Sue Neill-Fraser and the High Court: what went wrong?

Andrew L. Urban.

 Our recent ‘ENQUIRY into Sue Neill-Fraser’s unlawful murder conviction’ stopped short of examining what went wrong when in 2012 she sought leave to appeal to the High Court, after her 2011/12 appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal in Tasmania was (wrongfully, in our opinion) dismissed. Some commentators have made the mistake of claiming that the High Court also dismissed her appeal. Not so; the High Court refused leave to hear it. On what basis?

The High Court is concerned with correcting errors of law which are of public importance. Sitting on the bench that Friday, September 7, 2012, were French CJ and Crennan J. Appearing for Neill-Fraser were Mr M. J. Croucher SC and Ms K. Cuthbertson (neither from the original team at trial). Appearing for the respondent were the original prosecutor T. J. Ellis SC and his junior, Jack Shapiro, for the DPP.

The hearing began at 11.47am; it was all over by 12.35pm – including the three minute adjournment the justices took to arrive at their decision. The following analysis and comment poses questions while recognising that this exercise is purely academic – but worthwhile all the same, to provide further background to what we regard as a wrongful conviction, compounded by ongoing failures of the criminal justice system. (See our ENQUIRY into Sue Neill-Fraser’s unlawful murder conviction’ for details of the case.)

The ground for seeking leave to appeal was that the trial judge did not allow the recall of witness Meaghan Vass, whose DNA had been found on the deck of Four Winds, considered the crime scene, after she had given rather brief evidence – some of which was later found to be false, in particular, her whereabouts on the relevant night (Australia Day 2009).

(The following are selected as relevant extracts from the transcript, in chronological order, but not always directly following each other.)

MR CROUCHER:   Your Honours, the special leave questions in this matter concern the appropriate tests to be applied by a trial judge upon considering an application that a witness be recalled and, in turn, how a Court of Criminal Appeal deals with a refusal thereof…. his Honour made it clear that he would not allow the witness to be recalled in the circumstances.

CRENNAN J:   The purpose of the recall was for cross‑examination on the inconsistencies revealed by the subsequent evidence, evidence subsequent to her giving of evidence; is that right?

MR CROUCHER:   Indeed.  That is what it was about.  In our respectful submission, where the Court of Criminal Appeal went wrong such that it was simply a manifestly wrong decision, putting aside the matters of principle I will come to in a moment, was, firstly – and this is at application book page 218; it is set out in paragraph 93 of the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeal – where his Honour said that, as far as he was concerned, it seemed that what the witness was doing on the night of 26 January seems to be peripheral when her version of events unshakably, says his Honour, was that she was not on the boat or anywhere near anywhere like that and that ultimately, he said, there is no realistic prospect of it making any difference if she were recalled.

The Court of Criminal Appeal effectively agreed in that view at paragraph 100 of the Chief Justice’s reasons.  But the fact of the matter is it was crucial.  The Crown’s case was that she (Sue Neill-Fraser) murdered the deceased.  The applicant’s case was that she was not involved and she gave sworn evidence to that effect.  The Crown case also, as part of that case, was that she had falsely put in her diary that there was some sort of break‑in or unlawful entry to the yacht on 10 January, suggesting, of course, previous unlawful entries and therefore giving rise to the possibility something has gone wrong on this occasion.

That was said to have been a lie told to the police in order to put them off the trail – to lay a false trail, effectively.  So that the fact that DNA of this witness was found on the yacht, on the walkway, was a very important consideration in the first instance because it pointed to a hypothesis consistent with her innocence, namely, that someone else was involved, or at the very least someone else had been involved in an unauthorised entry.

CRENNAN J:   What was the expert evidence about the DNA?

MR CROUCHER:   The expert evidence was that it could have got there by either transference or, of course, by the usual way, the more probable way.  Now, of course, the expert said I cannot assign probabilities to these things, but again having regard to the burden of standard of proof even on that evidence, which it was a bit surprising given the way DNA is usually relied on by the prosecution, there is still the hypothesis consistent with innocence that it was deposited there by the girl’s presence.

In the following, does Crennan J fail to recognise the circumstances and context of the ground of appeal?

CRENNAN J:   The Chief Justice’s point is an important one, though, is it not, in the context of the Chief Justice below taking a view that questions could have been put to Ms Vass but she was asked very, very few questions.  Defence counsel was in a position to put further questions to her.

MR CROUCHER:   But he was not armed with this further information that showed, on another view of things, her true whereabouts, which were different from those which she had told the jury and to the extent that that further cross‑examination would have affected her credit and therefore her denial of ever being on the boat that was very, very powerful information relevant to the applicant’s defence, both the defence proper and to rebutting the Crown’s submission or assertion that she had somehow bodgied up her diary and sought to lay a false trail by putting in an intrusion on 10 January.

In the following, Crennan J raises a matter not before the Court: what is the relevance?

CRENNAN J:   There was a lot of evidence, was there not, about seacocks and pipes being cut and whoever scuttled the boat must have had intimate knowledge of ‑ ‑ ‑

MR CROUCHER:   There was that evidence, but that is not in issue, your Honour. That is just part of the circumstantial case.

In the following, French CJ speculates about potential witness evidence … and then puts the respondent’s (incorrect) position that the defence could have recalled the witness, but Croucher reminds him…

FRENCH CJ:   Just going back to his Honour’s ruling at 54, he is deciding it on the basis which would seem to be informing the exercise of a discretion that what she is likely to be able to contribute if recalled does not merit the making of a direction that she be recalled.

MR CROUCHER:   Well, it is true enough that his Honour does, but we say he is manifestly wrong.

FRENCH CJ:   Well, you say that he is wrong in his characterisation?

