Andrew L. Urban.
In an escalation of damning revelations (fifth batch), the spotlight shifts from the police investigation to then prosecutor, DPP Tim Ellis SC, and the ODPP, as lawyers continue to unpack the miscarriage of justice in the Sue Neill-Fraser murder conviction.
At Sue Neill-Fraser’s murder trial in 2010 the prosecutor, then Tasmanian DPP Tim Ellis SC, showed the jury a photo of a luminol-stained dinghy – glowing blue in numerous areas. Ellis had been telling the jury (without a weapon, body or witnesses to the crime) how Neill-Fraser had killed Bob Chappell, probably with a wrench, hauled his body up on deck and then loaded it into the dinghy … all that blue! All that blood! But near the end of the trial, Ellis said he didn’t ever believe there was blood in the dinghy, as he told the judge and defence counsel in the absence of the jury. Inexplicably, the judge, now Chief Justice Alan Blow, didn’t pass that on, leaving the jury to see red in the blue of the luminol.
Ellis later claimed that he hadn’t read the major Forensic Biology Report on the case, leaving the task to his junior, Jack Shapiro, according to a letter to the Legal Profession Board of Tasmania in November 2017. In that letter “he also stated, in effect, that he did not understand the nature of luminol testing and the need for biological confirmatory testing, according to the latest (fifth) batch of documents sent to Attorney-General Elise Archer by Neill-Fraser’s former lawyer Barbara Etter APM and Canberra based barrister Hugh Selby. They urge the A-G to act, to seek to reopen the appeal, even as the last appeal against the conviction is being considered by the three judges of the Criminal Court of Appeal.
Trial transcript T639:
“As we go through it and could you come perhaps to photograph 21, and what does that show?……This is a photograph that was taken to show the areas that glowed with the luminol screening test for blood.” (emphasis added)
Which is it?
* Did Ellis show the prejudicial photo to the 2010 jury in ignorance of luminol’s proper and accepted use as he claimed in 2017? (The DPP didn’t know? He was admitted as a barrister in 1979, appointed DPP in 1999.)
* Ellis was merely speculating how the crime may have been committed, which is why he “never believed” there was blood in the dinghy, as he told the judge … ?
* Ellis didn’t believe there was blood in the dinghy, so why did he show the misleading photo to the jury?
In his covering letter with the latest documents, Hugh Selby reminds the Attorney-General that “These last twelve days I have put before you material that addresses poor police investigation, police failure to disclose, ODPP failure to disclose, and DPP misstatement of evidence at the March 2021 appeal … and that these shortcomings, both factual and procedural, support an acquittal for Sue Neill-Fraser.
“There is no reliable evidence that Sue Neill-Fraser went back to the Four Winds in its dinghy late on Australia Day afternoon. There is both DNA evidence and the multiple sightings of another dinghy that another person or persons did go to the yacht at that time. Ms Meaghan Vass has twice made statements that she was on the yacht. She has said that Sue Neill-Fraser was not there.
“There is no evidence that Sue Neill-Fraser harmed Bob Chappell or that she took away his body.”
* Barbara Etter APM and Canberra-based barrister Hugh Selby are not part of Sue Neill-Fraser’s current legal team.