Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


Coronial inquest sought in Chappell case


TASMANIA’S Chief Magistrate Michael Hill has been formally requested to complete an inquest into the circumstances surrounding the 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 Winds or Marieville Esplanade foreshore on the evening or afternoon of Australia Day 2009, is asked to contact Mum’s Solicitor, Barbara Etter, at barbara@betterconsult.com.au 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.

Earlier on Tasmanian Times, Barbara Etter: Sue Neill-Fraser Case: Call-Taking and Recording. Doorknocking …

Mercury: Death inquest push

Court of Criminal Appeals decision. Read for yourself, here

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Geraldine Allan

    February 5, 2013 at 11:02 am

    #40 Steve you are not going to get any argument from me on your last post.

    My rat-smelling antennae shot upright when I read AK’s #39 wherein is stated that he/she is not prepared to divulge the source of accessing and reading the trial transcript. Also, if we what AK tells us is fact, there are digital copies apparently, which have been/are circulated amongst the legal profession. Further, the post discusses highlighting. I am aware that of course legal practitioners do this for their refreshers etc., but I am astonished that AK has accessed these. This information leads me to deducing that the referred-to reading has taken place within the legal circles, AK being somehow connected, otherwise how would such access occur?

    Now, I realise I have resorted to speculation, but if it is OK to happen in a Supreme Court criminal trial where a person’s innocence is at stake, I’m giving myself licence to participate in the practice on TT.

    Indeed, time for our attention to be drawn back to the subject matter, impropriety, tardiness and misfeasance in police and public prosecutions resulting in grossly unacceptable outcomes.

  2. Dr Bob Moles

    February 5, 2013 at 10:50 am

    In view of the previous comments, it might help to point to legal authority which states that “speculation” especially on the part of expert witnesses is not allowed – R v Straker – this is a link to my summary of the case which in turn has a link to the full text of the law report: http://netk.net.au

  3. Steve

    February 4, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    39; So basically AK has made a bunch of allegations, told everyone else that they don’t know what they are talking about, due to lack of “boating knowledge”.
    When pressed to explain further it becomes “all speculation”. Umm yes, lot’s of speculation; but it appears that a woman is behind bars because a jury decided that the speculation was believable and a judge let them do it. Full circle, back to the original point of this article!

  4. A.K.

    February 4, 2013 at 8:37 am

    #31, I’m not going to reveal where I got access to the transcript, however believe there are a number of copies in digital and hard form within the legal profession and am told they can be obtained by making application to the courts. It is very long and as I said earlier, read a lot of it in digital form, mostly what had been highlighted but no where near all. At the time was very interested in the case purely because it was unusual and the media had so many discrepancies in their reporting.

    #38, from what I read and in my previous posts and others, it appears a spur of the moment thing or badly thought out, not dumped into the dinghy then tossed over but directly from the yacht, which requires no strength at all. A dead weight would make a dinghy very unstable when trying to get it in and out. That’s it from me on this subject, until an appeal or inquiry is granted, it’s all speculation and will remain so.

  5. Steve

    February 3, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    #31; AK, I’m struggling to understand the point you are making. Perhaps I’m being obtuse but I read your earlier posts as saying that the use of the sea cock indicated someone with knowledge of the boat. Now it seems that you are saying that ineffectual use of the sea cock indicates someone with limited knowledge of boating? Can you clarify?
    Either way, I would think the most ignorant land lubber would realise that the vessel would remained tethered to it’s mooring and obviously would be available for examination.
    The most obvious reason for attempting to sink the boat would be the destruction of evidence by someone ill equipped to employ the traditional method of simply starting a fire.
    I haven’t researched this story to the extent that you have, but to my eyes there appear to be some obvious alternative solutions. If these obvious alternative solutions can not be shown to have been totally eliminated, I struggle to see how anyone can be convicted purely on circumstantial evidence for a crime that has not been proven to have occurred.
    Reading #35, I have to agree with Observer. Anyone with small boat experience would understand how hard it would be to man handle a dead body into a tender and then tip it over the side, especially whist keeping it lashed to a fire extinguisher!

  6. Dr Bob Moles

    February 3, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    In view of the previous comment, please note that a link to the Court of Appeal judgment is included on the Barbara Etter Homepage which is at: http://netk.net.au/EtterHome.asp
    It also includes a no of article on the SNF case and I’m willing to add others as time allows

  7. Geraldine Allan

    February 3, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    #35. Firstly, the chain of events you list as I understand them, were police/crown speculation. My question — where is the evidence? It really frightens me that in Tasmania one can be convicted of a most serious crime without direct evidence and on speculation. Where is the application of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ rule indicated.

