Thursday, March 7, 2019

Susan Neill-Fraser: Australia: Major Development: Investigative show 'Sixty Minutes Australia' to air episode containing what the network calls an "explosive confession' from Meaghan Vass, who says she saw who really murdered Bob Chappell...Narrator: "When she comes back she will give Sixty Minutes the confession that will send a shockwave throughout Australia."

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: This Blog has been following closely developments in the case of Susan Neill-Fraser, who as already served nine years in the murder of her partner Bob Chappell. Mounting efforts to secure her freedom could hopefully reach a significant breakthrough this Sunday ( March 10, 2019) with the airing of a new episode of the investigative journalism show "Sixty Minutes Australia," as per the Facebook page at the link below, which contains a brief 'sneak peak.' As the 'sneak peak' indicates, "This woman  (Meaghan Vass) has been traumatised by a terrible 10-year secret. She says she saw who really murdered Bob Chappell, and this Sunday risks it all to reveal what happened. Her explosive confession could overturn a murder conviction and free a 63-year-old grandmother from prison, ONLY on #60Mins." ..."Narrator: When she comes back she will give Sixty Minutes the confession that will send a shockwave throughout Australia."

Harold Levy: Publisher: The Charles Smith Blog.


Access the Sixty Minute Facebook page at:


In preparation for Sunday's production, read Andrew L. Urban's post 'Undercurrent:   The wash swamps the conviction on his Blog 'The Wrongful Conviction Blog,' March 7, 2019.  I highly respect Urban's opinion as he - no puns intended -  as he has plunged deeply into the Neill-Fraser case.
"Journalists (including this one*) have been saying it for years: the 2010 Sue Neill-Fraser murder conviction is wrong. Meaghan Vass’ DNA found at the crime scene (the yacht Four Winds) should have been urgently & thoroughly investigated. In the 7 Network’s 6-part series, Undercurrent (last ep aired yesterday, March 6, 2019), a traumatised Vass reveals her years-long torment of knowing what really happened and how she has thought of convicted and jailed Neill-Fraser every day since, wishing she could “go and unlock the cell door for her”. Well, maybe Vass has finally as good as done that. You don’t have to be a hotshot detective or a brilliant psychologist to understand what she is saying in an interview that is part of the final episode of Undercurrent (Eve Ash/Missing Man/CJZ Productions). See what you make of these extracts from it:  Vass is in a Hobart hotel room for the interview, with her boyfriend and Colin McLaren (former detective now crime author). It had been arranged to record Vass finally revealing** that she was on board at the relevant time (hence her DNA) and she witnessed … something that would exonerate Sue Neill-Fraser. She can’t quite bring herself to say it explicitly. She never has been able to. She is so conflicted, torn by fear (risks from reprisals of all kinds and jail) and a sense of responsibility for Neill-Fraser’s plight …
Meaghan Vass (agitated): Eleven fucking years it’s taunted me mate. 
(taunted … haunted … tormented? It was actually eight years at the time of the interview but must have felt like 11 to her)
Meaghan Vass: No. I would like to go please. 
Boyfriend: Well, where are you going?
Meaghan Vass: To hell, I guess. 
Colin McLaren: Do you ever think of the lady in jail?
Meaghan Vass: Every day for the past 11 years I have thought of that lady.
Colin McLaren: It wasn’t your fault, sweetie.
Meaghan Vass: I know that. 
Colin McLaren: Somebody did the wrong thing by you. 
Boyfriend: You’re the one carrying it all. Do it for yourself Meaghan for fuck’s sake.
Meaghan Vass: I’m trying so fucking hard. 
Colin McLaren: No you are not. You’re…
Meaghan Vass: What would you know? 
Boyfriend: You’re not going to get another fucking chance.
Colin McLaren: I know a lot about this shit. 
Meaghan Vass: Yeah, well not about the fuck I’m going through you don’t. 
Colin McLaren: What do you think of when you say you think of this lady in jail all these years every day? 
Meaghan Vass: Mate!
Colin McLaren: What do you actually think of? 
Meaghan Vass: Oh, how fucking horrible it would be. God! I would go and unlock the cell door for her today if I could but I can’t. 
Meaghan Vass: I can’t go to jail.
Colin McLaren: You are scared. 
Meaghan Vass: Fucking done! 
Colin McLaren: Why do you blame everybody else? 
Meaghan Vass: Oh that’s right. Well guess what mate, it wasn’t fucking me. So there’s one for ya! Now can we go please?
No, ‘it’ wasn’t her. But it wasn’t Sue Neill-Fraser, either.
And it wasn’t just episode 6; the entire series is an embarrassment to TasPol – and by extension to the Office of the DPP (not to mention the trial!) – showing how the investigation should have been carried out, what persons of interest should have been questioned and what evidence was missed. All of that showed that the DPP should not have accepted the brief of evidence against Neill-Fraser.
Meaghan Vass completes the unravelling of the case against Neill-Fraser on Channel 9’s 60 Minutes this coming Sunday (March 10, 2019). In the wake of Seven’s Undercurrent, Nine’s 60 Minutes records her confirming that she was witness to the murder – and it had nothing to do with Neill-Fraser.

