The Tasmanian government should eliminate uncertainty by initiating an inquiry into the Neill-Fraser case, where hospital physicist Robert Chappell disappeared from a yacht in January 2009, Civil Liberties Australia says.
“No body has even been found, yet his wife of 18 years, Sue Neill-Fraser, is in Risdon for murdering him. Many Tasmanians. as well as eminent lawyers from throughout Australia, believe the conviction is unsafe,” CEO Bill Rowlings said.
“A rally of hundreds of people in Hobart on Saturday points to decreasing confidence in the woman’s conviction. Five years after his death, more than four years after she was jailed, people are still willing to turn out and be counted as saying they are not confident in the verdict, or the system that delivered the conviction.
“Tasmania needs an inquiry to restore confidence in the police investigation process and the justice system. If she is indeed not guilty, then a killer or killers may still be roaming Hobart’s streets, that’s the alarming point often overlooked in discussing this case.
“No campaign for a single jailed person lasts this long, and continues to grow, unless there’s something not quite right.
“Every time there’s a rally, or another article produces a new angle notpreviously considered, it sows more doubt about the robustness of justice in Tasmania. For the sake of maintaining public confidence, the Premier should order an inquiry before this parliament’s term ends,” he said.
Mr Rowlings said Premier Lara Giddings was Attorney-General and Minister for Justice when Mr Chappell disappeared, and when the original trial was held, so the key events happened “on her watch”. The Court of Criminal Appeal hearing occurred when she was Premier, so all aspects of the case have taken place with her in charge, one way or another.
“This uncertainty, this increasing lack of confidence in the justice system, is a terrible legacy to leave behind if her government is defeated on 15 March.
“We call on the Premier to close out her current premiership by ordering an inquiry and nominating a clearly independent judge to hold a wide-ranging inquiry into the Neill-Fraser, case. It’s up to her whether it is a local or an interstate judge.
“Tasmanians must have absolute confidence in their justice system. There is no way that is now the case. The air must be cleared. All aspects of this case need to be opened to a fresh examination so people can have confidence they really know whether or not justice was done,” Mr Rowlings said.