    Secondly, I have never met Susan Neill Fraser or any of her family. I am merely a most interested observer of how without any encouragement, injustice manifests itself in this state.

    Finally, if I were a member of the jury, I would be furious to discover post trial that I had been duped and misled into a guilty finding when all the evidence was not before me, hence the outcome of trial was unfair. Unfortunately and wrongly in my belief, jury members are prevented from speaking out. I am not sure that in such an instance I would be able to remain silent. I believe I would prefer to accept the punishment for my sin in the interest of transparency and real justice. In fact, I know I would have to, otherwise I could never live with my conscience.

  8. Observer

    February 3, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    I have searched unsuccessfully online for a report of the trial judgment in this matter, but the appeal judgment is available on the Austlii website, and it makes disturbing reading.

    Whilst Ms Neill-Fraser appears to have been inconsistent in her accounts of her movements in the hours leading up to Mr Chappell’s disappearance, the fact remains that it was just that – a disappearance.

    Despite a total lack of any substantive evidence, the (court heard of) a chain of events that described Ms Neill-Fraser attacking her partner with a heavy object, probably a wrench, winching his body overboard onto the yacht’s tender, weighting the body with an ‘old-fashioned’ fire extinguisher, travelling with the body into deep water and then disposing of it into the river.

    This was apparently accepted and endorsed by the trial judge and by the appeal judges, and one assumes the jury was directed accordingly at the trial.

    Further, a young woman, whose DNA was found on the yacht was able to avoid police interrogation. This person’s accounts of her whereabouts on the night in question were also inconsistent, but no attempt was made to determine the truth. The court decided, on the basis of her statement that she couldn’t remember anything clearly about the night in question, and she had no knowledge of the Neill-Fraser/Chappell yacht ‘Four Winds’, that it would be unproductive to interrogate her further.

    So, a woman in her fifties was convicted, and sentenced to a manifestly extreme prison sentence, on the basis of a version of events that didn’t even have the sense to take account of her probable physical inability to undertake the actions suggested. And, a possible alternative (explanation) was completely ignored.

    In what sort of parallel universe is this justice?

  9. Mark Bowles

    February 3, 2013 at 1:26 am

    A.K. #31 What really led you “to accept the verdict” is totally wrong. Sue went staight down to the mooring after receiving the call from the police radio room at around 7.10AM.

    That’s in the transcript and was undisputed.

  10. Geraldine Allan

    February 2, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    #31 AK, I am interested to know how you accessed and read “much of the transcript” as you confirm. Did you request to view these at the Supreme Court? There are several persons who have an interest in this matter who would like to read it for themselves.

    Judging by the length of the trial, I am assuming the transcript is voluminous. How long did it take you to read what I take from your comment, is a very large part of the transcript?

  11. Geraldine Allan

    February 2, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    My apologies. The above comments #24 – #27 (4 parts) are erroneously appearing in this thread. I meant them to appear @

  12. A.K.

    February 2, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    #29, you answered your question in your last paragraph. My point about the sea cock and being left on board without the ability to get off safely, seems to be beyond the majority of people commenting here’s comprehension and are denying what is before them, because they have little knowledge of boating beyond a tinny or runabout. Knowing what sea cock really is is not some esoteric knowledge, just an indication of your understanding of the mechanical and hydraulic forces involved in their use. Hence it was not opened far enough to sink the boat in the required time frame, overnight. If you had experience in large vessels, you’d know what is involved. This being so, they would have realise even if the boat has sunk at its mooring, as it would still be attached, easily accessible and one of the first things divers experienced in this work do, is check the integrity of the hull and fittings from outside. An open sea cock is easily noticed.

    Any one with that sort of knowledge, would see it looked like as spur of the moment thing and badly devised. If it were an accident or planned then as you say, just a quick push and that’s it. No need to open a sea cock, nor ditch a fire extinguisher. Or claim it was normal to leave someone alone at a mooring overnight with out access to a boat, just a call for help, show some distress and it was all covered.

    Did she do it, who knows at the moment, but until someone can come up with supportable evidence pinpointing motive, another perpetrator or presence on the boat, everything points to the wife. Having read much of the transcript, the jury had no other option. What really led me to accepting the verdict was, she didn’t even make any attempt to return to the boat next morning to collect or contact him and it was others who saw the boat sinking around the middle of the day. People who care about their loved ones, always look after their safety, not ignore someone left on their own cut off from land, who clearly had medical problems.