That sound you hear coming from Tasmania is the sound of the lid blowing off this wrongful conviction.

* Urban’s articles about the case (here various, since August 15, 2013) and in The Australian (Dec. 30, 2013 & March 25, 2015), Tasmanian Times (various), have repeatedly claimed this was a wrongful conviction.  On August 24, 2014, Urban reported specifically on the DNA report by Victoria Police Forensic Services, which confirmed that the DNA was a direct deposit, not a transfer as claimed by the prosecution. Other media questioning the conviction included previous reports on 60 Minutes (17 March, 2013, 24 August 2014,); A Current Affair (31 July, 2013); Sunday Night on 7 (16 July, 2017) and Herald Sun (10 March, 2018).
** In the witness box on 29 September 2010, Meaghan Vass – then 15 and homeless – told the court in a very brief examination, that she had never been on board the yacht, Four Winds. Her DNA was found on the deck when forensic scientists swabbed it in the murder investigation after Bob Chappell’s disappearance from the yacht. In April 2017, she signed a declaration to say that she had been on board on that fateful Australia Day in 2009. But back in court on 30 October 2017, she was highly agitated and adamant that she had signed under duress and didn’t remember anything about being on the yacht.


BACKGROUND: Read the excellent  ABC News story by reporters James Dunlevie and Stephen Pigram at the link below: (Not totally up to date - but helpful for understanding the background of the case. HL)...  "The notices, sitting along major roads, offer a $40,000 reward for anyone with "true facts" that would exonerate Mr Chappell's de facto partner of 18 years, Susan Neill-Fraser, who is serving a 23-year jail sentence for his murder. Mr Chappell, a radiation physicist at the Royal Hobart Hospital, was last seen on the eve of Australia Day 2009 aboard the yacht he co-owned with Neill-Fraser. Police investigating his disappearance took eight months to build a case against Neill-Fraser, who protested her innocence from the start. The case has had many twists and turns, with one prominent lawyer likening Neill-Fraser's plight to that of Lindy Chamberlain. Also on Neill-Fraser's side are a number of other legal figures, Tasmanian 60 Minutes reporter Charles Wooley, a documentary filmmaker, independent MP Andrew Wilkie, journalist Andrew Urban, former police officer and integrity commissioner-turned-lawyer Barbara Etter plus many members of the public. All are convinced there has been a miscarriage of justice, or worse, a conspiracy. DNA of teenager found on yacht: The website of Shadow Of Doubt, a film made by Neill-Fraser supporter Eve Ash, said the couple "had a strong relationship — a profound understanding of each other's unique personalities, intellectual respect, companionship, and a deep love". "Sue and Bob spent the last few years searching for a special yacht that would become their retirement "shack", the website stated. "They finally found Four Winds at Scarborough Marina, Queensland and had only had the boat in Hobart one month before Bob disappeared." The fight to overturn Neill-Fraser's conviction has been largely driven by her daughters Sarah Bowles and Emma Mills, who visit their mother in Risdon Prison on the outskirts of Hobart and who brave the throng of media who turn up to court proceedings. The camp that believes justice was served includes the trial judge, investigative journalist Andrew Rule, former coroner Glen Hay, Peter Powell — who led the original investigation — and current Police Commissioner Darren Hine, as well as the jury, which returned a unanimous verdict. Add to the complicated mix Meaghan Vass, who at the time of Mr Chappell's disappearance in 2009 was a homeless teenager, whose DNA was found on the starboard walkway of the Four Winds by forensic investigators. Since the trial, the prosecution's handling of Ms Vass as a witness has been called into question by some who believe she could have provided more information about the possible presence of others in the area on the night of the murder and what