MR CROUCHER:   Yes, that is right.

FRENCH CJ:   That is, the significance of her evidence?

MR CROUCHER:   Indeed.  Secondly, he is wrong in that he fails to advert to the point that I made before that, having only just previously in the order of things in considering this application ruled that it was now hearsay what Detective Sinnitt had said, there was no longer any admissible evidence before the jury as to her movements at that time.  As I say, the only way that could get before the jury, realistically speaking, was to ask the witness herself and he was denied that chance.

CRENNAN J:   It is put against you in the respondent’s submissions that you have not proffered any reason why Ms Vass could not have been recalled by the applicant and leave sought to cross‑examine.

MR CROUCHER:   Yes, that is said and that is not a submission which should be accepted, with respect.  The fact of the matter is Apostilides is a case like that itself.  Armstrong in the Victorian Court of Appeal is the same sort of thing.  It is no answer to say that when the Crown had a duty to call someone that the defence could have done it themselves.  That is the first point.  But the second point is that what his Honour the learned trial judge was doing was considering it in the broad.  He was saying this witness is not allowed to be recalled.  That is what he was saying.  It would have been in defiance of his Honour’s ruling for defence counsel to have then sought to have called the witness.

In the following, does Crennan J refer to aspects of some circumstantial evidence as ‘strong’ when they are actually weak? 

CRENNAN J:   There were some strong aspects of the circumstantial case, were there not, not only the evidence about the scuffling, but evidence in relation to a female figure being in a dinghy about the relevant time, evidence about – as I understood it anyway – the applicant having a conversation with another person about somehow dealing with her brother on a very similar basis?

Mr Ellis was then called to respond:

MR ELLIS:   The case against the accused was not a mere circumstantial case.  It was a very rich circumstantial case which involved the sheeting home to her of intimate knowledge of the vessel which was attempted to be sunk after the murder of the deceased.  The removal of the body of the deceased, motive – there was quite a deal of evidence of motive, of the relationship being over and, as was accepted by the trial judge in sentencing, a financial motive.  There were lies, not just mistakes but provable lies, told by the applicant as to her whereabouts.

Sorry for the interruption, but there was no evidence whatever concerning the removal of the body. The other matters Mr Ellis raises are also in contention and do not provide any probative evidence of the guilt of the accused – nor are they germane to this application.

FRENCH CJ:   How does the strength of the case against her meet the particular concern that is raised on the application?

MR ELLIS:   In my submission, whenever it is raised that there is new information there has to be a qualitative assessment carried out as to what effect that will have.  That was done in Mallard; it was done in Fleming.  It is only in the cases where you can say procedurally, like perhaps Apostilides was, there was not a fair trial or a trial according to law that a qualitative assessment is not carried out, although, even in Apostilides it was carried out.  This is all the Court of Criminal Appeal has done and it is all the trial judge did.

The trial judge says what difference will it make to know that this person to whom one swab of DNA can be traced – what difference does it make to know where she was on that evening?  What difference does it make when she is a homeless young person with none of the specialised knowledge exhibited by the murderer of Mr Chappell?  No connection with Mr Chappell; no means to operate the tender that seems to have gone out to the yacht and back again in order either for him to be murdered or his body to be disposed; indeed, nothing else to connect her or make her a remotely possible suspect except for the presence of a swab of DNA, which is, contrary to what my learned friend has tried to say, no more explicable by her being on the yacht at any time than being off it.

 

Meaghan Vass (fb 2019)

Moreover, it is dressing it up to say that her whereabouts is powerful on the night in question when the fact is that she was never at this address, apparently, for five nights and not thereafter.  She is a young person with, one would think, a chaotic lifestyle – homeless since 13 – who is asked to recall more than a year later her whereabouts on a date that has no special import for her, unless she was guilty.  The trial judge has had the advantage of seeing her.  She is called in a Basha inquiry and she was bashed – she was bashed by trial counsel.  It was put to her most unfairly that she ‑ ‑ ‑

FRENCH CJ:   Just a minute.  Let us stay with what is relevant to the special leave question.  We have read all the trial judge’s comments and so forth.

MR ELLIS:   That is relevant because there is also a question of the interests of justice involved in the recall of this young girl.  She showed herself prone to bullying.  She showed herself far too agreeable with propositions that were put, not just in the question of had she said I was not sure when it was put to her but you asserted that you were somewhere else but also it was put to her in a steering way, “You could have said to the police I wasn’t on the boat”.  She said, “Yes”.  “But you didn’t, did you?”  She agreed with that.  But the fact was when the file was produced that she had said that to the police.  She had spoken to the police.  She had denied her whereabouts and yet she agreed that she had not.

Now, that could not have been put had the material been – it could not have been ethically put had the material been disclosed.  So there is a real problem in the interests of justice.  Fleming itself realises or acknowledges – the case of Fleming acknowledges – the question of prejudice to the witness.  Here was a witness it was sought to bring back in order to give her that sort of cross‑examination again, in order to bully her, in order to get her to agree to propositions that she ought not to have agreed to.

In my submission, the trial judge may well have taken that into account – taken into the account the nature and tone of the cross‑examination which had already taken place.  The core evidence was, despite that propensity to be bullied, she was not on the boat.  She had no way of being on the boat.  There was nothing credible suggested as to how she could be on the boat. (Her DNA was evidence that she was on the boat.)

FRENCH CJ:   The question is whether the defence was deprived of the opportunity to elicit evidence which might have been supportive of a hypothesis consistent with the innocence of the accused.