  13. Geraldine Allan

    February 2, 2013 at 11:53 am

    #28. AK, you are confirming your glaring ability to interpret more than is there, in what you read. I wrote “Of course I know what a “sea cock” is.” I didn’t say my husband’s 19′ boat had one. I was merely confirming I had a knowledge of boating and associated terminology. So it seems I have to spell it out for you — I know the difference between a bung and a cock.

    My opinion is that you might remove your blinkers and refrain from assuming more than is there in what you do read as it appears you also may have done in the SNF case. Point made?

  14. Steve

    February 1, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    28; I’m slightly puzzled by your much vaunted “boating knowledge”. I’ve been involved with boats all my life including quite a few years as a professional fisherman, quite a few more as a recreational owner of an ex cray boat and I fail to see the point you are trying to make.
    You may view “sea cocks” as some sort of esoteric knowledge but I would suggest that most people, possessed of rudimentary knowledge of boats and some common sense, would soon figure it out.
    I would have thought that boating knowledge would indicate that anyone who wished to to get rid of a surplus partner could hardly choose a more clumsy way of going about it? How hard is it, a few km’s off shore, a quick push in the back and another unfortunate boating accident!
    I do agree with your earlier point about spur of the moment. A case could be made for a tragic, possibly accidental, ending to a domestic, followed by a ham fisted and panicky attempt to hide evidence. Hardly pre-meditated murder though. Manslaughter perhaps?

  15. A.K.

    January 30, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    #21, The “Westminster legal principles”, are hundreds of year out of date and only favour the elite with money. Plus if the lady is innocent, your expensive, primitive, biased, disenfranchising, discriminative and out ODF date legal system, has failed yet again. Just as it does for the average person in every avenue of the justice and legal system.

    #22, Yep unsteady on his feet, but able to be brought ashore without any one seeing him or his supposed helper, then disappears into the blue. Possible, but not very likely considering his condition, responsibilities and reasons for doing such a thing. He can’t collect insurance or anything else, nor access his accounts without being discovered by the authorities and needs medical attention. Then he has to get out of Tas or be recognised anywhere he goes. Lah lah land isn’t real, in case you hadn’t heard.

    #23. Good laugh this,

    “Secondly, yes I do “have good experience and an understanding of boating…”, hence I am not out of my “depth completely”. Of course I know what a “sea cock” is. My husband had a 19’ boat and, for about 15 years he leisure-fished off the Tasmanian east coast and in the central highland lakes.”

    Little boats don’t have a sea cocks, they have a bung in the stern.

    Read through the relevant sections of the trial transcripts and never believe anything written in the newspapers. Have personal experience of being discriminated and badly judged by the bizarre elitist legal system and it’s incredible ideological bias, so have no faith in it at all.

    It’s more speculative to claim some unknown entity did him in, or helped him disappear without any indication or evidence for support. Rather than the accumulated evidence pointing to only one person having accessed the yacht at the mooring other than the victim, his wife. Of course, he may have jumped over the side for the fun of it.

  16. Geraldine Allan

    January 29, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    Part 4 /4

    l) Miscarriage of justice cases don’t go away continued
    In the UK it was Lord Denning who said in relation to the Birmingham Six (the IRA bombing cases) that {b}he would refuse them leave to appeal because if their appeals were successful, that would lead to the inevitable conclusion that police had given perjured evidence and that expert witnesses had given false evidence. He said that was such an “appalling vista” that the appeals should be rejected. Nowadays, that statement is seen as a serious blight upon what was otherwise an illustrious legal career.

    However, it seems to me from the outside looking in, a similar fear is held in Tasmania … they can’t allow themselves to even think the worst happens and their systems allow for and pull off, an unfair trial.

    m) It has been difficult
    The convicted and their supporters have had to work diligently and patiently to add content of value, also — to expunge any error or possible confusion before making serious allegations. Following on from that has been the painstaking work of pulling the shambles of a tardy police investigation and shameful prosecution together, attempting to ensure that matters would read clearly and naturally be presented efficiently, in due course. I assure you that has not been an easy task. At the end of the day, the reader must form your own opinion as to the credence of this endeavour and my version as recorded so far.

    Time will tell whether it will have the desired effect of improving the lot of innocent persons who have been the subject of grave injustice by the very agencies that avow to protect and preserve their rights as citizens.

    n) Some time ago an observer asked — A bit like being buried alive?
    The answer from my observations of the accused/convicted defendants and their loved ones — Absolutely, absolutely like being buried alive and, I guess the extension of that is there seems no way even to claw your way out of it.