happened on the Four Winds. Ms Vass has not been a suspect in Mr Chappell's murder. Three charged over appeal evidence: This year, three people were charged with perverting the course of justice over Neill-Fraser's appeal: Hobart lawyer Jeffrey Ian Thompson, Karen Patricia Nancy Keefe and a 57-year-old Risdon Vale man. According to police, Ms Keefe, 41, agreed to accept property and money totalling almost $100,000 in return for providing false evidence and convincing another to do the same in Neill-Fraser's appeal. She has pleaded not guilty. Hobart lawyer Mr Thompson, 51, also charged with perverting the course of justice, has pleaded not guilty. Police alleged Mr Thompson deliberately influenced a witness and prejudiced photographic evidence in support of Neill-Fraser's appeal. Police also alleged that the 57-year-old Risdon Vale man provided false evidence relating to Neill-Fraser's appeal application. Further confusing the issue was the account of Phillip Triffett, who told the court Neill-Fraser had asked him to kill Mr Chappell 10 years earlier, and for him to murder her own brother, Patrick. And, of course, there is the fact Mr Chappell's body has never been found. Nor has a murder weapon. Eight-month investigation due to 'disposal of body': Mr Chappell was either dead or unconscious when he went into the water, weighed down by an old-fashioned fire extinguisher sometime between 5:00pm and midnight on January 26, 2009, Justice Alan Blow said at the trial. Justice Blow said Neill-Fraser "sabotaged" Four Winds with the intention of sinking it before using the ropes and winches to lift Mr Chappell's body onto the deck, manoeuvring his body into a dinghy and travelling away from the yacht's mooring to deeper water where she dumped the body. Before killing Mr Chappell, Neill-Fraser had "come to the conclusion that her relationship with him was at an end", Justice Blow said.
"I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Ms Neill-Fraser deliberately killed Mr Chappell for a reason, and that reason had to do with her financial betterment - possibly a desire to acquire all the assets that she stood to receive upon his death, and at least a desire to place herself in a position where she could acquire Mr Chappell's interest in the Four Winds without having to borrow."
The prosecution case also relied on Neill-Fraser's own statements - which included an allegedly false account of her whereabouts the day after the crime. The jury in the case returned the verdict on October 15, 2010, with Justice Blow telling the court in his sentencing remarks: "As a result of the means that she adopted to kill Mr Chappell and to dispose of his body, Ms Neill- Fraser made it necessary for the police to undertake a very time-consuming investigation." Justice Blow sentenced Neill-Fraser to 26 years in prison, with a non-parole period of 18 years. Her supporters immediately began questioning the verdict and working on a plan to free her. Story makes it to the theatre: In 2012, the Court of Criminal Appeal dismissed Neill-Fraser's appeal against the conviction but allowed the appeal against the sentence, with Neill-Fraser sentenced to 23 years in prison, with a new non-parole period of 13 years. Almost seven years to the day since Neill-Fraser heard her sentence, a court is set to consider whether there is enough fresh evidence to open the door to an appeal. A week before the last-ditch appeal, a theatre production based on the Neill-Fraser case, financed by a Canberra lawyer, took to a stage in Hobart.
"An Inconvenient Woman does not make any judgment about Susan Neill-Fraser's guilt or innocence, but asks probing questions about a judicial system under the spotlight," the play's promotional material made clear.
Should her October 30 bid fail, Neill-Fraser will return to Risdon Prison - with 2022 the earliest she can hope for release. If she wins parole then, Neill-Fraser will be about 67 years old. In 2022, Mr Chappell would be 79, if he were alive."

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to:  Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.