It is noted that the family largely refrained in the early days following Sue’s arrest and prior to the trial from engaging with media, as that was the expert advice they received.
On Thursday the 20th of August, our mother, Sue Neill-Fraser, was arrested at our family home at approximately 1pm. She is alleged to have murdered her partner of 20 years Bob Chappell.
She is in a maximum-security prison on remand and her family was not permitted to visit her until yesterday – seven days after her arrest.
We miss Bob dearly and believe in our mother. We now place our faith in the judicial process.
We thank the community for their ongoing support.
Appeal Judgement (Tasmanian Supreme Court)
Tuesday, March 6 2012
Statement by Sarah Bowles & Emma Meeker, daughters of Sue Neill-Fraser
We are extremely disappointed with the decision of the Tasmanian Court of Criminal Appeal not to acquit or grant our mum, Sue Neill-Fraser, retrial.
The case was entirely circumstantial – no body, no weapon, an implausible motive, no direct supporting forensic evidence, no confession, no direct eye witnesses.
Mum has always maintained her innocence. We believe in her and will continue the battle until she is released from prison and acquitted.
We have faith that truth has a way of seeping out but how long will this take? Mum has now been in jail since 2009 and we still don’t know what happened to Bob. Mum tries to remain in good spirits but as you can imagine, her grief, isolation and suffering has impacted on her health and well-being. She needs to return home to her family and friends so that we can re-define our lives and heal.She should affectively not lose her life, as well as her partner who was also her best friend and soulmate.
Mum has been portrayed as a ‘manipulative liar’. This is not at all accurate. We believe that the need to make a person evil and bad in the courtroom is a strategy to make up for a lack of evidence. Our mum has never been an aggressive, violent or nasty person. What is happening to her is horrific and we can only hope that we can resolve it sooner rather than later. Our understanding was that, most likely, the appeal was going to result in a re-trial. Our understanding is that an acquittal would normally require the production of new or fresh evidence. To obtain this type of evidence we rely heavily on the police and their abilities and commitment to thoroughly investigate. There is only so much a family can do.
Regardless of what happens in the courts, we will never stop fighting for mum’s acquittal. This is not only about mum, it is about Bob and how Bob is to be remembered. We as a family need closure and we demand justice.
We would like to thank all of mum’s supporters who have tirelessly and thanklessly worked on the case. It makes a big difference to mum to know that people understand and believe in her, as well as in the wider social justice issues that this case reflects.
We will continue to fight for mum and seek leave to take this matter to the High Court. There is a legal minefield ahead of us but this case is full of issues and it is a matter of public interest that they are formally addressed.
Some of the issues are:
- A poor police investigation involving the misrepresentation of some issues and a failure to follow up on key matters;
- The strong possibility of new or fresh evidence due to a number of “loose ends” in the investigation;
- Refusal by the trial judge to allow the Defence to recall a key witness, whose DNA was inexplicably found at the crime scene (i.e. on the yacht), who had lied to police about her movements on that night and did not have an alibi for the period in question;
- Possible non-disclosure issues and a possible deliberate strategy by police of not taking statements from certain witnesses if their evidence did not suit the prosecution’s case;
- Apparent lack of co-ordination in the forensic examination of exhibits and other issues including significant crime scene contamination;
- An untested and highly implausible scenario postulated by the Prosecution involving the winching of Bob’s body from the bowels of the yacht into a dinghy by mum, single-handedly;
- A clearly flawed Defence strategy at trial (no countering evidence via the calling of witnesses for the Defence);
- Mum’s personality became under attack because she appeared to show little emotion – It seems perhaps not a lot has been learnt from the “The Lindy Chamberlain case”.
- Furthermore, the sentencing judge partially justified giving mum 26 years in prison because she did not show remorse for her crime. She is hardly going to demonstrate remorse for a crime she did not commit!;
- Inappropriate comments and scenarios proposed by the DPP at the trial, which had no basis whatsoever and were not supported by the evidence eg. The suggestion ‘Sue struck the deceased from behind with a wrench’;
- The jury being misled on important issues such as the timing of diary entries where the prosecution was in possession of forensic evidence which supported mums defence;
- The timing of the jury verdict, which happened to be made late on the Friday evening – feedback would indicate that they were keen not to spend the weekend deliberating!;
- No regard or consideration for the psychological or mental condition of mum, who was extremely traumatised after the loss of her long-time partner and being treated by medication when at trial; and
- False and malicious media reports that were never countered by family due to legal advice.
The defence strategy adopted at the trial did not allow for family, friends with relevant evidence or expert witnesses to be called as part of our case. This was said to be done as the ‘burden of proof’ lay with the crown but did not account for the reliance of the prosecution on insinuations and aggressive character attacks.