    It really must be devastating. In no way can I comprehend what it would be like to be doing time for another person’s crime, (false or hyped-up complaint) knowing in your heart that you are innocent and the effect it would then have on your family and friends as well. It would be devastating.

    Financially, such a process ruins the accused, they are at times ostracised by society and, it potentially has even more devastating effect on their personal relationships, careers and much more. I can but shiver at the thought that there are other people who are currently serving or who have served unwarranted periods of imprisonment that earnestly await considered judgment on these matters.

  17. Geraldine Allan

    January 29, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    Part 3/4
    j) Jury mislead
    Additionally, the jury must have believed that the accused apparently acted in ways implied and suggested. Speculation. Some of the theories put forward were spurious. It appears evidence was withheld from the defendant(s) and the courts, which had it been made available to the defence for presentation,would have proved some of the prosecution proposed theories a sham.

    With the case of which I am conversant, it is known that the trial was unfair because the accused/defendants were denied the right to a just and transparently honest, investigation and prosecution. The jury was meant to infer as fact that the prosecution-suggested behaviours of the accused coincided with their allegedly pre-planned crime and subsequent guilt. That non-factual speculation given as evidence was shot down by the much belated (after conviction) discovery by family, of most relevant surveillance tapes, the contents of which were never known to the jury, since the prosecutor advised defence lawyers “the [relevant] cameras were not working at the time! Later that was said to be an “honest mistake”. How bad is that?

    Regrettably, annoyingly and, contrary to the evidence, at the following CCA hearing when it was shown that the withheld films confirmed that the facts as speculated/presented to the jury were indeed false, the lead appeal judge chose to search out for and create without evidence, another opportunity for the by then convicted defendants, to be found guilty by the jury. This creation was rubber-stamped by the remaining two CCA judges.

    Worse still, at the time of the CCA hearing, none of the defendants or their counsel were aware of the extent of other non-disclosed evidence which certainly goes to the credibility of the complainant — the key Supreme Court trial witness.

    k) The Proviso
    On this issue, the law of Australia is very clear — If evidence going to the credibility of such a witness has not been disclosed, the trial is unfair and the verdict must be set aside. It cannot be cured by the application of the proviso, for the proviso has no application to such a case. The proviso is the provision that says that where an error has been found at trial, it can be overlooked on the appeal if the (appeal) court is confident that a miscarriage of justice has not occurred.

    But the law states quite clearly, that the proviso cannot be applied to the type of non-disclosure that goes to the credibility of such an important witness.

    l) Miscarriage of justice cases don’t go away
    Observers might well say that the innocent but convicted defendants have served their time and are now released from parole obligations, so why not just get on with their lives? One of the key characteristics of miscarriage of justice cases is that they don’t go away with time.

    I have no doubt whatsoever that the calls for effective reviews of this affair and other such cases will continue until a proper and fair systemic review takes place, whether that occurs this year, next year or in ten or twenty years time. When trials are fundamentally unfair, whitewash is no remedy.
    Cont’d/ …

  18. Geraldine Allan

    January 29, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    Part 2/4
    f) So where do Tasmanians go when it is necessary to determine if a miscarriage of justice has occurred?
    It may be said that there is a legal right laid down to present a petition to the Governor, which in effect falls to be determined by the Attorney-General — to refer the case back to the court. However, as I understand the situation, this so-called ‘right’ is really a matter for the complete discretion of the Attorney-General and it is not subject to any review by the courts. If that is correct then it means that it is not strictly speaking a ‘legal’ right, for all such rights necessarily impose enforceable duties.

    g) Are the accused/convicted really innocent?
    I have been asked more than once if I really believe that those declared guilty by a jury in the instance to which I am referring, are actually innocent of the crimes for which they have been convicted. The answer is a definite yes.

    It is sometimes difficult for non-lawyers to appreciate that a direct answer to that question could well constitute “unprofessional conduct” if given by a person who is a practicing lawyer. This is because, as explained in R v Boucher (in the Supreme Court of Canada), the character of eminence of a barrister is to be wholly disregarded in determining the justice or otherwise of the client’s case, it being an inflexible rule of forensic pleading that an advocate shall not, as such, express a personal opinion, or his or her belief in the client’s case.

    h) The question of guilt or innocence is for the jury alone to determine
    However, the essential pre-condition is that the jury reaches its decision after there has been a fair trial and the law speaks with one voice on this — it is the fairness of the trial process that is to be judged.

    i) Fair trial or not?
    In the case to which I am familiar and it seems also the SNF conviction, one does not even have to consider the evidence led at trial to know that it was not fair … They closed off inquiries instead of opening them up.
    Cont’d/ …

  19. Geraldine Allan

    January 29, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    Part 1 /4
    In my earlier comment #4 above, I said I would return to further comment. Here is my elongated rejoinder. Because of the size limitations, it is necessary to make more than one post. Prior to this I have written in general terms. It is now time to be more specific.