MR ELLIS:   It would only work on the basis in an unfair way.  Through the written submissions of my learned friend it is asserted that the witness had lied to the court about her whereabouts.  There is just no basis to say that.  (ED: except the evidence that police had uncovered) You can see from that the tenor of what would have been in court.  A young girl says, “I’m not sure, I’m homeless and have been since 13, I’m confused”.  “You have lied”.

The question of break‑ins was, in my submission, a furphy.

In my submission, there is no argument that there was an improper failure to disclose such as might trigger some consequence.  There is simply no evidence that on a qualitative assessment of what might have been produced you have anything but my learned friend saying it was powerful, it was powerful.  There is a series of questions posed which, I make the point, are in the main inadmissible questions, but in any event they go in a series that seem to depend on some sort of positive answer.  Maybe one would have been given, maybe not, but it is surely incumbent, in my submission, on the applicant in this Court and in the court below to show that it is more than a mere fanciful possibility that on the question of whether she had told her institutional accommodation where she was going to be, she told them the truth.  That is not powerful evidence, in my submission.  That would not advance any case.  But what it would do was given the spectacle, yet again, of a young girl being bullied by counsel in a serious trial.

Mr Croucher rebutted all that:

MR CROUCHER:   Your Honours, firstly, our learned friend says that where the witness was on that night was not relevant.  Plainly it was relevant both in terms of the fact of where she was and, secondly, insofar as she might be thought to have lied or told untruths about her movements, that was relevant to her credit and therefore in both ways relevant to the applicant’s defence and to the very point my learned friend was talking about a moment ago about the so‑called lies about break‑ins – very important.

Secondly, he said that the DNA being deposited as it was on the boat was no more explicable as to presence than it was elsewhere.  That is not to the point.  The point is the Director’s own witness conceded that it was possible that it was deposited there in the usual way.  That is a reasonable hypothesis, a starting point.  The onus of proof is on the Crown, not on the defence.

Thirdly, another unfairness in all of this is that, extraordinarily, in the re‑examination of Detective Sinnitt by my learned friend, despite the judge having declined to allow the witness, Ms Vass, to be recalled, my learned friend asked whether or not Detective Sinnitt had been told anything about the witness’s movements by her around the relevant time and he said yes and then gave a hearsay answer about her possibly being in Goodwood.  The point of that was it was designed to explain in some sort of “innocent fashion” as to how her DNA might have got there, that is to say, after the murder.  That in and of itself just shows how unfair this trial became because of the failure to recall the witness.

This is a case that really requires a grant of special leave so that the principles concerning a failure to recall a witness in circumstances where there has been a failure to disclose the material until afterwards need to be considered, and how it fits with Apostilides, how it fits with Grey, how it fits with TKWJ and related cases.  What is more, there was a fundamental miscarriage of justice in this case.  This applicant was denied, if you like, procedural fairness in meeting the Crown case because her counsel was not armed with very relevant information, relevant to her defence, until after the witness had gone, and the judge would not allow a recall.

THE DECISION

CRENNAN J:  In our view, this application does not give rise to a question suitable to a grant of special leave as the applicant has not shown that she was denied an opportunity to produce evidence on a point of substance which can be shown to have had a significant possibility of affecting the jury’s verdict.  Accordingly, special leave is refused.

FRENCH CJ:  I agree with that order.

OUR ANALYSIS

(We arrive at this analysis without reference to hindsight.)

Contrary to the decision, with respect:

1 – the applicant was indeed denied an opportunity to produce evidence by being prevented from recalling Vass

and

2 – it was a point of substance which could well have affected the verdict because her presence at the crime scene was foreshadowed by the discovery of her DNA; recalling her would have been at least an opportunity to have her cast light on what happened

Readers are welcome to comment, of course, but please keep comments respectful of the court and all parties (including other readers).

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37 Responses to Sue Neill-Fraser and the High Court: what went wrong?

  1. Garry Stannus says:

    Ellis on blood: Sure, Mr Ellis did not, in his opening address, tell the jury ‘there was blood in the dinghy’.

    However he did use a form of words which may have led the jurors to believe that blood had been found in the Four Winds dinghy.

    That – and other statements made by Police Forensic Officer Debra McHoul – were phrased in such a way as to allow the impression that blood had been found on the dinghy.

    In my view (and in the view of Mr Gunson and also in the view of the trial judge, Justice Blow) … in my view, Mr Ellis did (‘in as many words’) suggest to the jury that blood had been found in the dinghy.

    [There was also an inordinate amount of trial time spent on discussing that ‘ins and outs of that dinghy, the spot here, the glow there, the overflow here … all ad nauseum to impress the jury that Mr Ellis is … ‘nudge, nudge … wink, wink’ … letting us jurors and good old Justice Blow … letting us know that that there was indeed blood in the dinghy … only, Mr Ellis was not saying that outright, then … was he?]

  2. Donald Sanderston says:

    Andrew Urban,

    I read the article. I can’t find a single sentence where Mr Ellis said that there was blood in the dinghy.

    If you think that I missed the actual sentence then please print it here for me to see. Is that too much to ask?

    Where is the statement, Andrew???

    • andrew says:

      Your comment is disingenuous.
      And you have avoided my questions…

      What would the jury make of this statement by Mr Ellis?
      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.”

  3. Garry Stannus says:

    What went wrong?

    I was not convinced that at the High Court, Mr Croucher had clearly made out his thesis that at trial and at first appeal incorrect ‘tests’ had been used to firstly reject the ‘recall application’ and secondly, to confirm that decision at the first appeal.

    The first appeal had as its first ground of appeal that a Miscarriage of Justice [MoJ] had occurred when Justice Blow had refused to recall Vass or to ask the DPP to do so.