Mum has been under enormous psychological strain. She has lost her partner of 20 years in still unknown circumstances and is living with the pain and frustration of being wrongfully accused and convicted of a terrible crime she had no involvement in- whilst the real murders are still amongst us.
We will not stop the fight for mum’s Innocence
Statement by Sarah Bowles and Emma Fraser-Meeker: Daughters (September 2012)
We are aghast at the High Court’s refusal to give mum the right to appeal her conviction for murder, following the disappearance of her partner of 20 years, Bob Chappell.
Mum strongly asserts her innocence and maintains she had nothing to do with the disappearance of Bob in January 2009. We believe in her and united with her friends, supporters and legal/expert team, we will continue to fight for justice in this matter.
Mum has now been incarcerated for 3 years and grows more determined to seek justice and demonstrate her innocence. Regardless of the set-backs along the way, we will continue to pursue avenues to achieve this.
We urge people to take the time to consider that this case has resulted in a devastating miscarriage of justice and that an innocent women is spending her life in a prison cell for a crime she did not commit.
Time and time again we are reminded of the imperfections of our legal system and across Australia, wrongful convictions are acknowledged and overturned thanks to determined individuals pursuing justice for some of the most vulnerable members of society – the wrongfully accessed prisoner stripped of rights and freedoms we all take for granted. Indeed, Mum was stripped of those rights a year before her trial, when she was denied bail.
We believe Mum is the victim of an unfair trial. The trial was built on a string of allegations that Mum and her supporter denounce. As Michael Croucher SC argued, unsuccessfully, before two Justices of the High Court, Mum was also denied the ability to present before the jury important evidence supporting her innocence, such properly exploring the unexplained presence of DNA on the yacht where Bob went missing.
While we were not able to fully present our objections to the trial evidence at the High Court leave hearing, the court clearly took note of some of the allegations against Mum, which it was not to know are false and strongly contested. For example, members of the High Court repeated accusations, including:
- That mum had sought to have her brother killed many years ago – This is the repeat of a lie and clearly so because her brother is alive and well and supports her innocence.
- That only someone with intimate knowledge of the yacht could scuttle it – Anyone with knowledge of boats could scuttle it. Perhaps even, it could be said that someone with an intimate knowledge of that particular boat could have sunk it at a much swifter rate!
- Based on an eye witness sighting, a person thought to be a female, was seen going out in a dingy towards Four Winds late on the night Bob went missing – This witness has never been able to accurately state what he saw. There is also further information to potentially contest this piece of evidence.
As such, it appears that the Court had on its mind many of the 2010 trial accusations which were not rigorously explored or appropriately contested. This can only be done if we were to be granted a re-trial and able to call our own witnesses, including an array of expert witness.
The prosecution also took the opportunity in the High Court special leave application to continue to re-excite aspects of evidence, which we thought were not able to be re-addressed in this setting. We were under the impression that the special leave application was only an opportunity to examine issues of law not those of evidence. However, the DPP alleged again:
- That Mum had knowingly lied about break-ins to the Yacht Scarborough Marina in Queensland – The same Marina where a day after Mum’s conviction was handed down one of Australia’s largest drug busts occurred.
- That the relationship between Mum and Bob was over – Bob’s own sister, who last saw them together, testified that their relationship was strong. Close family and friends did not give evidence at trial but if we were to have, we could have demonstrated that such allegations were false.
- That mum had a motive – It was argued at trial that mum had a financial motive. Mum did not need Bob’s money, and in fact in terms of quality of life in that respect, she was much more financially better off with him alive. Bob provided for her, cooked all their meals, and shared a love of good conversation and travel.
- That only someone with intimate knowledge of the yacht would know where the winch handle was kept – This is not accurate as the winch was in a visible location where it could be easily accessed.
While we want nothing more than to have our Mum free, she wants a re-trial or independent inquiry to clear her name, seek the truth and discover what really happened to Bob.
With the assistance of Barbara Etter (integrity and justice consultant) and our legal team including Madeleine Ogilvy, Greg Barns and Tom Percy QC, we believe justice can prevail and the Tasmanian justice system can show itself to be a truth-seeking system.
We urge anyone out in the community that has information in relation to this case to contact mum’s solicitor Madeline Ogilvie or any other member of the team. We believe that there is still information that may help us find out what happened to Bob and in turn assist in bringing some form of closure to this devastating ordeal.
Mum’s ex-husband, Brett Meeker, also expressed grave concern at the mis-truths being circulated in the community. “While Sue and I don’t see eye to eye on everything, I know she is no murderer. And clearly rumours spread about Sue killing her first husband are a fabrication,“ Mr Meeker said.