    My experience:
    a) The fortunate aspect
    The innocent but convicted as guilty, defendants in the instance about which I am reliably and extensively informed are the lucky ones if one deems spending years in jail when innocent, “lucky”. They are fortunate insofar as they hold a belief in themselves and their supporters, that one day after much fossicking, the truth will be exposed, along with that of the wrongdoers. I know that will happen, even though in the case in point, it is ten years down the track. That matters not now as we look forward.

    b) Deplorably, my files contain examples of malfeasance, misconduct and errors
    Malfeasance and errors, both individual and institutional are evident in this matter. Some of this is deliberate and some perhaps unintentional. They are: –
    • Deliberate non-disclosure
    • Tunnel vision
    • A desire to pressure vulnerable people to provide statements, even when patently false
    • The use of incomplete, false or even fraudulent (sometimes scientific) evidence to gain convictions.

    c) The blinkers
    Additionally, the desire by institutional officials to ‘not see’ the obvious also has a resonance in each justice jurisdiction — whether in relation to the
    • Existence of wrongful convictions, or
    • Need to act decisively as a consequence of them.

    The unfortunate failure to provide proper remedy to people who have had their lives ruined after having been caught up in what can only be described as at best official incompetence for many years, is deeply disturbing.

    d) The Integrity Commission
    It seems to many the ICT is a good place for Tasmania to start to unravel the wrongs. It seems to some that particular hope is misguided. There is a serious need to mend unethical ways and put a stop to the greatest possible insult to our fellow citizens — that is to manipulate a justice system in order to convict persons of a serious crime for which they were not responsible.

    e) After CCA, the reality is there is nowhere to go although the Hight Court gets a nomination every now and then.
    Following a failed 2003 Criminal Court of Appeal (CCA) it was a surprise for me to learn that in Australia, after a trial and an unsuccessful appeal, there is no further right to any legal review of the case and that is so even where totally compelling evidence of innocence emerges.

    The appeal courts say (erroneously in my view) that they cannot reopen an appeal. The High Court says that it cannot receive the additional evidence — it is merely an appellate court and has no ‘original jurisdiction’, which is what is required to hear the fresh evidence.
    Cont’d/ …

  20. Geraldine Allan

    January 29, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    #20 AK writes “From what I read ..”. Firstly, the question that jumps to my mind, did you read the trial transcripts or are you relying on the media? If it is the latter don’t bother to argue any further. For one who claims to rely on the facts only, I suggest you refrain from judgment until you know (not believe) all the facts. It seems that the police, prosecutorial team, hence the court and jury didn’t know them, so I deduce neither do you or I.

    And so I reserve my judgment, until such time as I am satisfied that the outcome of the trial was justly/fairly gained. Until then, it is unsafe and unsatisfactory as I see it. There is no place for speculation or denial of rights to a fair trial, in any court. That is a fact.

    Secondly, yes I do “have good experience and an understanding of boating…”, hence I am not out of my “depth completely”. Of course I know what a “sea cock” is. My husband had a 19′ boat and, for about 15 years he leisure-fished off the Tasmanian east coast and in the central highland lakes.

    Thirdly, I’m not going to get into an argument about what a person would/would not have to do to create a scenario of innocent disappearance. Fact: nobody knows what happened to Bob Chappell. Several people, most especially his loved ones, want to know and until such time as further and appropriate steps are taken in an endeavour to provide the answer, there is no place for further speculation. There has been far too much already including it seems during a Supreme Court trial — the result of which a person, in this instance Susan Neill Fraser, has been unjustly incarcerated. She is not the first and won’t be the last, unless and until the warranted changes to tardy processes and misconduct, occur.

    Finally, all I am prepared to argue here is for prescribed rights to be afforded to a person, those being precisely the same as I would expect and to which I believe are entitlements, if I were in the same position. Nothing more or less. As I said in one of my earlier posts, I suspect you also would expect similar treatment.

