Tas. Legislative Council hears case to reopen Sue Neill-Fraser appeal

Andrew L. Urban

In a significant development in the afternoon of August 31, 2021, in the Sue Neill-Fraser case, Tasmanian Legislative Council member the Hon. Michael Gaffney MLC (Ind), Member for Mersey, devoted his first adjournment speech in 13 years to her case, “first to bring us together to right a wrong and secondly to have the Attorney-General join us in that quest,” tabling the Etter/Selby documents, giving them Parliamentary privilege.

The Mercury immediately (6.39pm) ran a story on the development by crime reporter Amber Wilson in its digital edition, and made it the lead story on page 3 of the print edition of September 1. The Australian also ran a story by Matthew Denholm on its page 3, reporting that “Former Tasmanian premier Lara Giddings is calling for the reopening of the appeal by convicted murderer Sue Neill-Fraser, alleging “new” information demonstrates a miscarriage of justice.” but due to deadline limitations, made no mention of Gaffney’s speech in the Legislative Council. On the reopening of the appeal, Denholm reported that “Ms Archer rejected the idea, saying: “It is a matter for Ms Neill-Fraser and her lawyers.” Denholm reported that “Neill-Fraser’s legal team has also declined to seek a reopening of the appeal case.” Robert Richter QC says “He didn’t speak to me and I did not decline…”

Elise Archer MP, Tasmanian Attorney-General

In the wake of Gaffney’s speech, former Tasmanian Premier and Attorney-General Lara Giddings has contradicted present Attorney-General Elise Archer’s claim that she is constrained by the separation of powers. In a joint statement with Barbara Etter APM, issued last night (August 31, 2021), Giddings stated that “there was no issue with the separation of powers as the Attorney-General has the necessary powers under the common law,” in relation to reopening Sue Neill-Fraser’s appeal, currently being considered by the appeal judges.

“There is nothing in the Tasmanian DPP Act that extinguishes this right,” Giddings stated, echoing the legal view of barrister Hugh Selby, co-author of the documents that provide the necessary evidence that the appeal court should be able to review as part of its deliberations. “The issues raised in our papers are not currently before the court and therefore there is no issue in discussing these matters in the public arena and that of the Parliament.

“The only matter being considered by the court relates to the DNA evidence of Meaghan Vass and the associated legal considerations, which these papers do not address.”

Etter said that she had forensically studied all the evidence she could access in relation to the Sue Neill-Fraser case over the past 9 years.

The exposure in the Legislative Assembly adds considerably to the pressure on Attorney-General Elise Archer to seek leave to reopen the appeal, with a former Premier & Attorney-General, a mainland barrister and a credentialed lawyer (and former Integrity Commissioner) all contradicting her legal opinion. The weight of new exculpatory evidence is undeniable – and Gaffney summarised it for the 15 Members. Regular readers will have seen our extensive reports on the Etter/Selby papers, published between August 2 and 16. Gaffney also asked the Council to be orally briefed by Giddings and Etter.

“After reading the material received from Lara Giddings, Barbara Etter and Hugh Selby – all of whom I respect – I felt, (perhaps intuitively), that something wasn’t right,” comments Gaffney. “All MLCs were asked to do whatever they could to keep SNF (and her supporters’) dreams alive. One of the things I could do was to present an adjournment speech to assist in keeping the SNF case alive.”

The Hon. Michael Gaffney MLC

View speech – open link then select ‘Video’ and then ‘Adjournment’

Extract from Gaffney’s speech:

None of us can ignore these papers establish a miscarriage of justice, now that we are aware of the following issues:

1.  An inadequate investigation and tunnel vision by police, which led to obvious lines of inquiry being ignored or barely followed up.

2. Police failure to provide to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) the full disclosure of all relevant information.

3.  Failures within the ODPP to ensure that their Director and the Defence received all the material supplied by the police.

4.  False evidence being put before the jury.

5. A ‘conflict of interest’ within the ODPP so that personal interests have interfered with the proper conduct of the case.

