Sue Neill-Fraser appeal dismissed 2:1

Andrew L. Urban.

In another judgement (after the trial and the first appeal) that will forever be a stain on Tasmania’s legal system, Sue Neill-Fraser’s latest appeal against her 2010 murder conviction was dismissed by a majority of 2:1 of the appeal judges of the Court of Criminal Appeal, it was announced in the Supreme Court of Tasmania at 9.45am on Tuesday, November 30, 2021, six years after the then new further right to appeal legislation was passed in 2015, introduced by then Attorney-General the late Vanessa Goodwin. 

Neill-Fraser was convicted of murdering her partner Bob Chappell on Australia Day 2009, aboard their recently purchased yacht, Four Winds. It was a circumstantial case; Chappell’s body has never been found, neither a murder weapon. The controversial case has since been examined by lawyers, legal academics, investigative writers, authors, TV documentaries and a movie; none could find any evidence probative of her guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

The judges’ reasons will be made public shortly; we will continue to monitor comments and analysis over coming days.

A DNA deposit found on the deck was matched to then homeless 16 year old Meaghan Vass, but fearing repercussions she at first denied having been on board. She later admitted it was her, but her testimony was then found not to be reliable. The prosecution had argued the DNA was in any case not a direct deposit but transferred somehow. The appeal is grounded on evidence given by Victoria Police forensic specialist Maxwell Jones claiming the prosecution was wrong at the 2010 trial to dismiss the DNA deposit as a red herring. “There is … a significant possibility that the jury would have delivered a different verdict if the evidence of [Mr] Jones had been before it,” barrister Chris Carr SC told the appeal court.

Revelations in the Etter/Selby papers (tabled in Parliament in August 2021) of evidence withheld and a litany of other serious problems with the police investigation, have fuelled preparations to call for a Parliamentary Inquiry into the case, in the event that the appeal is unsuccessful.

The dismissal of the appeal reflects badly on the Attorney-General’s decision not to have judges from interstate  (as would have been standard practice) to hear the appeal, thus avoiding the appearance or real conflict of interest, especially as the trial judge is now Chief Justice.

Sue Neill-Fraser has spent over 12 years in prison since her arrest in August 2009.


It can be said – even without seeing the reasons for it – the decision  brings the court into disrepute, as it tramples the basic requirement of criminal law that the accused must be found guilty beyond reasonable doubt. That is certainly not the case here.


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8 Responses to Sue Neill-Fraser appeal dismissed 2:1

  1. Peter Martin says:

    Nine months to give such a blatantly wrong decision is a black stain on the Tasmanian justice system. The boys’ club is certainly alive and kicking.

  2. Monique says:

    This is a tragedy!! Yes! We must fight on.

    The pain and suffering that the justice system keeps inflicting is nothing short of diabolical. I can’t imagine how Sue and her family and close supporters are coping tonight.

    1 dissenting Judge – Justice Stephen Estcourt is a hero.

    Justice Helen Wood is blind to the fact that Ms Vass’s DNA onboard leads to doubt, there is an alternative hypotheses, therefore Sue should have been acquitted or conviction quashed and a retrial ordered.

    The original trial jury erred as they were led by a (XXX) Prosecutor who was supported by a former prosecutor – Judge, who now resides over the whole broken system.

    There needs to be an independent review. Out of Tasmania review.

  3. Peter Gill says:

    “Eventually people will realise that mistakes are made for learning not for repeating.”
    Just not yet, in Tasmania.

    The similarities of Sue’s case to the death of Azaria Chamberlain persist. The High Court ruled 3-2 against Lindy Chamberlain. The explanations by the High Court Judges at
    are interesting to read. Justice Kirby and Justice Deane give cogent, clear, sensible arguments, so they are outvoted 3-2. In particular, the dissenting judgement by Justice Michael Kirby is so clear and convincing that one wonders why three of the Judges stuffed up so badly regarding blood evidence etc.

    There seem to be quite a few problems in the write-ups by the other three Judges in Chamberlain – I wonder if anyone has ever studied in detail what went wrong in that 1984 High Court decision? Three months later, a petition with 131,000 signatures to the GG failed, so that doesn’t t work. I think there is a lot to learn from studying why three usually sensible High Court Judges stuffed up so badly in Chamberlain.

    • Helen Adkins-Sherston says:

      Hi Peter

      It was a pure witchhunt against Lindy’s religion. In fact the Cranwell family had camped at the Ayers Rock now Uluru six weeks prior to Azaria being taken by a dingo – they had set up camp leaving their three year old in the car. Within seconds a dingo had dragged the three year old out of the car. The little girl had blood and marks where it had grabbed her with the teeth. To cut to the quick this particular dingo was known to the Rangers as “Ding” and the NT police were told about the incident after Azaria disappeared at the same site, but no information was passed on. Also pure racism as the “Blacktrackers” Indigenous were never called to the witness stand even though they had witnessed the drag marks coming from the tent. My Elder friends have supported Lindy through all this. The Rule of Karma by Hari Khrishna

      I cannot fathom why these so called Taspol did not cordon off the yacht and wear plastic slippers over their shoes but chose to find her “guilty” and contaminated the whole area. The Rule of Karma is coming.

      Interestingly enough Facebook (not that I am on it) had quite a piece to say about Tim Ellis with killing Natalia Pearn on the Midlands Highway. Quite a few comments. (edited)

  4. Diane Kemp says:

    This was an opportunity for the Tasmanian judicial system to act with integrity and ensure that justice was finally delivered. Instead, they chose not to have independent judges sit on this appeal therefore ensuring that a conflict of interest was allowed to continue. How could they rule against their boss, the Chief Justice?? And so the corruption and cover up continues while Sue remains incarcerated. Poor police investigation, missing evidence, evidence withheld from the jury, incorrect forensic evidence, DNA dismissed, a made up story about what happened by the prosecution with absolutely no evidence and repeated and supported by the judge in his summing up who said he had no doubt about Sue’s guilt. So much proven doubt simply dismissed. Thank you to one judge who could see the light.
    Sue never had a chance yet again.
    What a shameful day for Tasmania.

  5. Jess says:

    According to the ABC, one judge has stated they would’ve ordered a retrial. I have to wonder if the other two have been pressured or influenced by others in the legal fraternity (most likely).

    This appeal should not have been heard by Tasmanian justices, there is little chance of a bias not being prevalent now. I hope the fact one judges difference of opinion may help in taking this further to the high court.

  6. A monstrous addition to one of the most disgraceful decisions ever made in Australia’s legal history! Shame! Tasmania, shame!
    It looks like the only chance for any sign of mercy for this dreadfully wronged innocent lady must lie in the hands of Federal authorities, and/or The High Court, as was the case with the atrocious Victorian Police persecution and false accusations against Cardinal Pell. The sooner the better, to bring this whole sordid TASMANIAN atrocity to some just conclusion.

  7. Keith says:

    What hope did she have when the three judge’s boss was the one who (presided) in the first trial? For the appeal to have been successful they would have had to throw him under the bus. Should have had interstate judges, blind Freddy could see that, but not in Tassie, protect their own at all costs.
    Off to the High Court now unless the Tasmanian Parliament finally grows some and launches an enquiry.

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