The Legend of Sue Neill-Fraser

Andrew L. Urban.

With the High Court’s August 12, 2022 refusal (the second time in 10 years) to grant Sue Neill-Fraser special leave to appeal her 2010 conviction for the 2009 murder of her partner, Bob Chappell, she has assumed legendary status. 

The Legend: A law-abiding middle aged mother and upstanding citizen with no record of criminality is accused and convicted, with scant evidence, of murdering her beloved partner of 18 years years who had disappeared from their yacht. She immediately appeals but is unsuccessful. She then seeks leave to appeal to the higher court. Leave is refused. She remains a prisoner.

Years pass. A new law allows her a further appeal but a global pandemic adds two years to the usual delays. Altogether another five years pass before she is able to appear in front of the appeal court. By now, she is in a wheelchair. She is again unsuccessful. Yet again, she takes her case to the higher court, which again refuses to hear her appeal, 13 years after her arrest.

Sue Neill-Fraser

By then she has become a heroine, known the world-over to have been wrongfully convicted, yet relentlessly pursued by the wicked local gang masquerading as the operators of the local criminal justice system. Thousands (35,000 to date) clamour for her case to be the subject of a full inquiry …

And so do her family. Neill-Fraser’s daughter Sarah Bowles issued a statement to say (among other things): “We will continue to fight to press for an Independent Commission of Inquiry.” So The Legend continues …

As Robert Richter QC argued in a letter to then Attorney-General Brian Wightman in August 2013 (2013!), “The advantages of an Inquiry approach are that it is, and will be seen to be, independent of Government, police, prosecution and defence.” He added that another key advantage is that an inquiry will investigate and “seek the truth”.

In the event that the Tasmanian government continues to find a way NOT to establish such an Inquiry, the High Court has jurisdiction to hear a further appeal on grounds not raised at the trial or before the Court of Criminal Appeal (Gipp v The Queen).

The negative decision of the High Court has left open the possibility of several further appeals on any one of a number of ‘unused’ and powerful grounds each of which warrants the conviction be set aside. Here are a few:

1       Prosecutor speculating about a) murder scenario; b) disposal of the body (never found) via the boat’s dinghy; c) wounds the victim “would have had” [arguably the most absurd speculation ever put to a jury]

2       As part of his speculation about the murder scenario, the prosecutor showing the jury the Four Winds dinghy stained blue with luminol, a preliminary test for blood, even though he never believed there was Bob Chappell’s blood in the dinghy

3       Refusal to recall Meaghan Vass at trial, whose DNA was found at the crime scene (this was ground for 2012 High Court seeking  leave …)

4       Prejudicial statement by the trial judge: in his summing up, the judge referred to ‘evidence’ which suggested that ‘the body’ was taken away and disposed of in some unsearched part of the river. There was in fact, no such evidence, and no rational basis upon which ‘the jury’ could make such a finding 

5       Prejudicial statement by the trial judge: in his summing up, the judge mentioned Neill-Fraser having ‘intimate knowledge of the boat’ as being relevant to ‘an attempt to sink it’, but failed to mention that she had stated the boat was virtually unsinkable because of its ‘six watertight bulkheads… it can’t sink’ – and it did not sink

6       Inadmissible forensic evidence presented to the jury

But while these issues are framed in a legal context, a properly constituted independent inquiry would include them as part of its report to reflect the failures of the legal process. (Does leaving the prosecution’s speculation undisturbed create a new precedent?)

The inquiry would be tasked with examining the police investigation as well as the trial and the appeals. The cumulative effect of new evidence in the Etter/Selby dossier tabled in Parliament in August 2021, leaves no doubt that just about the entire machinery of criminal ‘justice’ in Tasmania failed Bob Chappell, Sue Neill-Fraser and the people of Tasmania.

The mass of information gathered by such an inquiry would lead to a set of recommendations that would be made public, setting the record straight.

We published the results of our own ENQUIRY in June 2021.


Sydney’s Daily Telegraph adding ‘NOTORIOUS’ to the Legend, August 13, 2022

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14 Responses to The Legend of Sue Neill-Fraser

  1. michael mullins says:

    Why are there people so mean ?

    • John S says:

      I reckon they’re hoping it’ll just go away (& that sadly she may die before it gets fixed).

