Andrew L. Urban.
Four judges, two DPPs and a defence barrister compounded the flawed police investigation into the disappearance of Bob Chappell on Australia Day 2009 (whose body has never been found), for whose murder Sue Neill-Fraser has been convicted. Following two recent legal submissions to Parliament, is it plausible to deny the need for a judicial review of the case? Will anyone ever be held to account? Is Parliament complicit in covering up an egregious miscarriage of justice if it fails to act?
In the wake of two significant submissions to the Tasmanian Parliament delegitimising the Sue Neill-Fraser murder conviction, both grounded in legal principles – one in August 2021 (the Etter/Selby papers) and one this week (Dr Bob Moles) – it is worth noting that many of the cumulative errors and misdeeds have been a cause for concern to the general public who have followed the case. These new submissions elevate that concern to a new level and in great detail, confirming in law what reasonable people have observed.
The police investigation was marred by serial incompetence and even wrongdoing (Etter/Selby papers).
Then DPP Ellis SC speculated without evidence about how Bob Chappell was murdered on the yacht, Four Winds, by Sue Neill-Fraser; he also sought to dismiss the importance of Meaghan Vass’ DNA evidence; he also argued against the recall of Meaghan Vass; Ellis also argued against the granting of leave to appeal to the High Court.
Defence counsel (the late) Gunson SC failed to strenuously object to the DPP’s violation of the rules at trial.
Trail judge Blow (now Chief Justice) allowed the extensive and impermissible speculation to be put to the jury; he also failed to disallow inadmissible forensic evidence (Moles submission); he also disallowed the recall of eye witness Meaghan Vass.
Appeal judges Crawford CJ, Tennant, Porter JJ failed to recognise the validity of any trial errors in the grounds of appeal.
“Ground 1: A miscarriage of justice resulted from the prosecutor’s failure to recall Meaghan Vass, and/or from the learned judge’s refusal to recall Ms Vass or to direct that she be recalled, following disclosure, during the subsequent evidence of Detective Sinnitt, of matters concerning the whereabouts of Ms Vass on 26 January 2009, which matters had not been disclosed to the appellant until after Ms Vass gave evidence.”
“Ground 5: The learned trial judge erred:
a) in failing to instruct the jury that they could not accept the hypotheses, raised by the prosecutor in cross-examination of the appellant and in his final address, to the effect that the appellant had used a wrench to kill Mr Chappell and that she had employed yellow rubber gloves found in the galley of the yacht; and
b) in re-directing, in answer to the jury’s question on the difference between murder without an intention to cause death and manslaughter, by reference to the example of ‘hitting a man on the head with a wrench’ as those hypotheses amounted to speculation because there was no evidence that Mr Chappell was struck by a wrench and the evidence showed that the DNA of Timothy Chappell, not that of the appellant, was found on the gloves.”
Current DPP Coates has ignored new evidence that further proves appealable error.
Sue Neill-Fraser was arrested in August 2009, convicted in October 2010 and sentenced to 26 years (reduced to 23 on appeal), with a non-parole period of 13 years (ends in 2023). Years after the trial, Meaghan Vass has stated – as confirmed by her DNA – that she witnessed a fight on Four Winds that resulted in Chappell’s death.
Is there a detectable sense of urgency in addressing what is quite obviously a wrongful conviction – on several grounds?