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


Exceptional circumstances in the Sue Neill-Fraser case

Attorney General, Brian Wightman, has said there would have to be “exceptional circumstances” to warrant an inquiry into the Sue Neill-Fraser case which has already gone through a Supreme Court trial and to the Court of Criminal Appeal.

How much longer can this massive injustice blind spot go on?

There are exceptional circumstances in this case. It is clearly an unsafe conviction, to me. The Attorney General needs to at the very least review the film Shadow of Doubt.

• Sue Neill-Fraser was wrongly accused of cleaning up a crime with latex gloves – yet it was not her DNA in the glove exhibit. The DPP admitted later, after the jury found Sue guilty, that it was a mistake.
• Sue Neill-Fraser was accused of using a wrench to kill Bob Chappell – yet there is no body and no wrench, and no eye-witness. And the imaginary wrench was referred to many times. The DPP even suggested Sue hit Bob once, maybe twice from behind.
• A teenager’s DNA was found at the crime scene, and she lied about her whereabouts, yet was never a suspect.
• Sue was accused of somehow being involved with the disappearance of a young man – she had nothing to do with – yet this was stated out of the blue in the summing up.
• An informer with a police history who had something to gain by giving his information was believed when providing evidence of murder plots.
• A witness thought she saw Bob and Sue arguing on the foreshore the day Bob went missing. However this woman realised she identified the wrong woman, and recognised Bob Chappell’s sister in court as the woman she had seen arguing with Bob – which was in fact the day before Australia day.
• A total stranger called Sue after 10pm on the night of Australia Day, the VERY same night that Bob went missing, to say Bob’s daughter (whom he had not seen for 3 years) was having worrying thoughts that something bad would happen to Bob on the yacht and it might sink. Yet this was not considered a strong lead.

I was born and bred in Tasmania and am a licensed Land Surveyor and keen yachtsman of 60 years. I studied the court transcripts and attended the appeal in Tasmania and am horrified that this woman was convicted and the appeal denied.

There is a lot of new and fresh evidence that must be considered.

1. I did a survey using the Four Winds yacht mooring co-ordinates and found the distance from the end of Derwent Lane Jetty to the Four Winds yacht is well over 300 metres, not around 100 metres as suggested in court by a witness Peter Lorraine. It is not humanly possible for the witness, without binoculars, to have seen and described Bob Chappell at 5pm in the detail he did. He was looking ‘straight out’ at a different yacht, not off at the angle at which Four Winds was moored.This is NEW evidence I can prove. This means Bob Chappell was NOT SEEN ALIVE at 5pm.It also means that all the witnesses who clearly saw a grey dinghyat the Four Winds saw someone else at the crime scene from 3.55pm onwards to at least 5pmand those person/s may be linked to Bob’s disappearance/death. It was not Sue in her white Quicksilver dinghy with blue trim at the yacht. It was hours before dusk, the sun set at 8.40pm. One witness was only 50 metres away with binoculars, another was 50 yards away adamant he saw a very different dinghy, dark grey and commercial looking.No one has ever come forward to say they were out in a grey dinghy at the Four Winds Yacht. There has never been an intensive search for the person/s in that grey dinghy.

2. The filmmaker, Eve Ash, found a new and credible witness, local businessman Gary Smith, who was adamant about a grey scruffy inflatable dinghy coming and going in the days before Bob’s disappearance. He was very specific about it because it was so strange and unusual for an inflatable to be tied up to the rocks at the rowing sheds. He was specific when shown images of many dinghies that it was not new,and was not the Four Winds dinghy. This was notably the exact same place where homeless men were that night and where the Four Winds dinghy was found floating early the next day. This is new and fresh evidence – and there would also be new and fresh evidence if those homeless men had made statements covering that night.

3. Detective Inspector Peter Powell stated in the film that the teenager whose DNA was found on the yacht had young male associates who were known offenders and broke into boats. This seems to be new and fresh evidenceand was not known at the time of the trial.

4. Three peopleappearing in the film provided new and fresh evidence about death threats to Bob and Sue, from the informer who came forward the day after Bob went missing with a story about Sue having plotted to kill her brother (still alive) then Bob over a decade ago. One of those witnesses tried to tell police about this vital evidence but a statement was never taken. This prior history of a vendetta and reports about the informer’s threatening behaviour was not known at the trial. This is startling new and fresh evidence, and critical given the informer was the only witness in court suggesting a murder plot. The informer was made out to be a credible witness yet had been stockpiling large amounts of ammunition, was coincidentally busted only weeks before Bob went missing – and then tried to do a deal with the police.

