Andrew L. Urban.
We have rejected for publication a barrage of recent comments (11 at last count) from a reader who is advocating in favour of Sue Neill-Fraser’s conviction and defending the prosecutor, Tim Ellis SC. But on second thoughts, some of the comments are worth publishing as examples of what is being put forward. We are accused of bias in favour of the accused for failing to publish such comments. So here are some of their obviously unbiased contributions to the discussion. (Name withheld.)
After comments from this reader were no longer being published, they wrote: “Andrew, It also appears that your strategy is not to post the comments of those who disagree with your interpretation of the case evidence.” Perhaps our reader should present better, valid and rational arguments to challenge my ‘interpretation of the case evidence’. Readers of this blog can judge for themselves.
BLOOD IN THE DINGHY
Our reader insisted repeatedly that Tim Ellis SC never said there was blood in the dinghy.
I refer you to one of your blogs of a few years ago where someone by the name of Peter challenged you to pinpoint the sentence in the Trial Transcript where you think that Tim Ellis stated that there was blood in the dinghy. You avoided the issue then. You are avoiding the issue now and are sidetracking to other related matters. It is obvious that you can’t find the sentence.
Please, Andrew, don’t keep redirecting me to other related matters and side stepping my request to be shown the sentence where you think Ellis stated that there was blood in the dinghy. I am simply asking for you to print out the sentence where you think Mr Ellis stated that there was blood in the dinghy.
You wrote the article. Therefore you should be able to pick out the sentence where you think Mr Ellis stated that there was blood in the dinghy.
We provided the following:
ELLIS SC “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.”
Our reader responded:
That statement by Ellis doesn’t say that there was blood in the dingy.
There is nothing wrong with that sentence because luminol is a screening test for blood. But since luminol can react to other substances such as bleach, it would have been better to says so. But that was emphasised in other parts of the trial.
That statement by Ellis DOES NOT support your opinion that he stated that there was blood in the dinghy.
Since the dinghy was found loose some distance away from the location where Sue tied the dinghy, and because the dinghy couldn’t have ended next to the rowing shed by itself, and because Bob disappeared from his yacht that was moored some 300 metres away from the shore, it was only natural to do forensic tests on the dinghy and present its results to the jury. Luminol is a screening agent for blood throughout the forensic science world.
We did point out that both the judge and the defence counsel had thought Ellis was claiming there was blood in the dinghy – which would suggest that the jury did too. Our reader doesn’t agree:
In summary, Mr Ellis did not say that there was blood in the dinghy.
What a jury can infer on the basis that Bob Chappell’s DNA was obtained from the part of the dinghy that reacted to luminol is that therefore there is a good likelihood that the DNA was from Bob’s blood but the amount of blood was below the level that could be confirmed. That is almost the same issue as in Meaghan’s DNA. No blood was confirmed but her DNA was from the location that reacted to luminol.
Above, our reader seems to suggest that the jury can infer that there was a minute amount of Bob Chappell’s blood in the dinghy after all, but the test couldn’t reveal it. That is simply incorrect. The proposition is purely speculative …
Yet our reader is fixated on disputing that Ellis had sought to suggest that there was blood in the dinghy. Thoroughly familiar with the transcript, our reader quotes an exchange (jury absent) which we have also quoted, and explains that the focus is on what “Mr Ellis said during the opening rather than anything after that.” How that negates what he said is unstated:
From page 1486 of the Trial Transcript (reproduced below) it is clear that Mr Gunson was referring to what Mr Ellis said during the opening statement:
MR ELLIS SC: The next point is, it was attributed to me that I said
it was Mr Chappell’s blood in the dinghy. Now I don’t believe I did.
MR GUNSON SC: Yes, you did.
MR ELLIS SC: Okay – I don’t know why I’d say it –
HIS HONOUR: Well –
MR ELLIS SC: – because I’ve never believed it.
HIS HONOUR: In opening.
MR GUNSON SC: Yeah.
MR ELLIS SC: Oh in opening –
MR GUNSON SC: Yes, in opening.
MR ELLIS SC: Oh okay, I abandon that, if I said it in opening. (Ellis himself accepts that he did.)
Thus, the focus is on what Mr Ellis said during the opening rather than anything after that.
In his opening statement, Mr Ellis used the word ‘blood’ a total of 10 times. Out of that total of 10, Mr Ellis used the word ‘blood’ 7 times in connection to the forensic tests on the dinghy. These were his exact words:
But the tender itself was also subjected to a screening test for blood called luminol, and what happens with luminol is you put it – you put it on objects where there might have been blood and turn off the lights and it gets lum – it goes luminous in the presence of blood, and so that reacted quite strongly, the tender and the inside of the tender for the presence of blood, and swabs taken from the tender were found to match, with a high degree of probability, Mr Chappell’s DNA. But on the other hand another screening agent for blood taken on that tender showed negative and one of the forensic scientists looked under the microscope to try and find some – what they look for is red/brown indications of blood and couldn’t find any, so some indications of blood, his DNA, but others – others, no.
It is sufficiently clear to me that nowhere in the above two sentences of Mr Ellis’ opening statement did he say that there was blood in the dinghy.
The only valid criticism of Mr Ellis’ opening statement about the dinghy is that he (probably because he didn’t know or didn’t think of it) is that luminol glow does not necessarily indicate the presence of blood because luminol can glow in reaction to bleach and a number of other non-blood substances. He did however point out that the forensic scientist looked under a microscope and did not find any red/brown indications of blood.
It is my conclusion that Mr Gunson was incorrect in his interpretation of Mr Ellis’ opening statement about the forensic results on the dinghy.
Our reader hammered the point further:
Please read Mr Gunson said to the jury during his closing argument on page 1454. I will reproduce it here for you :
“Now Mr Ellis at some stage, I think it was in his Opening, said to you that there was Mr Chappell’s blood found in the dinghy”.
That statement by Mr Gunson was several weeks after Mr Ellis’ opening statement. Mr Gunson’s memory of what Mr Ellis said several weeks earlier obviously isn’t correct because Mr Ellis did not say in his opening statement that there was blood in the dinghy. Obviously, Mr Gunson’s closing statement was pretty close to the end of the trial whilst Mr Ellis opening statement was at the beginning of the 3 week trial. Can you blame him for not remembering correctly,? But when the matter was later raised by Mr Ellis, the trial Judge should have refered to the transcript and then later told the jury that Mr Gunson’s statement about blood in the dinghy wasn’t correct because Mr Ellis did not say that statement during his opening.
Perhaps readers can understand why these comments (and others like these) were not previously published. The excuses made on behalf of Ellis are variously lame, disingenuous and insult our intelligence.
Our reader’s admonition of me echoes the police and the prosecution’s well-worn defence of their work. Any one of them could have written it.
You seem to seek to blame everyone for Sue’s conviction but Sue herself for lying about her whereabouts for the afternoon of 26th; lying about her whereabouts for the evening of the 26th; lying about the nature of her relationship with Bob during the delivery of Four Winds to Hobart; lying about the nature of her relationship with Bob during a phone call on the 8th Jan to the yacht broker; etc. You seem to find all sorts of excuses for Sue’s lies but are ready willing to blame the cops, the prosecution, the trial judge, the 1st appeal judges, the high court, Mr Triffett, etc, etc. Why are you so biased?
Our agitated reader (obviously an avid reader of this blog) seems to have mistaken bias for what is evidence based argument. Bias is said to be present when a view is held without valid evidence to support it. Or when a view is held contrary to valid evidence.