6. An acquiescence in delay that entailed that Ms Neill-Fraser’s application for leave to appeal took over three years.

7.  Further delays so that the prisoner then waited almost another two years to have her appeal heard.

8.  Despite several sound appeal grounds being available, the March appeal was run on one issue only, for which the only witness – a young woman – was not adequately prepared, managed or supported. During cross-examination her evidence was ‘abandoned’ by those who had intended to rely upon it.

9.  The Appeal court being misled in final submissions by an incorrect answer from the DPP about the significance of the sighting of another dinghy, a grey dinghy, alongside the yacht at a critical time.

Mr President, central to the case are the sworn admissions in 2019 of that young woman that she was on the yacht that Australia Day with named males and that Bob Chappell was assaulted. She also stated that Ms Neill-Fraser was not there.

Supporting her admission that she vomited while on the deck of the yacht was a large DNA sample on the deck which was matched to her in March 2010, 7 months after Ms Neill-Fraser’s arrest. At trial this DNA was said by the prosecution to be “secondary transfer” and a “red herring” and not left there by the young woman. However, it’s clear that she left it. It’s also clear that in 2010 one of our local forensic scientists thought so too.

Tragically and inexplicably, the young woman was never offered immunity from prosecution – that is quite extraordinary as it must have hampered any proper inquiries about those males she named.

So far attempts to get the Attorney-General, The Hon Elise Archer to involve herself in this case have been rebuffed with the reasons that this is before the courts and that such involvement would offend ‘separation of powers’.

Mr President, it is true we cannot speak of matters before the court, and I am being careful not to. But we can speak of matters not before the court, which are the issues I highlight tonight and that are so well documented in the Etter/Selby papers.

Issues that were not presented at this year’s Appeal in early March include:

1. Neither the Prosecutor nor the Defence knew that “key” evidence allegedly showing the yacht’s dinghy, a white with blue trim Zodiac (and hence Sue Neill-Fraser), to be at the yacht at 5 pm was false. However, a police officer and a DPP officer, both at the trial, knew otherwise. The supposed presence of that dinghy supported the prosecution case; its absence supported the Defence.

2.  Once that false evidence is removed, the evidence of other witnesses who saw another dinghy at the yacht corroborates the young woman’s sworn admission to having been on the yacht with named males.

3.  A Forensic officer misled the court as to the presence of blood in the Four Winds dinghy (and countenanced a highly misleading photograph) when that officer knew that there was no evidence of blood at all.  The Prosecutor admitted in 2017 that he was ignorant of these falsities and that he did not understand the basic scientific principles. The Defence had the necessary laboratory reports but failed to understand them. “Blood in the dinghy” supported the prosecution theory that Neill-Fraser disposed of the body in the river using that dinghy. No blood, no support for the body disposal theory.

4.  The prosecution alleged that the accused had used the winches and ropes on the yacht to get the body from below so that she could place it into the dinghy. But an expert report explains how the relevant winch could not function as required to substantiate this theory.

5.  A red jacket was found on shore. The police failed to “bag and tag” it and then lost it for several days, finding it in a police car park. The jury wasn’t told about those problems. Ms Neill-Fraser’s DNA and that of several other unidentified persons was found on the jacket. At the time of testing in early 2009 the young woman’s DNA was not in the database.  There are no public ‘results’ for those unidentified persons’ DNA being tested with advanced DNA technology or checked subsequently against the young woman or those whom she has named. Repeated requests this year that it be checked or any results provided have been refused;

6.  A prosecution lawyer who it seems had an active role regarding both the ‘blood in the dinghy’ and in the ‘lack of disclosure’ at trial to the Prosecutor and Defence about the false sighting of the Four Winds dinghy, then played an active role both in resisting Ms Neill-Fraser’s quest to be allowed a fresh appeal and in the prosecution case presented at the recent appeal. This is a clear conflict of interest between their duty as a prosecutor and a personal interest to prevent their seeming shortcomings at trial being revealed; and,

7. There is now evidence that police chose not to properly investigate the incidence of break-ins to yachts, that they failed to check critical mobile phone records, and that they failed to follow up reports about the young woman and her known associates.

All those with responsibility have failed to act.

They first received written advice about some of these shortcomings in August 2019. They resolutely ignored it. Likewise they have shut their eyes to the latest information.

