Andrew L. Urban.
We are eager to recognise meritorious service in the police service wherever it occurs in Australia …perhaps especially so in Tasmania. But we cannot applaud the Australia Day Award recognising Detective Sergeant Sinnitt, he of Sue Neill-Fraser miscarriage of justice fame.
It was announced as a 2022 Australia Day Honour: Detective Sergeant Shane Sinnitt receives the Australian Police Medal which gives special recognition to members of Australian police forces for commendable service.
The jaundiced investigation of the 2009 Australia Day Bob Chappell disappearance was thus asserted as a boast in the citation, 12 years later: “As a highly skilled investigator, Detective Sergeant Sinnitt was an instrumental part of the team who investigated the murder of Bob Chappell. In what was an extremely prolonged and complex investigation – the murder conviction was in part due to Detective Sergeant Sinnitt’s commitment, professionalism and attention to detail throughout the investigation.
“Detective Sergeant Shane Sinnitt commenced with Tasmania Police in 1995 and was promoted to the rank of Detective Sergeant in 2015.
“Detective Sergeant Sinnitt is a highly skilled detective with a wealth of policing experience, predominantly across Southern Tasmania, including Hobart and Bridgewater Stations, and Criminal Investigation Branches at Bellerive, Kingston and Hobart.
“As an experienced CIB member, Detective Sergeant Sinnitt played a key role investigating the murder of Bob Chappell, which ultimately led to a murder conviction.”
Why is the award given now, over 11 years after the trial? Stung into defensive action perhaps, by the recent spate of published material that undermines the conviction, and the role of TasPol?
Sinnitt did indeed play a key role investigating the murder of Bob Chappell … see the Etter/Selby papers tabled in Parliament in August, 2021.
FROM THE ETTER/SELBY PAPERS, 11 August, 2021
CROWN FAILURE TO DISCLOSE CRITICAL HANDWRITTEN NOTE
- It was clear from witness Peter Lorraine’s first statement to police (as noted by Sinnitt, the police officer, who took handwritten notes during the phone call that Lorraine made to police on 27 January 2009) that he did not see the Four Winds yacht or its dinghy (due to both description and distance issues – the Four Winds yacht was 280 metres away from Mr Lorraine’s observation point that was the Derwent Lane Jetty).He saw some other yacht with a dinghy that was, he said, small, 5 feet long, similar to a cockle boat, not a Zodiac, yellow/white, and which had NO outboard motor.
- Hence, Peter Lorraine’s evidence about sighting the Four Winds’ dinghy on the Australia Day afternoon was incorrect. He didn’t see any of the Four Winds, its dinghy, or Bob Chappell. He saw another yacht, another dinghy, another person. The notes of his first contact with police make that quite clear. But those notes were not disclosed to the Defence.
- Peter Lorraine was presented at trial by the prosecution as an independent witness who on Australia Day 2009 saw an old man (CT 1409) and possibly the Four Winds yacht and its dinghy around 5pm. That timing made it possible for the accused Sue Neill-Fraser (SNF) to be on the Four Winds at a time when she claimed she was ashore. It also meant that the victim Bob Chappell was seemingly alive at 5 pm so had not come to grief via the occupants of the grey or different dinghy seen by various other people alongside the Four Winds that same day and around the same time (Conde, Clarke and P36) or in a relevant area in the lead up to Australia Day (Smith – in the leave to appeal hearing on 31 October 2017).
- Because he was independent, and because the Defence had no inkling as to the extent of the misleading nature of his evidence (particularly given disclosed and incomplete information on the Police Investigation Log), they accepted him and his evidence as credible. Moreover, they accepted him as more credible than their client who has always said that she had left the Four Winds earlier and left the dinghy much earlier, probably around 3 pm (having spent about an hour on the boat – CT 1157). Here is what Defence counsel said in his closing to the jury (CT 1442 – see also CT 882 in absence of jury):
We know that on one view, Mr Lorraine, that Mr Chappell was sighted at about five o’clock by him with the grey dinghy behind and whilst Sergeant Conroy didn’t seem to be terribly convinced at the beginning that Mr Lorraine had seen Mr Chappell he seemed to come around to the proposition that that was right, given where the boat was situated, and I would suggest to you that it almost certainly was Mr Bob Chappell at five o’clock. Nobody reported seeing him being on the deck after that. That of course depends on a finding that you make as to whether you accept Mr Lorraine that it was Mr Chappell, I submit to you you could.
The jury had been given crucial evidence that was factually incorrect while supportive of the Crown’s case.
The following is an extract from the letter sent by Civil Liberties Australia to the Official Secretary to the Governor General Honours Secretariat:
“The ‘convicted murderer’ Sue Neill-Fraser, currently has a formal leave to appeal request against her conviction before the High Court of Australia. The (now) Det-Sgt Sinnitt and his action(s)/inaction(s) are, we believe, mentioned in the High Court appeal request documents.
We understand that Det-Sgt Sinnitt is also mentioned by name in 12 of 34 allegations, generally about incompetence/etc by the Crown in the same case, which are currently before the Tasmanian Integrity Commission, and also named repeatedly in the Etter/Selby documents, severely critical of Crown behaviour, tabled in the Upper House of the Tasmanian Parliament.
CLA here serves notice in advance that we will be asking for Det-Sgt Sinnitt’s APM to be revoked, with public announcements by the Governor-General and Honours Secretariat, if the conviction of Neill-Fraser is found, in the High Court or elsewhere in any other formal inquiry, to have been wrongful and/or to have been based in whole or in part on incompetent police investigation, unlawfully withheld or delayed police/prosecution/Crown documents, or Crown misbehaviour of which Det-Sgt Sinnitt was aware, or should have been aware.
Dr Kristine Klugman OAM