  21. Steve

    January 29, 2013 at 10:08 am

    #20; Nice theory AK but what if the “victim” simply disappeared willingly, with the help of a third party? It’s happened before.
    That’s a simple alternative theory that has to be totally disproved before finding someone guilty of murder when there’s no body available to prove that murder definitely has been done.

  22. Frank Thomas

    January 29, 2013 at 12:36 am

    #15, A.K., your grasp of Westminster legal principles is not sound. Stick to what you know or get expert advice otherwise.

  23. A.K.

    January 28, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    #19 Unless you have good experience and an understanding of boating, then you are out of your depth completely. I would hope she is innocent and accept the investigation may have been not as it should or how some would like it to be.

    You need to find a motive and suspect who has a knowledge of boating to be able to know where and what a sea cock is. Plus have access to a dinghy or boat and was aware he was by himself on board at a mooring without any means of getting off. Unless they were known to him, they would have to con their way on board, unless he was asleep. Kill him, then drag him from below and dump him over, without leaving any real traces. Next they have to be able to get ashore without any one noticing them coming and going.

    The facts and evidence don’t accommodate that scenario at all. From what I read there was no evidence supporting him ever staying on board without a dinghy. Then there is the missing fire extinguisher and open sea cock. From the evidence and boating facts, he was hit over the head on deck with the fire extinguisher, either failing over board or pushed over whilst prone. Then the extinguisher was dumped, or used as a weight. The sea cock was opened so it would flood slowly to allow the perpetrator time to get ashore without the sinking boat being noticed. With the tide movements and depth, a newly dumped body would travel very fast with the tide as it sank and once past Iron pot, would never be found.

    Sadly for the one who did it, the boat didn’t sink fast enough so it was gone by morning and that’s what brought them undone at the time. It was a spur of the moment thing it seems and they always come undone.

  24. Geraldine Allan

    January 28, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    #15 AK writes “I work on accepted facts not maybes.” That is precisely the point, or at least it is as I understand it. SNF was convicted by a jury on a set of “maybes”, not proven facts.

    Gossip dressed up as evidence is not evidence.

  25. TV Resident

    January 28, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    I read the post last week from Barbara Etter covering the FOI papers she received from the courts and the lack of investigation that appeared to occur. This appears to be how the Australian/Tasmanian judiciary and police work… Sheer laziness on their part for not doing the job properly. I also can understand the Neill-Fraser clan wanting justice for their mother and I hope she is given the opportunity to prove her innocence and they find the swine who actually did whatever to Bob Chappell.

  26. Garry Stannus

    January 28, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Observer (#12) puts the matter well and neatly establishes the similarities with the Chamberlain case:

    “Without witnesses, or a body, or any directly relevant forensic evidence, or any compelling motive for the accused”

    Observer also writes that the Neill-Fraser case is based on circumstantial evidence. Except for the matter of the false positive reaction to something that wasn’t blood in the Chamberlain’s car, that case too was based on circumstance, and not fact. It was then fuelled by public opinion of the ‘no smoke without fire’ variety, suspicion, gossip and the press. The Chamberlains steadfastly maintained their innocence and fought against their convictions. So too with this case. We should have learnt from the Chamberlain case, yet it seems we did not.

  27. Dr Bob Moles

    January 28, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Several of the previous comments refer to the need to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, which is of course, quite correct. In addition, there is a special rule applicable to circumstantial cases, such as this. That rule states that if there is a reasonable inference to be drawn from the evidence, consistent with the innocence of the accused, then the jury cannot convict – R v Van Beelen, R v Rayney. That doesn’t mean that the jury can choose whether to accept the reasonable inference or reject it in favour of a guilty verdict. In effect, it means that where there exists such a reasonable inference the case should be dismissed without being put to the jury. In this case, because of the failure of the police to properly investigate (in order to exclude) other reasonable possibilities, they cannot and have not been excluded. Therefore the case ought not to have been put to the jury and should have been dismissed by the judge on an application of no case to answer. If that was not done then the appeal should have been allowed on the basis that the verdict was not properly based upon the evidence.

  28. A.K.

    January 28, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Rubbish, spent a lot of my life involved with boating professionally and for leisure. I work on accepted facts not maybes. If he was unstable enough to be unable to get from the boat to the dinghy, then how did he get ashore with out it to remain alive?

    I have no idea if she killed him or not, but the factual evidence doesn’t seem to allow for anyone else accessing the boat, except her, supposedly leaving an unsteady man there overnight by himself, with an open sea cock.

    (Anonymous comment edited for tone).