***

It would be a striking departure from accepted legal practice and a failure of the rule of law to ignore such a volume of factors that stand against the conviction. A reopened appeal would give the justice system a chance to correct what is evidently an egregious miscarriage of justice.

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31 Responses to Tas. Legislative Council hears case to reopen Sue Neill-Fraser appeal

  1. Garry Stannus says:

    Matthew Denholm (The Australian, 31Aug2021) wrote:
    However, Ms Archer has declined to reopen the appeal case, which is awaiting judgment. Neill-Fraser’s legal team has also declined to seek a reopening of the appeal case, which concluded in early March in Tasmania’s Court of Criminal Appeal.

    Andrew Urban (Wrongful Convictions Report, 31Aug2021) wrote:
    Denholm reported that ‘Neill-Fraser’s legal team has also declined to seek a reopening of the appeal case.’ Robert Richter QC says ‘He didn’t speak to me and I did not decline…’

    Okay, fair enough … so Robert Richter tells Andrew Urban that he (Richter) has not spoken to Matthew Denholm and has not declined to seek a reopening of the appeal case.

    But, surely Richter might have – just in passing – told Andrew that he had sought a reopening of the appeal?

    Q1 Has Robert Richter sought a reopening of the appeal?
    A1 …?

    Q2 Is Robert Richter still a part of Neill-Fraser’s legal team?
    A2 …?

    Q3 Has another ‘member’ of Neill-Fraser’s legal team declined to seek a reopening of the appeal?
    A3 …?

    Q4 Has any member of Neill-Fraser’s legal team sought a reopening of the appeal?
    A4 …?

    *Some time ago, Matthew Denholm published an article, reporting apparently incorrectly that Meaghan Vass had told police that her pre-appeal ‘I was on the boat’ affidavit wasn’t true.
    [See: https://www.facebook.com/577231585628691/posts/matthew-denholms-article-today-in-the-australian-lacks-any-sources-since-when-is/2503200909698406/
    and
    Wrongful Convictions Report https://wrongfulconvictionsreport.org/2019/04/15/sue-neill-fraser-case-key-witness-denies-recanting-to-police/?fbclid=IwAR3_alIUGy3DyLE1Eq_eNTBml0Tp10lm8DuLeEr_QZly21iPlrnM8N-Trz8 ]

    **Robert Richter in my view, did not distinguish himself at the March 2021 2nd Appeal hearings. He appeared to fail to defend his witness (Vass) and without explanation abandoned a host of other fresh evidence which might have been used in support of the 2nd Appeal. In the end he told the court:
    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 the miscarriage of justice. ”. I was reminded of Pontius Pilate handing over Jesus to the mob … ‘I wash my hands of it’ … It seemed like Richter was washing his hands of Coates’ destruction by XNN of Vass. It seemed like he did not defend the witness, that he oversaw a situation where Vass, having named the killer, had her evidence front-page published in The Mercury. I had the impression that Richter had never actually met/spoken to/been briefed by Meaghan Vass regarding what her evidence would be. In my view, if he did not know that she needed protection, needed to have her evidence suppressed from publication and so on then, I mean, it was Richter himself who spoke against Meaghan Vass being allowed to have Andy Brown present with her as a support person, while giving evidence.

    In my view, Robert Richter has a lot of explaining to do.

    • Garry Stannus says:

      By the way, I’m not challenging Andrew’s reporting. And my questions are not directed to him. They are simply questions/statements which we all have wondered about. In fact, it’s pretty clear that Andrew has done what good journalists do: he’s gone and asked Richter about it.
      We all would like to know whether the SN-F legal team has stepped in or will step in, given that Elise Archer seems to be trying to double-down, trying to do nothing and wait for the storm to subside.

      Meanwhile it’s 6 months to the day since the CCA retired to consider and in all, 4400 days since her arrest and wrongful imprisonment..

      Meanwhile Sue lives a prison life, convicted for a crime that nearly all who have closely informed as to the case … do not believe she should have been convicted. In fact, we who have accessed, digested, filed and organised as much material as comes to us, who have been present from those first days, who have attended the trial, the appeals, the hearings, the other shallow ‘pervert justice’ hearings … in Hobart, in Launceston and even in Burnie … we know how poor the cases have been which have been put up against Sue, against Jeff, against Karen and against Stephen Gleeson.