    On the face of it, there seemed to be good reason for asking for Vass to be recalled when Dtv. Sinnitt told the trial court that (regarding the sleepover by Vass at an address in Mt Nelson on 26Jan2009) there was no such address and/or that he did not able to locate it.

    However the Court at the first Appeal (at para 97) interpreted an earlier [Apostilides 1984] decision as to whether an MoJ had occurred by not re/calling a witness as having also found that the central question then became one of whether the verdict was “unsafe or unsatisfactory”.

    The Apostilides case did briefly mention ‘unsafe or unsatisfactory’ verdicts in almost the same breath as MoJs, yet – amongst other things – it was against this rolling of the two (MoJ’s and UoUs) into the one test to which Croucher objected, albeit unsuccessfully?

    The Editor, in his introduction has written that…

    The ground for seeking leave to appeal was that the trial judge did not allow the recall of witness Meaghan Vass, […] after she had given rather brief evidence – some of which was later found to be false, in particular, her whereabouts on the relevant night (Australia Day 2009).

    I think that here the editor is referring not to evidence that Vass gave in court, but to evidence given by Dtv. Sinnitt – later ruled by Justice Blow as hearsay – as to an address said to have been given by Vass to staff at the refuge where she was living. That address (where Vass had told staff she’d be having a sleepover on the night of 26Jan2009) did not exist or could not be found, according to Dtv. Sinnitt.

    As the editor has pointed out, according to Mr Croucher, there was a fundamental miscarriage of justice in the case, because Sue Neill-Fraser was denied…

    procedural fairness in meeting the Crown case because her counsel was not armed with very relevant information, relevant to her defence, until after the witness had gone, and the judge would not allow a recall.

    To which Justice Crennan replied – with Chief Justice French’s agreement –

    In our view, this application does not give rise to a question suitable to a grant of special leave as the applicant has not shown that she was denied an opportunity to produce evidence on a point of substance which can be shown to have had a significant possibility of affecting the jury’s verdict. Accordingly, special leave is refused.

    A ‘Catch 22’ situation? Documentary evidence that indicated that Vass’s whereabouts on the night in question were unknown was ruled out as hearsay. In my view, it might have been useful if Mr Croucher (at the subsequent first Appeal) had called staff from Mara House to give evidence as to the contents of their records.

    Had Vass given a false or mistaken address for the sleepover and/or had she lied about it? That question obviously goes to the issue of ‘credit’ of her as a witness… i.e. if Vass had given a non-existent address for the sleepover, did the court and jury have a right to be aware of that … in order to assess her general reliability and thus her reliability on other matters … e.g. her claim at the trial of never having been on the Four Winds?

    The address of the Vass’s overnight stay (sleepover) does exist.
    Despite what legal counsel said at trial and at the unsuccessful application to the High Court, the sleepover address does exist – I’ve been there. Dtv Sinnitt told the trial court firstly that the address did not exist and then qualified that by saying that he could not find the address, despite (from memory of my readings) asking people whether they knew of any ‘Sam’ in the Street/Place.
    [see: Vass’s A2A evidence that she wanted to stay out on the night of 26Jan2009 at Sam Devine’s place and also Sinnitt’s evidence at trial and at 2nd appeal leave application.]

    There is only one series of single-story units at Onslow Place. They are laid out sequentially. Whether it was a Unit 7 or a Unit 8 that Sinnitt was looking for, they are both there. At the trial, Sinnitt was apparently confused, saying firstly that it was Unit 8, Number 7 – but then saying it was Unit 7, Number 8. There is no street number ‘7’ … the only odd number is at number 1 (a block of 4 two-storey flats).
    [Type in ‘Onslow Place’ in the Listmap search bar and then ‘zoom’ out / magnify the map. (https://maps.thelist.tas.gov.au/listmap/app/list/map)

    You will see that:
    – Onslow Place appears as a ‘normal’ cul de sac, servicing numbers 2, 4, 6 & 1 Onslow Place
    – all these are two storey blocks of 4 flats each
    – there is the standard semi-circular rounded bit at the end of what may have been the original court. – adjacent, and to the right of number 1 you will see an un-numbered unit (the penultimate of a group of 12). On its fence I have seen the number 11 displayed.

    Q So on the right hand side of the ‘street’ the odd numbers jump from 1 to 11?
    A Wrong … that unmarked unit is Unit 11, 8 Onslow Place.

    Look again at the map of the street properties … and see that there is what looks like a ‘private’ driveway which services some of those 12 units. At the very end of that lie Units 7 & 8.

    We may ask why – or how it was – that Dtv. Sinnitt was unable to find that Unit 8 in Onslow Place.

    Concluding remarks
    – I felt that Justice Crennan’s questions suggested an attitude of challenge, rather than openness.
    – Chief Justice French appeared to have not appreciated that Vass’s evidence came before that of Sinnitt.
    – I have only recently become aware of the existence of an expert (police) opinion on the authenticity of a diary entry. The particular entry in one of SNF’s diaries concerns SNF’s feeling that someone had boarded the Four Winds earlier in the month … on the 10Jan2009, I think it was. This police expert opinion was that there was nothing in the entry that suggested SNF had later squeezed the text into the diary to fraudently support her claim to police that maybe the vessel had been part of a drug smuggling operation. The policeman did give evidence at the trial (about photos he’d taken, I think it was) but was not asked about the diary entry.
    – I am surprised by Bob Martyn’s comment that Mr Gunson refused SNF’s instructions to call defence witnesses – and yet in a way I am not surprised. I appreciate that Bob Martyn – a long-time friend of Bob Chappell’s and of Sue’s – would have this information directly from Sue. I have no reason to doubt its truth.