  29. Dr Munro Wode

    January 27, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    The critical point to all of this is that the duty lies on the prosecution to take all reasonable steps to investigate and exclude the possibility that either some other person/s was/were responsible, or that there is an innocent explanation for what has happened.

    This has not happened. Evidence that indicated alternative explanations were dismissed (erroneously) as insignificant, with no further investigated.

    In the Australian Newspaper October 01, 2010, it was reported: The Defence cross examining the Tas Pol about a grey dingy seen at the Four Winds yacht.

    “You made not one single inquiry about the grey one?” he asked.

    Det Sinnitt replied, “No”.

    “You ignored the possibility that somebody else could’ve been on board that boat?” Mr Gunson asked.

    “I accepted the accused’s version of events,” Det Sinnitt replied.

    Mr Gunson asked the detective whether he had made inquiries several months later, when a second witness mentioned a grey dinghy.

    “No,” he replied.


    And this is just one of the many alternative explanation that were not investigated! This is not justice, it is prosecution at any cost.

    In my mind the case is still open

  30. Geraldine Allan

    January 27, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    #7 Yes Mike that is a problem. I was automatically signed up, but that is not worrying me. I did want to read and contribute to discussion, where appropriate. Nonetheless, the problem you have highlighted may well be a deterrent to some readers who wish to support, but don’t wish to be a member.

    Maybe the moderator could modify the process. I don’t know how to but others may be able to suggest a method.

  31. Observer

    January 27, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    The standard of proof in a criminal matter is guilt of the accused ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’, and the burden of proof rests with the prosecution. In plain terms this means that the prosecution must establish the guilt of the accused so clearly that the jury has no reasonable doubt about that guilt. A judge hearing a criminal matter is required to instruct a jury that they must be convinced of the accused’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, in order to deliver a guilty verdict.

    In matters of homicide where the evidence is entirely circumstantial – as in the Neill-Fraser case, and the Chamberlain case – establishing guilt according to this very stringent standard is extremely challenging. Without witnesses, or a body, or any directly relevant forensic evidence, or any compelling motive for the accused, a prosecuting attorney will struggle to convince a jury of the accused’s guilt ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’, even when facing the most pedestrian of defences. And this is how it should be.

    An uncompromising standard of proof is adopted in criminal matters to ensure a fair trial for the accused, based on the evidence available. We should all be concerned when a person is found guilty of a major crime and sentenced to a lengthy prison term when the elements normally necessary to ensure a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt are missing.

    Such a result raises the possibility of an inadequate police investigation, compounded by inappropriate jury instruction and an unconscionable reliance on rumour and innuendo in order to secure the conviction.

    The verdict in the Neill-Fraser case is patently unsafe from a legal point of view, regardless of the truth of the matter, and that is something that should bother all Tasmanians.

  32. Geraldine Allan

    January 27, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    #6 Not-the-thing: since when does “tested with a jury” translate to certify that the trial was safe and satisfactory? I have been in a jury room on more than one occasion thus I certainly disagree with your assumption. Additionally, if prosecution failed to provide jury members with all the evidence, how could their decision be reliable?

    “Evidence substantial” — that is conjecture. How can you be satisfied when it appears vital evidence was withheld? That is an irresponsible remark in my opinion, most especially when I am directly aware of other trials by jury where a conviction was achieved by similar police and prosecutorial deceptive, sloppy and, unfair means.

    Misconduct by any player in the court system is highly unacceptable and requires admonishment. The courts are cowardly insofar as they are failing to send this vital message to all involved in the justice system.

    Would you walk away under these circumstances if it were a member of your family? I wouldn’t and I suspect you wouldn’t either.

  33. Mark Bowles

    January 27, 2013 at 1:56 am

    A.K. #4. You have made at least two wrong assumptions, very common ones. First is that Bob was not agreeable, if not the instigator, to being ferried by Sue to and from the yacht, and second that he was “capable”. For those of us who know him, Bob was perfectly assertive, if not stubborn, and would not have ceded to an arrangement he did not like. Moreover, Bob was NOT capable of safely moving from the dinghy onto the bobbing yacht, or visa versa, alone. He was unsteady on his feet, and it was much more dangerous to attempt a transfer by himself. He had a phone and a radio had he needed to get ashore ahead of schedule.

    So without a full and balanced airing of the facts, otherwise astute observations like the “[t]he compelling evidence is the fact she left him alone on the yacht overnight without a dinghy” becomes more prejudicial than evidential. Others less critical may fall into the trap: ‘She’s different. She (APPARENTLY) acted strangly. She must be guilty.’