      This last person – a prisoner at the time (for an unrelated offence) told a court that he would change his plea from ‘not guilty’ to ‘guilty’ in the informed expectation that that would help him with his parole application for that other offence. [It’s there in the court records … I’ll fish it out for any ‘bona fide’ person who contacts me at garrystannus@hotmail.com]

      In considering Gleeson’s ultimate ‘guilty’ plea and his reason for making it, we are reminded of Phillip Triffett’s legal position when he first phoned Dtv Sen Constable Mikulski, told his fabricated story (which is contradicted/rejected in statements and evidence that didn’t get to court … by Bob Martyn, Sarah Bowles and Tammy Hanson.

      Triffett asked whether his [phoney] allegations against Sue would help with [unrelated] charges which he was facing. It seems that they did: His ‘bluey’ was processed on the day that he rang (28Jan2009) and there it sat until just a few weeks before Sue’s trial in the September of the following year, 2010. It came to court, where Triffett then pleaded guilty to possession of various items of stolen property, as well as possession of over 1000 rounds of ammunition, hidden in a tank.

      Guess what? He was discharged without a conviction. Come on people … join the dots. Two weeks later, the trial starts and he gives his fabricated story, which was in the opinion of some legal people … inadmissible. His partner is excused from giving evidence on medical grounds and Sue gets ‘stitched up’. [Go and check out a lengthy collection of known info, arranged chronologically at http://neill-fraser-support-group.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Trial-Chronology.pdf – word search Triffett and Hanson].

      A reasonable person might well turn to his wife or might well turn to her husband and remark that ‘they are in it up to their necks’. I guess that such a reasonable person would be including in such remarks … certain members of the government, the police and of the judiciary/legal profession.

      STOP-PRESS:
      Tasmanian Police Commissioner Darren Hine has today released a statement (Fri3Sept2021) stating:

      “Hobart man Bob Chappell was murdered in 2009 by his then partner Susan Neill-Fraser on board their yacht moored in the Derwent River — those are the facts.’’

      “Whatever selective arguments are made by her support group or sensationalist tabloid-style national media programs, the fact remains that based on the evidence Neill-Fraser was convicted by a jury of murdering Mr Chappell.’’

      “Neill-Fraser’s second appeal is currently being considered by the Court and I would like to make it very clear that I fully support the legal process and remain absolutely confident in the integrity, thoroughness and professionalism of the original and subsequent Tasmania Police investigation teams, including the forensics experts, and the prosecution case by the office of the [Director of Public Prosecutions].”

      • andrew says:

        Let’s just say the Police Commissioner’s statement will not age well…

      • Garry Stannus says:

        Yes, Hine’s statement adds nothing to the statement which he made just over 7 years ago:
        [https://www.police.tas.gov.au/news-events/media-releases/tasmania-police-statement-susan-neill-fraser-case/]

        Thursday, 21 August 2014 – 9:43 am.
        The Supreme Court convicted Susan Neill-Fraser of the murder of Bob Chappell in 2010 and the conviction was subject to an unsuccessful appeal in 2012.

        An investigation by the Coroner, which reviewed all the available evidence, supported the findings of the criminal proceedings.

        Tasmania Police has no concerns about the soundness of the Supreme Court judgement in this matter, the investigation, or the evidence tendered to the court.

        We understand the position of Susan Neill-Fraser’s family in the defence of their mother during what is a difficult time for them.

        However, we are fully supportive of the investigation, the investigation team and the prosecution of the case by the office of the DPP.

        Darren Hine
        Commissioner of Police

  2. Sue Marsh says:

    Who can honestly take 6 months to decide- university brains?
    It does make me wonder!!! “Hands are tied”- why?? There are so many questions relating to this case. Sue must’ve been attending the gym 5 hours a day to be able to physically complete this so called “murder”.
    Total fabrication I suggest and the so called friend being a witness- are they kidding.
    The investigators all need to go to “The Ron Iddles” school.
    As the saying goes- just get on with it!

