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.

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