      Also, think of the can of worms it opens, with possibly huge compo.

      It is utterly cruel & possibly worse than the case of the Aussie journo being detained in China right now (also cruel, but what we’d expect from a dictatorship).

      Bring the CCRC (& federal ICAC), but I’m not holding my breath!

  2. John S says:

    Welcome to the People’s Republic of Australia!

    We do bad governance as good (bad) as anywhere else!

    Does anyone still have any faith in there being good governance in Australia?

    When we now have a recently past bent PM being hung out to rot in public, makes one wonder what’s next? That we’ve secretly sold WA to China?

  3. Countess Antonia Maria Violetta Scrivanich says:

    Scary how police, courts, etc manipulate the so-called “Justice “System ! Could happen to any of us innocent people. I made the mistake of voluntarily supplying information to police in 2021 about an incident in 1997 at Falmouth which could possibly have helped solve the Beaumaris tourist murder and missing German girl. My husband and I were at the time tourists to Tasmania. After I gave my statement I was finger-printed despite having never been involved in any crime. Will I help Tasmania police again ? NEVER ! We made the mistake of coming to live in this most corrupt State of Australia—corrupt at every level . Just wish I could return to SA , but, when I put my home on the market some mischievous person rang police to say I was probably dead inside. Police broke into my home, accepted liability, did some repairs , now that the rest can never be fixed or replaced have walked away and left me with a damaged home! I could sue using High Court precedent of Plenty v. Dillon (a policeman ) , but, would I get “justice “in a Tasmanian court ? I think not !

  4. Don Wakeling says:

    Why, in this case, where a reasonable hypothesis consistent with innocence is within the evidence, was not the “learned” trial judge obliged to instruct the original jury of the law requiring such hypothesis to be accepted, EVEN IF there are other hypotheses consistent with guilt. This remains the law as stated by the High Court, Peacock. -v- T ( 1911) and approved numerous times including Chamberlain. The opposing hypotheses are: (1)Megan Bass WAS present on the yatch and did leave her large amount her DNA , (2) She was not on there and the DNA was walked on board by some policeman or other person assisting them as the possibility that that person actually walked into Megan’s DNA somewhere, sometime, in ye olde Hobart town. Why did the now Chief Justice, the original trial judge, so instruct the Jury. ?? Was he ever requested by the defence to do info and instruct them ??

  5. Ian Ronald Gardner says:

    Wake up Tasmanians and have the guts to stand up for true justice, not the fake justice handed out by a biased, corrupt system. Protests work and I would be active in organising, except I live on the Gold Coast. I spent the first 32 years of my life in Tasmania, so I feel entitled to have an opinion. I am disgusted that Tasmanians have allowed this miscarriage to go for so long. Start some real action, now.

  6. Diane Kemp says:

    An independent inquiry will be the only way that truth and justice will come out in Sue’s case. The Tasmanian Government will not want this to occur – too many egos and reputations involved – and will fight it all the way so how do we move to get this done???
    People power is needed to increase the pressure from the public after all, those involved are supposedly public servants!!!!

    Sue is a legend and this is a battle between David and Goliath.
    Let the battle begin. Stay strong Sue.

    • David Smith says:

      Easily solved – vote out all Politicians who are against a Commission of Inquiry and replace them with People who will listen to the people and fully represent all – We know the Tasmanian Police and Government are Dishonest and will go to any lengths to justify their actions. OR the Governor can release her and by overriding the Courts – Give her a Pardon.

  7. Tony Brownlee says:

    We often forget, courts are not courts of truth, justice or fairness, they are courts of law and as such this matter will never deliver a truth without an enquire away from the law.

  8. Brian Johnston says:

    There must be police and judges who have doubts.
    The Attorney General wont become involved.

    The whole mess is sick and twisted.

    I would suggest that Sue’s lawyer did not fight hard enough. He may have harboured a belief that Sue was guilty. He was a part of the problem.

  9. Rodger Warren says:

    Hi Andrew
    I think a Tasmanian Government Inquiry and a Federal Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) is required to reduce unsafe convictions.
    Like everyone I am extremely disappointed in the latest High Court decision.
    No innocent person should remain in an Australian Jail.
    Take care
    Rodger Warren

  10. Steven Fennell says:

    Beyond sad

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