    • andrew says:

      Excellent work Garry; further to my claim that Vass gave the court incorrect information about her whereabouts. This is from the transcript:
      Gunson: …where were you living on the 26th January 2009?……
      Vass: Probably – I’m pretty sure it was Stainforth Court in Lenah Valley.

      Either way, it is arguable that the trial judge and the judges of the High Court were wrong, in my opinion. Vass should have been recalled, as common sense dictates.

      • Garry Stannus says:

        Yes Andrew,
        Meaghan did give two possibly conflicting accounts of where she was living at the time. During that ‘Basha’ inquiry (in the absence of the jury) Gunson had asked her, and she had replied:

        XXN – MR GUNSON SC: Where were you living in January 2009, Ms Vass?…….I’m pretty sure I was living at Annie Kenney Women’s Shelter in Montrose

        When the jury was brought back in to hear Vass give the evidence proper, Gunson asked her and she replied:

        […] where were you living on the 26th January 2009?……Probably – I’m pretty sure it was Stainforth Court in Lenah Valley.

        Gunson then challenged her with having ‘changed [her] story’ – a nasty way (in my view) of speaking to a sixteen year old girl in a court, or in any place, for that matter. He put to her and she replied:

        You were asked a question a minute ago, “Where did you live on the 26th January 2009”, and you said, “The Annie Kenny Women’s Shelter at Montrose”………Yes. I’ve been homeless since I was thirteen.

        Just listen to the question. In this court a matter of minutes ago were you not asked the question, “Where did you live on the 26th January 2009”?……..Yes.

        And your answer was, “The Annie Kenny Shelter at Montrose”?……..Yes.

        I asked you the same question a moment ago and you said you were then living at Stainforth Court. They’re not the two same places, are they?……No.

        So I’ll ask you again, where did you live on the 26th January 2009?……Annie Kenny Women’s Shelter in Montrose.

        So why did you tell us a minute ago you lived at Stainforth Court?……Because I’m getting very confused and I have been homeless since I was thirteen, so it’s very hard for me.

        It’s not difficult, is it, you were asked the question in this court a few minutes ago?……Yes, I’m sorry.

        I can never read that cross-examination of Vass without experiencing anger at Gunson’s treatment of her. And I note, Andrew, that in the presence of the jury, Gunson misquoted his ‘Basha’ inquiry XXN of Vass. He had asked her where she was living in Jan2009 … she had said ‘Annie Kenny (refuge) in Montrose’ which I believe was true. (and I wonder if in the same month she had come from/gone to the Stainforth Court residence). He had not asked her (in the ‘Basha’) where she was living on the 26Jan2009 – though he asserted to Vass that he had. When she said she’d been living at Stainforth Court, Gunson then ‘gave her curry’ about the seeming discrepancy.

        But, Andrew … in spite of what he asserted, Gunson had not specifically asked her (in the ‘Basha inquiry’) where she was living on the 26Jan2009. He had asked her where she was living in the January of that year.

        Our Gunson showed throughout the trial an ability to get things wrongly, to misquote and to misremember. Mr Ellis was not unjustified in admonishing Gunson’s badgering of Vass, though ‘sneakily’ Ellis tried to suggest that Gunson may have been suggesting Vass had “committed the crime”. Not so.

        However, in my view, Gunson’s cross-examination of Vass in the presence of the jury, was disgraceful. Further, his conduct of the overall trial case was, in my view, pedestrian. And now we hear (via Bob Martyn) that Gunson refused to call defence witnesses on behalf of Sue.

        Obviously, Bob Martyn himself would have been able to expose Triffett’s story of having worked on the motor of Sue’s first boat for the furphy that it apparently was, as well as Martyn being able to attest to Sue’s character, and many aspects of her relationship with his friend, Bob Chappell. Instead, we and the jury were left with the trial evidence of three … would misogynists be an unfair description? Maria Hanson’s daughter might have been able to speak tellingly in court of such matters [refer Eve Ash: Shadow of Doubt].

        • owen allen says:

          I would like to say; WTF is this crap got to do with murder on a yacht.
          Discredit the witness. What a crock of shit.
          Facts. She spewed on the boat.
          Get over it you Dumb ****s, you corrupt ****s
          Release Sue Neill-Fraser NOW.

          • Robert Greenshields says:

            Implied academic boffins are a part of our enrapt society Owen, as you no doubt well recognise.
            When they seemingly get access or perceived influence in either a conversation/cause, the end result in many cases is only comparable to what many consider a sustained time indulging inclusiveness , ie, determining and terminating with, does the outcome of an abstractly created justification, supposed professionalism, honesty, and morality, compare even remotely to that of a prehistoric dinosaurs breath, or as in SNFs case is the discussed scenario distorted through and by something distinctly smellier?
            Our highest elected leaders of officialdom dominate the field, with debates that near daily make a mockery of our populations welfare and long term security during Question Time in Canberra. Neale Dannihers remark “when all is said and done, more is said than done”, is quite relevant among our perceived predominants, and many of their conforming cohorts. Many who do not mind living with the blunt/transparent truth, readily establish and distinguish between altruists and the probable chancers and dilutees. Along with Sue Neill Fraser, maintain the faith Owen.

          • Donald Sanderston says:

            When did she spew on the yacht?

            Was there any evidence of a spew at the location where her DNA was found?

          • Donald Sanderston says:

            It isn’t a fact that Meaghan spewed on Four Winds.

            There was no witness who saw her spew on Four Winds nor was there any physical evidence of there being a spew at the location on the yacht where her DNA was found.

            It is, however, a theory by Sue’s supporters that Meaghan’s DNA on Four Winds was as a result of her spewing at that location. However, none of Sue’s legal teams (neither her trial defence attorney nor her appeal attorneys have argued that Meaghan’s DNA at location 11 on Four Winds was as a result of her spewing at that location). Why is it then that the majority of Sue’s supporters still believe that Meaghan vomited on Four Winds?