    But regardless of one’s view about Sue’s guilt or innocence, what’s the great harm in having the Coroner’s court do what it is designed to do? Give family, friends and others better certainty either way. Test the institutions we have such great faith in? Inquisitorial processors are generally better at truth-seeking than adversarial trials.

    Pat #2, you’re quite right. There is no definitive evidence that he is dead. The family has just come to sadly accept it as a probability because Bob would not have allowed Sue to go through this hell if he were alive.

    Non-the-thing #6, jurys continue to convict many people who have later been proven to be innocent by forensics or the confession of the real killer, e.g. Fara Jama, Mallard. The problem is juries are not transparent or accountable, as they are not required to provide reasoning. BTW your own notably anonymous comment about witch hunts is cruelly ironic.

  34. john hayward

    January 27, 2013 at 12:04 am

    In a criminal case, guilt must be proven beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution. Not on the gut feeling of the DPP or the cops, which ruled in the initial Chamberlain conviction. The mere likelihood of guilt is not enough.

    There is the old adage that it is preferable that a hundred guilty parties go free than that a single innocent person be convicted. That seems to have been abandoned here.

    You also have the fundamental justice requirement of consistency. Remember the case a few years ago where some local louts in Deloraine robbed and beat to death a visiting young backpacker, resulting in one actual reported sentence of about a year?

    I don’t know anything about the facts of the Neill-Fraser case, but I do know a bit about the standard of Tassie justice.

    John Hayward

  35. Steve

    January 26, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    I don’t see the dinghy thing as compelling evidence.To some, the marooned thing would be important, to others, it wouldn’t merit a thought.
    Not really much different to a isolated property where one party takes the car to town.
    I would suggest that the key to this issue is remembering that it’s a circumstantial case and should depend on no other explanation being possible.
    If Mrs Jones talks much about how good Mr Jones would look with an axe in his head and then he’s found with an axe in his head; it doesn’t mean Mrs Jones did it, unless it can be shown that it was impossible for anyone else to have access to both the axe and Mr Jones. This assumes that there is absolutely no other evidence to connect Mrs Jones to the crime.
    In this instance the principal evidence appears to be that the accused seems not to have been entirely frank in her account of where she was. This may mean she has a secret but it doesn’t automatically make her guilty. She might have been entertaining a BDSM party at her home, safe in the knowledge that hubby was on the boat!
    I totally agree with the article. The police have to show that every other possibility has been pursued to a absolute dead end.

  36. Mike

    January 26, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    Agree with #3, I just get a login message for the facebook group in #5, I cannot sign in as I do not agree with facebook’s terms and conditions and do not want to sign up just to be able to read public stuff.

  37. Not-the-thing

    January 26, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    I don’t think there any parallels to the Chamberlain case. There was no media witch hunt. The evidence was substantial and tested with a jury. It’s sad for the family, but they should just move on.

  38. Marcus Bennett

    January 26, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Indeed #3, the facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/groups/TasmaniaExploreTheCorruption/
    concurs with your assessment and unease in relation to the standards of proof on which the Neill-Fraser conviction is based.

  39. A.K.

    January 26, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Of course there are questions to be asked in this case, but comparing it to the Chamberlain case is laughable, they have nothing in common whatsoever.

    The compelling evidence is the fact she left him alone on the yacht overnight without a dinghy, anyone who knows about boating would understand this is an extremely dangerous thing to do. No one staying on board would be happy about being left stranded for the entire night and half the day, until the boat was noticed sinking. The logical and safe thing would be for him to ferry her ashore, if he were capable and as an experienced yachtsman that’s what would have happened.

  40. Ros Barnett

    January 26, 2013 at 11:29 am

    #1. I am a member of the community who can testify to feeling a continuing sense of unease. I can see parallels to the Chamberlain case. I understand that circumstantial evidence has to be extremely compelling where it is the only evidence. Since my views fall into the mainstream on most issues I cannot believe I am alone on this one, and it is likely that I am part of a community of thought bigger than just me and the Neill-Fraser family and friends.

  41. pat synge

    January 26, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Sarah Bowles refers to Bob Chappell’s death in this statement as if this was a proven ‘fact’ which is interesting in the light of the questions she raises.

    I’m not suggesting that he’s not dead – it does seem most likely – but simply wondering why she accepts this unproven assumption.

  42. moo

    January 25, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    “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”

    Where is the evidence for this? Ms Neill-Frasers family and friends do not constitute ‘the community’

    As for parallels to the Chaimberlain case?……hardly

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