  3. owen allen says:

    What are you laying on me Andrew.
    If it is up to us; man you are freaking me out.
    The Governor General should have the power to do it.
    The Prime Minister should have the power to do it.
    Tasmania is rogue.
    Tasmanians are Australian Citizens protected
    by the Feds.
    If nobody else does or can, is the responsibility now on me.
    I have to meditate and pray.
    But I can hardly cope as it is. I just bought another Harley Davidson. I am a sick man. I have obsessive compulsive disorder. I need aeroplanes. An L39.
    Stay strong, I will back you up and do what I can.

    • andrew says:

      It’s true Owen…the people (voters) who raise their voices, the media which can amplify them…that’s the only power that can move the Club Tas members

      • owen allen says:

        Andrew ,from what I have witnessed on tv over the years, they deny deny deny and sneer.
        As one bloke said in participating in denial of truth. This is Tasmania.
        I had 2 written statements against me that I saw. Absolute lie.
        See Tasmania is unlike any other Australian State. It is a cage, people become desensitised. The other end of the island is too far away. A blow in will get screwed by his local mate and his mates.
        Case in point ex CASA in business screwed by his local partner who became Premier of Tasmania. No wonder I am screwed up.
        But this takes the cake. I have said before.
        When the detective refuted the truth several times and I was threatened with arrest by the detective sargent; I could not believe it. So right or wrong I told them to FUCK OFF.
        I was arrested in due course but it is history. Good history.
        They are corrupt cops.

  4. owen allen says:

    Andrew, I am the worm. I went inside the political and legal system.
    I have the guff. I stood at every front. And paid the price.
    We are talking about, yes, the hard core. But the core is rotten, from the inside out.
    It will collapse. We can do it. You guys are doing an amazing job, we don’t give up,
    It will happen.
    What do I have to do. I am frightened. I have been frightened all my life. I am not a coward. I suffer anxiety. Psychological Warfare is to deliver stress, anxiety, depression.
    Yes Tasmania have mastered that; in the village, protected by the police, local council, state government,.
    I have been told by a flying instructor, that I have suicidal tendancies because I was training to be a an agricultural pilot, a cropduster pilot.
    I would like industry participants to comment on that.
    As I recognised ag flying can be dangerous, I took early training in aerobatics to learn all aspects of flight and was trained, fortunately by RAAF Wing Commanders. They probably saved my life so far.
    So I will meditate and pray for guidance on what I should do next to contribute to the Freedom of Sue Neill-Fraser and Freedom of Tasmania; Federal Royal Commission Tasmania.

  5. John Rigarlsford says:

    Is there a way that the Attorney General can be challenged, surely there is a HIGHER authority that has the power to question/over rule the Attorney General on a matter such as this.??

    • andrew says:

      Only ‘we, the people’

      • owen allen says:

        What are you laying on me Andrew.
        If it is up to us; man you are freaking me out.
        The Governor General should have the power to do it.
        The Prime Minister should have the power to do it.
        Tasmania is rogue.
        Tasmanians are Australian Citizens protected
        by the Feds.
        If nobody else does or can, is the responsibility now on me.
        I have to meditate and pray.
        But I can hardly cope as it is. I just bought another Harley Davidson. I am a sick man. I have obsessive compulsive disorder. I need aeroplanes. An L39.
        Stay strong, I will back you up and do what I can.

  6. marie says:

    this is the biggest scandal and arse covering exercise by crooked cops. that poor innocent woman rotting in jail.

  7. Williambtm says:

    In keeping with the essence and the substantiation held in the comments of others, I have found it be an honorable act to repeat portions of the comment by LB.
    “Past and present Premiers, Attorney Generals, Police, DPPs must surely come out of hiding now and do the right thing.”
    “All Tasmanians need to be properly informed – the rest of the country and indeed the world is watching and waiting.”
    I will add that the credibility of all the above referred to… must be tested for the incredible bias that remains their constant. Therefore the acquiescence of Tasmania’s current Attorney-General, Ms. Elise Archer… has become paramount in its urgency to deliver the power of pristine justice.