          • andrew says:

            It was Meaghan Vass herself who said she vomited on the deck during her 60 Minutes interview in March 2019:
            LIAM BARTLETT: When you say there was a lot of blood, were you downstairs, were you on the deck, were you in the cabin?
            MEAGHAN VASS: I’m – aah … …. on deck I think.

            LIAM BARTLETT: And what was your reaction to that?
            MEAGHAN VASS: [indistinct: ‘It’s when’?] I’ve thrown up, the vomit.

          • Donald Sanderston says:

            Andrew,

            Meaghan also said that she was never on Four Winds.

            There is no objective evidence that her DNA was as a result of a vomit.

            Why do most of Neill-Fraser’s supporters believe that Meaghan vomited on Four Winds?

        • Donald Sanderston says:

          I read the relevant section of the Trial Transcript and agree with your interpretation.

          Sue’s defence barrister at trial did unfairly treat the then homeless teenager who first came onto the radar a year after the night of Australia Day 2009. How is she expected to be certain of her memory of where she stayed at any one time given that she stayed at various places and it occurred a year before she was first contacted about this case?

          It is funny that Mr Gunson expected Meaghan to have an accurate memory of events that occurred a year before she was first contacted by the police and yet he himself didn’t recall correctly the question that he asked her several minutes before.

          I agree with the former DPP who interpreted Mr Gunson’s treatment of Meaghan as being equivalent to badgering a witness.

          Mr Gunson also misinterpreted what Mr Ellis said about the luminol reaction on the dinghy. Mr Ellis did not say that there was blood in that dinghy. This point was recently mentioned in Mr Ellis’s article
          https://www.themercury.com.au/truecrimeaustralia/police-courts-tasmania/supporter-on-why-sue-neillfrasers-murder-case-demands-more-scrutiny/news-story/bccb30c407041ab24ecf8f56aec9868c

          I wasn’t aware prior to Mr Ellis’ article that Mrs Etter complained to the Legal Profession Board (LPB) that Mr Ellis falsely denied after the trial that he told the jury that there had been found to be blood in the dinghy. That complaint was examined by the LPB who concluded that there had been no presentation of a blood in the dinghy case and no assertion of it by me and Ms Etter’s complaint was summarily dismissed.

  4. Bob Martyn says:

    The reason given at the time was there was the alleged attempts by Sue to entice Triffit to murder Patrick and Bob. Obviously Sue made no such attempts but their Honours did not know this as Sue’s counsel refused her instructions to call defence witnesses so my knowledge of Triffitt’s so called evidence went unchallenged.

    Bob Martyn.

    • owen allen says:

      Classic verbal. And they love to hear it. They make it up.
      They change words and meanings. They lie.
      They are evil. Their father is the devil.

      • Robert Greenshields says:

        I am somewhat dubious of your claim that just the devil is the father of those who blatantly manufacture classic verbal statements Owen. Unquestioningly though, verballing, along with the court and likely judiciary cultivated beadledom and acceptance of created misrepresentative information, I have witnessed, is and has been a standardised practice within the regions of the North West, of NSW.
        To acquire an agreed, choreographed outcome, through such a sustained criminally based method of implementation confirms yet again, that not only as in Sue Neill Frasers case, but across Australia for many others (if media reports are anywhere near legitimate), our nation is consistently and continually being grossly morally devalued through cultures of complicit, fraudulent, creativity at the hands of criminally intent policing officers and their collaborating cohorts within our administrative governing organisations and judicial services.
        All Australians deserves a far higher standard of policing investigation and judicial governance than what we have again witnessed in Sue Neill Frasers case, and hopefully post her imminent release, an intensive review of those entrusted to maintain stability and security needs to be initiated, not only in Tasmania, but optimistically, across Australia.
        Keep strong and maintain the faith Sue.

        • owen allen says:

          Well thanks Robert for the courteous reply.
          I am not quoting Biblical Scripture, as I am required to quote the references.
          But, I have read about Satan.
          My personal experience in Tasmania, consisted of illegal bullying by a neighbour in a small town.
          He was protected by, police, local council, state government, my boss, I was sacked, I was an outsider.
          Later I was strangled on duty as a taxi driver, the assailant was protected by police and it goes on and on.
          These people are certainly not respectful citizens.
          They do not Honour God the Creator.
          They are; criminals, social bacteria, eg, corrupt, society is a living organism, corruption, is bacteria, and perversion.
          We all have a choice of how to live our lives.
          Thanks Robert.

          • Robert Greenshields says:

            Your experiences Owen, along with your perception and inclusion of local and state government organisations and employees as terrorising psychological bullies, mirrors quite accurately the disparaging behaviour I have witnessed, and I concur, is still agreeably practiced in the NW of NSW.
            Of course they are not decent citizens, and many would not even be employable, let alone accepted, beyond the boundaries of their own pitiful (probably generationally conceived), cultured, protected, pitiable, diminutive environments. Your posts, when included with those of many others, confirms the need to investigate and then substantially revalue the practices of many long established status quo scenarios, from cultural, to judicial, and administrative, that through old world colonial styled echelon and stratified influences, have no relevance to the dynamics of an evolving or enabling Australian society. Good luck in your efforts to expose the corrupted and discriminating difficulties you have posted of.

