many of our readers, and would help support (or not) your argument. I’ve asked you before (and asked again when you said you had replied but I had not seen it)… In speculating about her potential motive you align with prosecutor Mr Tim Ellis SC, speculator-in-chief. He didn’t need to prove motive. Motive is not evidence.

      • Aldo says:

        I’m not going to waste my time highlighting piecemeal evidence which you will give no credibility to particularly given that the High Court has clearly stated that it’s the sum total of the all the evidence that one needs to weigh up when determining whether one is guilty beyond reasonable doubt or not. It is clear that SNF and Vass are compulsive liars(totally unsurprising) and if you cannot see that then i can’t help you :)

        • andrew says:

          Thought as much. You’ve wasted too much of OUR time. Good bye Aldo.

        • Stephen Berry says:

          Hi Aldo.
          So, in your words, “beyond reasonable doubt”! OK Aldo, put the substance of your evidence that is “beyond reasonable doubt”. Floor is yours mate?

        • Anďy says:

          Well why waste my time saying meaghan is unreliable aldo, when everything thats happened has been made so she looks that way.
          She is fully lucid not drug addled. Yet scared and not protected by her lawyer who shouldve had her best interests at heart

    • Michael says:

      I agree with the comments of Aldo

  8. Rosemary says:

    A key piece of what Meaghan said during the vigorous bombardment of questioning by the dpp re details of their eyes, height, ages, clothing etc., designed to confuse of course, was the one statement that she was able to utter, and that actually explains a lot. Basically that they all hung out together, were all associates. Seems to have been ignored.
    Most people would be unable to recall details under such duress.

  9. David Smith says:

    Tasmania is going for an Election. Canvass which Politicians are going to release Sue Neill-Fraser.

  10. So here we go again.
    I have always believed and said it on these sites that Megan’s account is correct. It fits. So I will tell it as the evidence describes it.
    Three people, Megan, Sam Devine and Stephen Gleeson went abord the Four winds late in the afternoon of Australia day for whatever reason, but we have a good idea why! Bob had the hatches shut up as it was windy and rough water. Bob was possibly asleep when he heard voices and footsteps on deck. He went up to the wheel house hatch and opened it to find either Devine or Gleeson. One of them, surprised, hit Bob who fell and a fight took place as Megan testified.
    Bob was either dead at that stage or died soon after. So what to do in the heads of Devine and Gleeson? A phone call was made and the other dingy arrived. This is the one with the storm sheet over the front. Bob was taken away in that dingy by A an other and I suspect is berried on that persons land. I do have one person in that frame! The Hose was cut to sink the boat but no water came out so the sea cock was opened. The e-perb and fire extinguisher went along with Megan, Devine and Gleeson back where they were seen coming ashore. That will turn out to be the place were the e-perp was found later.
    The life jacket found ashore was put there by Megan, Devine or Gleeson as it is absured to think Sue would leave it there. She would have taken it off and taken it home to clean it and put it in the cupboard as it is hers and perfectly reasonable she would have it at home.
    So guys, that’s my take. A robbery gone wrong? The missing fire extinguisher! Its possible it did have drugs in it, look at the statements from those who helped Sue with delivery when it left Queensland to be dropped off in Brisbane or Coffs Harbour? And what about the fuel. We in Queensland know all about the fungus that grows in fuel tanks? But that should have been taken care of at the boat yard, its stupid to think it wasn’t done correctly.
    The road is still long and we have some way to go, but I know justice will prevail over those who have sort to pervert its correct application.

  11. Lola Moth says:

    I agree that Meaghan Vass made mistakes, but I don’t feel that her “at first denying she had been on Four Winds at the relevant time, when she was 16” was really one of them. It was her sense of self preservation that made her act in that way and it was natural and right at that time for her to keep quiet. Looking at how the case has now turned out it would have been better for her to have spoken up from the beginning, but at the time she did the right thing for herself under extremely distressing circumstances.

    Meaghan could not have known that the police would focus on Sue instead of following the evidence they had in front of them. She probably figured the guilty parties would eventually be caught and she may soon be implicated as an accessory to murder, but she bought herself safety and some time to think by not coming forward at the beginning. Never in a million years would Meaghan have believed Sue would be convicted and jailed for a murder she didn’t commit.

    Meaghan certainly made mistakes throughout this entire legal debacle, but I can’t class her initial denials to ever having been on the yacht as a mistake. A tragic choice for Sue and a blow for justice maybe, but keeping her sixteen year old self safe from murderous men was not a mistake.

    • Geraldine Allan says:

      Lola, you write with wisdom. I suspect you have an understanding and perspective that most of us lack. Walk a mile in my shoes stuff.

    • Peter Leslie Martin says:

      Thanks for putting it so succinctly Lola. That is precisely how most 16 year olds would react.

    • Tom Cairns says:

      Yes indeed Lola, that is one piece of writing that expresses the best yet the awful situation that Meaghan is in and has been since the start. She is tormented by guilt over the imprisonment of Susan together with fears of reprisal if she dares to tell the truth. And this is all to be overcome by a young girl of the streets with no real friends and who is totally vulnerable, so easy to deem “unreliable”.
      The Tasmanian authorities must be truly proud of themselves. We who pride ourselves on our elitist lifestyle and our Anzac traditions, our “sporting” record and our almost gloating celebration of being Australian (just turn on the telly) have this shameful blot on our national character, not just the inhuman treatment of Susan Neill-Fraser, but now of Meaghan Vass, to compound our incompetence.
      “Unreliable?” They should know better than anyone.

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