Sue Neill-Fraser's conviction is WRONG!There needs to be a Royal Commission.
Radiation Physicist, Bob Chappell, aged 65, was last seen alive on Australia Day, 26 January 2009. He was aboard his 53 foot Four Winds yacht, moored 400 metres off Sandy Bay. Many yachts were moored nearby, on individual mooring points. On the night Bob disappeared he was doing odd jobs on Four Winds, electing to stay on board overnight. His partner Sue had returned to shore in the couple’s dinghy, and planned to stay at home. She made various phone calls to her family.
The yachting fraternity was awash with Australia day festivities, daytime and early evening parties and gatherings dotted the marina and foreshore during the night. The Royal Hobart Yacht Club was nearby. Overlooking the location of the Four Winds is the Sandy Bay Rowing Club, a series of large sheds on a spit of land known as a peninsula. This area had become where some homeless, drunks and thieves gathered, and some slept rough.
Early the next morning – 27 January - the Four Winds yacht was found sinking, taking water. There were spatters of blood inside the saloon, a long blade knife, signs of violence and Bob Chappell was missing, never to be seen again.
The prosecution’s case was simple: (Apparently) The relationship between Bob and Sue was in trouble, she wanted out and planned her exit. On Australia Day night – around midnight - Sue went onto the yacht in her dinghy, struck Bob from behind with a large wrench, killing him, before winching his body out of the saloon, past the wheelhouse and into her dinghy. Then she tossed Bob overboard, tied to an old fire extinguisher. Sue (apparently) cleaned up the crime scene wearing latex gloves and left the yacht to sink after cutting a water pipe and opening an inlet valve. She then went home, after dumping her dinghy near the rowing sheds, near where a homeless man slept in his car, and tossed her red jacket – that she was (supposedly) wearing – onto a nearby fence of a house overlooking the shoreline.
Late at night a stranger - who had never met Sue - rang her, claiming to be a friend of Bob’s daughter, who has mental health issues. He told Sue the daughter was fearful that something bad would happen to her father and the yacht would sink. This uncanny prediction was never fully investigated. After 30 minutes the caller rang off, leaving Sue perplexed.
When the yacht was found sinking the next morning the police failed to exclusively treat the yacht as a crime scene. Their efforts were mostly to salvage the yacht. The yacht was never taken out of the water, never placed in dry dock. Never treated as a homicide priority.
One day later a witness contacted police and stated that (supposedly) he knew Bob and Sue, and that Sue – many years previously – asked him to help kill Bob by drowning him from a yacht. This ‘witness’ offered to make a statement, implicating Sue. Yet, he hadn’t seen Bob or Sue for 12 years and had a history with police and violence. He was facing charges and possible incarceration for serious criminal offences. Nonetheless, this witness became the key Crown witness against Sue.
Another witness came forward saying he saw a dinghy heading out towards the yacht around midnight, with an outline of a person that could have been a woman. Another witness thought she saw Bob and Sue arguing that morning, but later realised it was Bob and his sister (on a different day). Several witnesses saw a strange grey dinghy at the yacht that afternoon – it was never found or investigated. And another witness in a house overlooking the bay saw a weather-beaten man with reddish hair, seen in an inflatable dinghy in the vicinity of the yacht. However, police made the decision that this man was actually Sue Neill-Fraser! Despite the blatant differences in appearances! Electronic surveillance was mounted on Sue soon after Bob’s disappearance. There was no evidence obtained linking her to Bob’s death or disposal of the body.
Police believed Sue told three ‘lies’ and changed her story during the investigation. One ‘lie’ was (supposedly) that she never told police of a strange call related to Bob’s daughter. Which caused Sue to go down to the foreshore to look out, to the yacht. She saw nothing odd, but elected to keep this odd phone call to herself. What she did see was a group of homeless people gathered around a small fire pot on the peninsula. She mentioned this to police, but they never followed it up.
The other ‘lie’ related to Sue not recognising the red jacket as hers, despite her DNA being inside it. She was shown the jacket in the first hours of Bob’s disappearance, when she was shocked and had been given sedatives. The last ‘lie’ related to Sue stating that she visited Bunnings hardware in the afternoon of 26 January, yet police failed to find her on CCTV footage. In fact, her computer proves she went on line at Bunnings to price slip-mats and also told her daughter (by phone) she was going there. Still, police consider she ‘lied’. Bear in mind, Bunnings closed at 6.00pm, and DPP allege the murder happened late at night… so what turns on Bunnings?
No allowance was made by police for any shock Sue may have suffered at the immediate news of her partner’s disappearance. Could shock have muddled Sue’s answers to three issues discussed over many hours of interview by police and weeks of listening devices?
Ultimately, Tasmania police were convinced of Sue’s guilt. So much so, that no other suspects were considered, and no avenues of enquiries took place to identify all the persons on yachts, on the water that night. Or on the foreshore. In fact, there were many persons of interest, from homeless, to crooks and vagabonds with criminal histories. As well as street kids and locals. A smorgasbord of people worth chasing down.
Sue’s three ‘lies’ and the ‘plot to kill Bob’ Crown witness became the prosecution case.
The forensic analysis of the yacht was troublesome, bearing in mind the yacht was at risk, on water. Forensic officers identified a vast amount of potential exhibits; blood, hair, scratches, fingerprints, scuff marks, rags, vomit, clothes, but only examined a few of the crucial exhibits. Some of these exhibits disappeared from the exhibit log.
Police also missed key exhibits, like grey hairs attached to a piece of skin, and how someone with yacht knowledge had dis-engaged the bilge pumps. As well as how the body of Bob was removed from the yacht, via the skylight hatch in the saloon. There also remains unmatched DNA and mixed profile DNA; untested, unidentified. As well as a ‘swag’ of fingerprints, unexamined, languishing in police headquarters.
Long after Sue was arrested and awaiting trial, one large volume DNA sample was matched to a teenage homeless girl. A girl – now a 25 year-old homeless woman - who hung around Sandy Bay and the peninsula. But the DPP never led any facts on this girl, electing to say her DNA was merely a secondary transfer, a speck of material walked onto the yacht under a police person’s boot! In reality, her DNA is a puddle of fluid the size of a dinner plate, 260mm x 210mm. (impossible to be walked onto the yacht under a copper’s boot) This disturbing fact became the elephant in the courtroom, unable to be explored by the defence.
The DPP suggested Sue’s dinghy was used in the commission of the murder. Yet, her dinghy had no evidence of any kind to show it was used in a bloody crime of murder. Even so, the DPP indicated there was blood in the dinghy! Regardless of this trial anomaly (which went against Sue) her red jacket was also found to be free of any blood or forensics to indicate Sue murdered Bob.
So, why point these two exhibits against Sue Neil-Fraser. And who killed Bob Chappell?
In coming weeks this information will be explored.