  5. Robin Bowles says:

    It appears that the submission by Tim Ellis SC, especially the emphasis on the frailty of the witness Meaghan Vass and her susceptibility to bullying, could have been written as an instruction text for Ellis’s then Deputy, Darryl Coates SC, to follow during his cross-examination of that same witness 12 years later. I have never, in 25 years of attending dozens of criminal trials in every jurisdiction in Australia except Queensland, seen such a barrage of bullying on a witness. No wonder she folded! I would have and I’m not young and scared! It was, in my opinion, outrageous. And I’m certain others felt the same way having witnessed the spectacle. Would she have changed the course of the trial if she’d been recalled? Her DNA was certainly on the boat. Will that be enough to place her there on the night? Could that evidence, given then, along with evidence unearthed in the Etter/Selby papers which was KNOWN BY POLICE at the time of the trial, but WITHHELD, have created reasonable doubt? Twelve years on, many people doubt that guilty verdict , because we have since heard information not heard by the jury. Again, outrageous! You could write a book about it!!

    • andrew says:

      Given the seriousness of the case, any evidence that could be put before a jury should be facilitated. We can’t know what Vass might have revealed… nor how such revelations might have been viewed by the jury. That is why, in my opinion, the High Court’s decision to refuse leave to appeal is an appalling failure of the justice system.

      • Pauline Chalmers says:

        Andrew – it is an act of malevolence and says a lot more about the mentality of the males who keep discarding / shredding concrete evidence that would be fully supportive of Sue’s innocence. It’s manipulative and unjust they WILL to maintain tunnel vision against Sue and BLOCK any expansion of the narrative to examine concrete facts about other possible suspects. The objective truth is it’s a malicious prosecution pure and simple with so much bias!!

  6. owen allen says:

    Andrew and readers, and especially contributors, I want to publicly declare I have found LOVE.
    Wrongful Convictions, has brought me in touch with people; who truly know and demonstrate LOVE.
    LOVE for Fellow Man, or Woman.
    We all are members of the HUMAN RACE.
    RACE to what?
    To be the richest, die sooner, Eternity, Heaven or Hell, Power, Skullduggery, the list goes on.
    Anyway, my life is changing, my depression is easing; I know I have found evidence of profound LOVE in action within humanity on this blog.
    Praise GOD.
    GOD IS LOVE.

  7. Robert Greenshields says:

    I appreciate the opportunity to comment on this site as I have long held the belief that not only is Sue innocent, but our nations old world colonial system of judicial and policing stratification and echelon established in house rank structures, is an unadulterated folly that embraces cultures of complicity, corruption, cowardice, and as Churchill said, time servers; but with due respect to others, where and when that particular respect is warranted, it is very difficult to openly and transparently appreciate our courts and other connected parties, along with their allied institutionalised cohorts, while the continuity of abusive, deceitful, complicit, community devaluing, regressive, and highly improbable justified policing and judicial practices are maintained, not just in Sue Neill Frasers case, but sadly, and depressingly, within and at the level of policing and judicial services in every state and territory across Australia.
    Sue Neill Frasers case is but one among many, and that in no way diminishes the priority of the needs to release, and then if at all possible compensate her and her family, for the gross injustice choreographed by, and through sections of the Tasmanian public service sector. Injustices in our courts, along with the selected, court accepted manipulations of honesty and facts, is nearly an accepted status quo in our nation (certainly a practice readily combined with economic extortion associated with costs for representation within NSW as I have witnessed), and that obsequious cultural acceptance needs to be culled.
    Every day we read of some venal or criminally intent policing officer being held to account in our courts, and every other day we have investigative journalists from media outlets highlighting/exposing failures within our legislative administrators and their connected establishments. Change is needed and necessary.
    I sincerely hope that I have not again incurred the wrath of the moderator, either by being overly emphatic or too honest, but while the reality is innocents are found guilty and gaoled, families are dislocated, and communities suffer under the weight of dysfunctional administrative and deceitful officers in our public services, who obligingly maintain their own comfortable status quo, Australias continued retrogression is assured.
    Maintain the faith Sue, you are not alone.

  8. Noeline Durovic says:

    Andrew what an utter farce this was! Winches and ballcocks severed ro sink the yacht.(harsh manual cutting and manipulation). Indicating the homeless bullied 14 year old child couldn’t sink the boat – dispose of the body etc….Just muddying to cover Megan Vass’s DNA! Vomit the size of a dinner plate and DNA vomit on a cloth labeled as an exhibition? Megan Vass stated to us and the world at large she used a cloth from the yacht to wipe her face after she threw up on the “Four Winds” .on the night of the bloody murder of Robert Chappell..Cloth with DNA suspiciously lost!!! Tasmania Police/ DPP(S) mislead Megan Vass’s DNA maligning it and directing it as evidence not to see the light of day> (Poof ! THE cloth! Logged unto Tasmania Police evidence forensically but disappeared – gone?) Denying Sue’s rights as an innocent person. Injustices of a quantitive untrustworthiness of the Tasmanian Police/DPP(S) suppressing powerful evidence and muddying Sues truth!
    Isn’t suppressing and hiding evidence to pervert justice a criminal act?

  9. owen allen says:

    I can tell you about Tasmania, but I want a room full of lawyers, psychologists, psychiatrists, sociologists and random picked 2 year constables from all police forces, and a handful of my crew, and I will give evidence of the woeful attitude.
    Eve Ash, I need you, for filming, and the others know who they are.
    Tasmania is not hotspots of corruption.
    It is widespread like arteries through Tasmanian society, and it reaches to Canberra and goes International. It is Govt, pvt enterprise, bureaucracy, local govt, and worker thugs.
    I have the guff.