Son-in-law Mark Bowles, also expressed support. “Having lived with Sue and Bob not long before Bob went missing, and seen their relationship up close, and also having seen Sue suffer in private after Bob’s disappearance whilst being subject to a witch-hunt I know what has occurred is a travesty of justice. Only someone with something to hide would now oppose a truth-seeking inquiry or retrial.” Mr Bowles said.
26 January 2013
Coronial inquest sought in Chappell case
TASMANIA’S Chief Magistrate Michael Hill has been formally requested to conduct an inquest into the circumstances surrounding death of Tasmanian radiation physicist Bob Chappell who disappeared on Australia Day 2009.
The request has been lodged by Mrs Barbara Etter APM, the solicitor acting for Sue Neill-Fraser. Ms Neill-Fraser was convicted of murdering Mr Chappell in October 2010, and is now serving a 23-year sentence in Risdon Prison.
Ms Neill-Fraser continues to steadfastly maintain her innocence and is living through what for many people would be their worst nightmare.
Ms Neill-Fraser’s conviction was based entirely on a circumstantial case, with no body, no weapon, no forensic evidence linking her to the crime scene, no plausible motive, no admissions or confessions and no eyewitnesses to the actual crime.
There has never been a formal inquest into Mr Chappell’s death completed.
Under Section 27 of the Coroners Act 1995, the Chief Magistrate has the broad discretion to hold an inquest into the disappearance and death.
Ms Neill-Fraser’s daughter Sarah Bowles said her mother and family wanted an open and public investigation into all the circumstances of Bob Chappell’s death, not just those selected by police or prosecutors, and this could only occur through a coronial inquest.
An inquest is required to resolve the serious doubt and unease surrounding the case and to address the numerous unanswered questions, as well as to highlight important material that was either not disclosed by police nor drawn to the attention of the court at the trial.
Sue Neill-Fraser’s family announced the request to the Chief Magistrate for an inquest on Australia Day, marking the fourth anniversary of Bob Chappell’s death.
Mrs Bowles said, like her mother, the family required closure and wanted to know and understand the circumstances of Bob’s tragic death and his body’s resting place.
“My sister Emma and I were at primary school when our family moved in with Bob. He was a much respected and admired father figure to us and we are profoundly distressed that we do not know what happened to him,” Mrs Bowles said.
“There is a palpable and continuing sense of unease and disquiet in the community about the case and the soundness of our mother’s conviction.
“There are serious reservations regarding the thoroughness of the police investigation into Bob’s disappearance and death and it is in the public interest and in the interests of justice, to conduct a fair and impartial inquest.”
Mrs Bowles said since the trial, the family has become aware of further information relating to the death and subsequent investigation. This information was not made available to the family at the time of the trial and nor was it able to be presented at appeal hearings.
“This included information regarding other potential suspects, persons of interest and witnesses, and significant evidence that had been overlooked or ignored in the investigation.
“There are several critical witnesses who were not called to give evidence at the trial, who would be able to provide important information concerning the circumstances leading to Bob’s death and the subsequent police investigation.
“While the Coroner is unable to comment on the guilt or innocence of any person, mum and our family would welcome a probing and comprehensive public inquiry into Bob’s death.
“There are precedents for conducting an inquest, even following criminal proceedings and resulting convictions, such as the case of Lindy Chamberlain.
“We see this as very similar to Lindy Chamberlain’s situation, where a person has been convicted in a dubious circumstantial case – where prejudices and an inadequate investigation have resulted in a conviction that must be extremely dangerous and worrying for the Tasmanian community.
“The community must have confidence that any suspicious or violent death is investigated by police in a timely, thorough and objective manner. Like many people, we have some very serious doubts.”
“There is a great deal of rumour, suspicion and concern in the community regarding Bob’s death and it is clearly in the public interest to allay this by conducting a fair inquest.
“So we are respectfully asking the Chief Magistrate to conduct an open and public coronial investigation into Bob’s death as soon as possible.
“People with any information as to the case, or anyone who has photos or vision of the Four Windsor Marieville Esplanade foreshore on the evening or afternoon of Australia Day 2009, is asked to contact Mum’s Solicitor, Barbara Etter, at email@example.com or on 0477 298 661.
“Particularly, anyone should come forward if they have information relating to grey dinghies seen in the vicinity of the Four Winds yacht or the rowing sheds on the Marieville Esplanade foreshore on the afternoon or evening of Australia Day, advice of any stolen dinghies or thefts from boats or from near the foreshore at that time, and information regarding any people or vehicles acting strangely in the vicinity that Australia Day.
“People should come forward even if they have already provided information as it appears some material may have been overlooked or ignored,” Mrs Bowles said.