As the 6th anniversary of Bob Chappell’s mysterious disappearance nears, supporters are rallying to highlight the fact that an innocent woman is in Risdon Prison for his ‘murder’.
Woman wronged to receive rally support
By Bill Rowlings, CEO of Civil Liberties Australia
Supporters of Sue Neill-Fraser will gather for a singing rally at the foot of the steps of Parliament House Hobart on Saturday 24 January 2015.
The rally is to protest her wrongful conviction for murder.
Her husband, Bob Chappell, disappeared from a 16m cruising yacht moored off Sandy Bay on the Derwent after choosing to stay alone on the yacht overnight to fix electrical wiring and lights. His body has never been found.
Neill-Fraser was convicted by a jury of killing her husband. There was no confession, no witness, no plausible motive and a host of other more likely suspects not properly investigated by Tasmanian Police.
|Rally: Saturday 24 January 2015 at Noon|
Parliament House steps/lawns, Hobart.
If you are attending, practise singing We Shall Overcome…and the song here: http://youtu.be/ohhF5uCFRLA
’60 Minutes’ on the case: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDrEllS-JHY
Many people, Civil Liberties Australia included, believe it is a wrongful conviction.
Neill-Fraser is in her sixth year of detention, sentenced originally to 26 years with 18 years non-parole. The sentence was reduced on appeal to 23 years jail, with 13 years non-parole. The appeal court found the trial judge was ignorant of sentencing law and precedent, but otherwise ruled his management of the case faultless.
At trial, she denied killing her husband. She continues to proclaim her innocence, as do supporters within Tasmania, and from mainland Australia and throughout the world. They include yachties, leading barristers, other lawyers, former judges, current magistrates, academics, politicians, film and media people and journalists, and a large number of just plain citizens.
However, some Tasmanians claim the island state’s justice system got it right, and that Neill-Fraser is guilty, despite increasing evidence unearthed by her pro bono lawyer Barbara Etter and support investigators and legal advisers acting free of charge.
The new evidence may be tested in a Petition for Mercy prepared nominally for the new Governor of Tasmania, Kate Warner, but in practice to be referred to the Attorney-General to make an “executive” decision whether a new trial is permitted.
The AG is lawyer-criminologist Dr Vanessa Goodwin, who has secured Cabinet approval to ‘mirror’ a year-old South Australian law which just before Christmas 2014 saw an innocent man, Henry Keogh, released by the SA Supreme Court after 19 years in jail for a murder of which he is now presumed innocent.
Keogh was permitted to appeal because the new SA law allows a prisoner another chance at a fair hearing in the state’s Supreme Court if “fresh and compelling” new evidence can be produced.
All sorts of new material and evidence have come to light to clearly establish that the jury in the Neill-Fraser case was seriously misled by a mixture of suspect police investigation and both ignorant and possibly malicious claims by prosecution witnesses, as well as by a erroneous claim in court by the prosecutor, then Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis.
DPP Ellis – since convicted himself of the criminal offence of negligent driving causing death – admitted in the Court of Criminal Appeal that he had made a tragic error when he said that Neill-Fraser’s DNA was on a glove used to clean up what he claimed was a crime scene in the saloon of the yacht, Four Winds. The glove DNA actually belonged to one of the missing man’s children from his first marriage. But Ellis ominous mistake was almost the last thing the jury heard before retiring to consider its verdict.
In yet another strange twist to a puzzling crime, there was a strong DNA sample found on the deck of the yacht: it belonged to a woman who claimed she was never on board the Four Winds, though it is known she was sleeping rough at the time. Her connection to the DNA found on the yacht came to light when police did a criminal records check.
Known violent men with gruesome police records, including causing death and inflicting gross bodily harm, are known to have been on the shoreline within a few hundred metres of the yacht. People sleeping in cars at Sandy Bay had ready access to dinghies to reach the yacht, possibly searching for free wine and whisky on Australia Day night. Anyone approaching the yacht believing it vacant because no dinghy was attached would have received as big a shock as Bob Chappell, alone and suddenly confronted by a boarding party.
The yacht, Four Winds, was discovered at daylight half sunk, deliberately so according to the prosecution. However, the same prosecution claimed Neill-Fraser had killed her husband and sunk the yacht for financial gain and so she could enjoy it by herself, without having to buy out or share the vessel in a marriage split. That is an astonishingly ridiculous claim when it is realised that a yacht sunk in seawater loses up to 75% of its value instantly…and there was absolutely no discord between Sue and Bob, who were both excited by the opportunity to sail their four-month old, jointly purchased and jointly paid for cruising vessel to unexplored places.
Civil Liberties Australia supports the campaign for Neill-Fraser’s release. Having analysed the full trial transcripts, and being privy to much of the new evidence, we believe she should be released immediately, in the same way Henry Keogh was, with a presumption of innocence, by the Tasmanian AG. The matter should then be referred to another Tasmanian prosecutor to determine whether she is to be retried. If she is to be retried, it requires a judge from outside Tasmania to conduct the trial.
There should be an inquiry into how she was charged in the first place, how the DPP decided to proceed to trial, and how the trial was conducted.
Justice in Tasmania demands that lessons are learned by the island state in the miscarriage of justice which is the Sue Neill-Fraser – Yacht No Body case.
In lay language, the totally circumstantial case and dubious evidence which has misled a jury into convicting Neill-Fraser was and is as ropey as as a rodeo.
The real problem is that the killer remains on the loose in Hobart town.