Image for SMH pulls Neill-Fraser article, apologises to Tim Ellis ...

*Pic: Yacht at the centre ... the Four Winds ...

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The Sydney Morning Herald has apologised to former DPP Tim Ellis SC for misrepresenting facts presented at Susan Neill-Fraser’s murder trial - nine weeks after Good Weekend magazine (GW) published the cover story ‘Waters of Doubt’ (Saturday 7 May), before pulling it several days later.

The article sub-heading asked “is this the greatest miscarriage of justice since Lindy Chamberlain?”.

On 13 May GW editor, Amelia Lester, revealed to The Guardian that Waters of Doubt was being reviewed and would not be available online during the review.

The article’s authors, GW deputy editor Greg Callaghan and court reporter Emma Partridge, subsequently failed to acknowledge or answer questions about why their article was so clearly one-sided, featuring recent interviews with Neill-Fraser and her defence team, but nobody from the prosecution, the police, or the victim’s family.

Callaghan and Partridge also refused to answer why their story grossly misrepresented a recent directions hearing in the case, at which Neill-Fraser’s defence team presented inadmissable evidence, and were then charitably given a second chance by the presiding judge.

The SMH’s Fairfax stablemate, The Examiner, reported Justice Shan Tennent’s directions ruling several weeks before Waters of Doubt was published.

Justice Tennent said Neill-Fraser’s defence submission was full of “hearsay and irrelevant material.” The submission included a documentary DVD, an email to Tasmaniantimes.com, and a theory about a hitman being responsible.

The crown prosecutor said he had no idea what the defence team’s submission had to do with the case, and that it wasn’t up to the prosecution “to try and magically work out what their case is.”

The GW article described the outcome of the same directions hearing as follows:

“Judge Justice Shan Tennent gives the lawyers three months to prepare an ‘application book’ for a new directions conference. Justice moves slowly.”

Author Greg Callaghan also had an unusual exchange via Twitter the day after his article was published. He posted on Twitter that Neill-Fraser had cut her hand while onboard the yacht Four Winds on the day of Bob Chappell’s murder. Police did notice a cut on Neill-Fraser’s hand on the day following the murder, but she gave evidence at trial to say she had no memory of any cut whatsoever.

Callaghan has not revealed how he came to believe that Susan Neill-Fraser cut her hand while onboard the Four Winds on the day of Bob Chappell’s murder.

*Ben Lohberger has worked in media and politics in Tasmania for the past 15 years, most recently for the Huon Valley Council, and before that Aurora Energy. He lives in the Huon Valley, and is a longtime contributor to TasmanianTimes.

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