  10. This disgusting malicious peverted case against Sue with vital evidence and by the sound of it judiciary sticking like glue to each other stinks of the old boys club we did wrong bit cant admit our faults how pathetic are the Hobart judiciary and they dont care the innocent lives they are ruining they dont know the meaning of true justice if it bit them where it hurt them most and neither judges nor judiciary are fit for purpose. How many truly innocent people have they jailed the mind boggles with their warped sense of justice. Well the judiciary is in for a big shake up and shock as HM The Queen that i remind them they are servants of and serve i shall be reporting to HM The Queen that they are unfit for purpose or to serve hrr. Further i will be recomending to HM The Queen twofold namely a Royal commission and full investigation into these Hobart Judicial missfits. I further suspect in relation to the judges involved to date not upholding the finest traditions of judicial judgement that they be served with under Australian law a section 72 with immediate effect as they arent serving the people of Hobart Tasmania fairly and using the judicial system in their peverse view and way rather than in accordance with the law and these judicial lot are doing this to protect their reputations and pockets especially a lawsuit for unlawful conviction and mal practice. I known Sue all these years and her family and unlike these fools i know she is innocent as the Police investigation wasnt thorough no real evidence and the Federal Police i suspect that HM The Queen will order investigations there too. So heads will roll an exact copy of what ive said here will be passed on in the immediate future as its time true justice was seen to be done and this judicial shower of missfits will answer for their wrongs that i can assure your Honours.

  11. Jerry Fitzsimmons says:

    I agree and support your claim Rosemary. I believe we all agree. However, why is there so much speculation? Andrew, you have always provided so much factual information, yet we are still in a world of disbelief. Why is the visual public evidence of Megan Vass so doubted, so disbelieved? This is a young woman who has said publicly, she was on the yacht in question, she was there and Sue Neil-Fraser was not there. What does it take to listen to this, to hear this and to accept that, with her DNA evidence, something needs to be looked at. I again will remind your readers that when the Guildford Four were convicted, the testimony of the person guilty of this horrific bombing was set aside. Why? Because those responsible for getting a conviction hid the evidence, hid the testimony that the Guildford Four did not plant the bomb. That’s why they were released, when this was discovered. Why do those in positions of power to release, even exonerate Sue Neil-Fraser not hear what this young woman is saying?

    • Pauline Chalmers says:

      AND when the truth was FINALLY accepted the Criminal Convictions Review Commission was established in the UK and then other countries. I am praying for Australia that this is how this country progresses. In New Zealand we achieved this after the Teina Pora case was resolved by the Privy Council in London in 2015. This lead into WA bringing clinicians into critically examine the health of the youth incarcerated within the Banksia Hill Juvenile Detection centre. Currently there is a class action underway, a follow on from the successful class action against the Don Dale juvenile detention centre in Darwin. Police officer Zach Rolfe is going to trial soon and there will be MUCH discussion about juveniles such as Meaghan Vass and how police officer’s MUST be better trained in working through the issues and challenges their conduct has on society. Should a highly trained health professional have been first responder with a young man he killed, born to an alcoholic whose diagnosis of FASD and PTSD needed to be accommodated. This is the question they are really working through in Canada and delivering professional development classes to police officers. When Meaghan Vass came into the frame in the first instance was Sinnett suitably trained to manage her interview? Was anyone suitably trained to manage her interviews and court appearances there after? Does this explain the AVOIDANCE of her in the court and staying with their target SN-F at all costs.

      • andrew says:

        It is a pertinent question, whether police dealing with the then 16 year old homeless Vass were suitably trained to manage her interview process…and not just then but thereafter. It is also a pertinent question in general regarding ongoing professional development of police officers.

        • Pauline Chalmers says:

          Andrew – to me your comment is a bullseye comment or a hole in one. Teina Pora was awarded three and a half million dollars for his wrongful conviction after the five Law Lords gave LEGITIMACY to the issue of the criminal justice system not recognising OR accommodating his disabilities which were neurological AND since that moment in time it was actually the Australian FASD society who pushed hard, beginning in WA with the clinical trials at Banksia Hill juvenile detention centre and after discussion’s at International Convention’s all these class actions are happening and I read the Tasmanian government is about to be called up to account.
          SN-F has been a SOFT easy target to malign and but if the police and courts had gone in the RIGHT direction with their enquires it was guaranteed to be harrowing, complex, hard work, protracted and expensive and the courts had a taste of what an ordeal it would be during Sue’s March 2021 Appeal. I don’t think anyone in the Hobart CIB in 2008 would have had a single clue anymore than the two detectives did who interviewed Teina before he was charged. Teina was innocent as it turned out although he said he was guilty and Meaghan Vass is guilty of being at the scene of a murder which she should have reported to the police, although she says she wasn’t there. As I type I bet there has been no professional development done in Tasmania since the WA report was released in the same manner the Canadian Police have engaged fully with the problems of neuro disabilities and abuse issues in teenagers. It’s the police who suffer as well as we have all witnessed in the Zach Rolfe case. A trained health professional in FASD and PTSD should have been standing in his shoes performing his task and I think the five Law Lords in the Privy Council in London would agree. Meaghan Vass must be at the point of feeling she needs to sue the police and social services for not taking her claims of abuse seriously. The Catholic Church has had the cough up millions for ignoring and covering up historical abuse complaints!!

    • Jerry Fitzsimmons says:

      Bullying, missing evidence, hidden evidence, perjury, speculation, innuendo, lack of transparency to jurors, yet with all of this, promotions. Is it any wonder this trial is still under notice. Your disbelief Robin is shared by many. Thank you.

  12. Rosemary says:

    therein lies the crux of the matter. had the recall been allowed of Vass, plus more details from Sinnit, the information we find now 12 years later could have been dealt with back then, hence a different result for Justice for Bob, and Sue free. Croucher led a good submission and should have been heard, in my view

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