    • SH says:

      What does ‘do the right thing’, mean anymore?
      It seems as if we need to go back to the basics of abc…
      Anyone, anywhere else (apart from in Communist Regimes/Dictatorships perhaps?) would be racing to the prison, getting on bended knees, and imploring SNF for forgiveness…
      Miscarriage of justice? Really!!?
      No!!! This has been a foul embuggerance of truth across cases of SNF, Barbara Etter, Jeff Thompson…and the list goes on.
      Miscarriage of justice?
      It’s akin to bombing a whole maternity ward!!!

      • Geraldine Allan says:

        Depending on the source of ‘do the right thing’, it often subjectively means, do the right thing for us/organisation.

        Whereas, we citizens need to hear it as ‘do what is right’. That is, what is right ethically, morally for the greater good of society.

  8. Poppa Maddo says:

    Please send tbis link to one and all for their enlightenment and edification as to why none of those in power or in “The (IN)Justice System have a friggin clue as to why they think and act as they do.
    It’s all down to Law Skool Brainwashing in how to forego logic and intelligent rationalising in favour of BALDERDASH & LEGALESE.

    http://www.netk.net.au/Whitton/OCLS.pdf
    This publication should be in every school library so that upcoming generations are forewarned ad to how easily they can become a victim of False Allegations backed up by evil minded collusion between the False Accuser’s cohort of equally evil minded friends and relatives.

  9. Peter Martin says:

    It is futile to say that this is “bigger than Ben Hur” but it is looming to be far bigger than the Azaria Chamberlain case. Those three judges who have taken around six months to decide whether to allow a further appeal or not need to get off their velvet cushions pretty quickly for their own benefit. I think that the Club Tas mob will be exposed for what they are and may even need to ultimately pack their toiletries.

  10. Maggie says:

    Justice for Sue release this lady n convict those involved including the corruption of police who willingly submitted false information on a innocent woman.

  11. Brian Johnston says:

    I have written to the AG Elise Archer.
    She said her hands were tied. Before a court etc.
    In a follow up email I drew it to her attention there is a precedence.

    The then prime minister of New Zealand Robert Muldoon intervened in the Arthur Allan Thomas case which resulted in Thomas being released and paid approx. $1,000,000.

    Attorney General Elise Archer has to step up. Has to be involved.
    Her doing nothing adds to the travesty.

  12. Keith says:

    Might I respecfully suggest that all readers of this site contact Elise Archer on her Facebook Messenger site. I have done so on three occasions and on one of those, she forgot herself and actually replied albeit with a legally incorrect statement.
    Bombard her with requests to re-open the appeal and pile on the pressure. Sue deserves nothing less.

  13. John Biggs says:

    Mike Gaffney is to be congratulated for raising this in Parliament so eloquently and persuasively. So far, politicians of both major parties — with the praiseworthy exception of Lara Giddings — don’t want to know about anything what might rock this sinking boat of the Tasmanian justice system. How cowardly. So far, the legal/justice system has failed Sue badly, preferring her to be jailed than to admit they have stuffed up so badly. The last appeal, like all previous ones, seems to have fizzled so it is to be profoundly hoped that Barbara’s, Hugh’s, Lara’s and Mike’s efforts will at last see justice for Sue.

  14. LB says:

    Precisely Andrew. Separation of powers is supposed to prevent any such conflicts. Perhaps the Tasmanian Attorney General can advise how this apparently has not worked in this State?

    • Roscoe says:

      L.B. To some extent your observations have merit.
      Could it also be argued that the “Separation of Powers” permit the extension of such conflicts?

  15. LB says:

    It is unbelievable that this charade has gone on for so long. How will the Tasmanian establishment turn a blind eye now to the all the calls, past and present, for examining a very serious miscarriage of justice? Past and present Premiers, Attorney Generals, Police, DPPs must surely come out of hiding now and do the right thing. Documentaries, books, films and calls for urgent review from eminent lawyers about this case have all been censored or ignored – shame on those in power in Tasmania, past and present. All Tasmanians need to be properly informed – the rest of the country and indeed the world is watching and waiting.

    • andrew says:

      This case brings to mind a pertinent observation: “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are. ” – Benjamin Franklin
      Your outrage butts up against Club Tas – which can stonewall with impunity. Nobody can touch them if the political and legal are in a joint enterprise.

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