Special Leave

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.



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