5. There are two available hairs ready to be tested for DNA – this isnew and fresh evidence. One is adark hair found on the red jacket – why not test it now? Why was it not tested before? And a hair found in the wheelhouse under the steps where the fresh blood was found – never tested. All new and fresh evidence once tested. And what efforts have been made to match the DNA from the female colourless hair found on the deck (Person D) who is not Sue Neill-Fraser?

6. Certain CD and DVD recordings were edited by police prior to giving copies to the defence (a shocking revelation in itself) – so the original unedited recordings would be new and fresh evidence.

The fact thatthere is so much doubt, and so many highly regarded legal experts are calling for an Inquiry, and the fact thatSue Neill-Fraser was originally sentenced to 26 years suggests there is something extraordinarily wrong and exceptional about this case. The Tasmanian government needs to restore faith and seek the truth through an inquiry, and ensure Tasmania is not seen by other States and countries to be a backward insular closed community that doesn’t care about human rights.

My letter to the Attorney General outlining these issues sent 3 weeks ago has gone unanswered.

The Attorney General has sufficient information to act. It would be inhumane to not bring in a judge or legal expert from interstate to conduct an Inquiry, orto suggest this poor woman and her family return to the Attorney General with a Petition for Mercy causing a further delay for months or years. To the best of my knowledge there has never been a successful Petition for Mercy in Tasmania.

And meanwhile the Coroner has halted an Inquest into Bob Chappell’s death. An Inquest would surely examine many of the loose ends and get closer to the truth of what happened to Bob Chappell.

Justice delayed is justice denied.

*Ronald George Lee: Born 4 July 1924 in Ulverston Tasmania, grew up in Burnie and joined the Royal Australian Navy at age 17. In 1941 he was in Singapore Harbour, bombed by Japanese. In1943 he joined the secret Commando Coast Watchers, Guadalcanal Solomon with Americans. He caught Malaria 4 times, and was discharged in Melbourne in 1946. He sailed to Tasmania alone from Melbourne in a 9 metre yacht. Studied at Melbourne University and became a Licensed Land Surveyor in Victoria, NSW and Tasmania.Commenced private practice in 1954. He became a Councillor with Richmond City Council, for 6 years, fighting corruption. 1970 – 75 he built a 15 metre steel yacht, completing many crossings of Bass Strait, worked in PNG and sailed to Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Okinawa Japan where he taught Celestial Navigation to the US Navy.
Currently works full time as a Land Surveyor in Victoria, and is possibly Australia’s oldest full-time land surveyor.

Court of Criminal Appeals decision. Read for yourself, here

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


  1. Dr Peter Lozo

    November 14, 2017 at 5:54 pm


    “yacht’s rate of sinking”

    Good observation.

    Had I known the diameter of the cut pipe and the seacock, the depth of these inlets and the approx volume of water that entered the yacht, I probably would have spent some time on this issue. The mathematics is relatively simple: I did look at some text on this problem. But I was of opinion that the person who did the estimation would have known what he was doing and better than I.

    However, there was another small related issue that I did address. One of the 5 pm witnesses said that the yacht was sitting low at the bow. Barbara Etter thought that perhaps therefore the yacht probably started taking on water as early as 5 pm. I provided a simple alternate physical explanation related to the vertical and horizontal components of the force acting on a moored yacht during a tidal current and wind. I can’t recall on which Neill-Fraser TT blog I made the comment (Barbara’s comment is on her website but I posted my simple analysis on TT).

  2. Dr Peter Lozo

    August 31, 2017 at 12:41 am

    It is my opinion (based on my extensive analysis of the case since April 2015) that the then homeless girl was NOT on-board the Four Winds (at least not on the afternoon/evening of Bob’s disappearance).

    Based on the recent news it appears that she was coerced into signing a false Statutory Declaration. We will find out in couple of months (when Sue’s case goes to the Court for a 4 day hearing) as to what is going on with respect to that Statutory Declaration.

  3. TV Resident

    August 30, 2017 at 7:45 pm

    Saturday the 19th August 2017…It was printed that the homeless girl that was on the boat has now signed a ‘stat dec’ saying that Sue Neill-Fraser wasn’t on the boat that day. Surely this is enough, without all of the other witnesses who lie on oath, to go through the whole thing again on appeal??? Where is the body???, What was the motive???, where is the weapon that the judiciary dreamed up???.

  4. John

    December 12, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    Imagine how much closer to finding the real killer Tasmania police could have been if Susan Neill-Fraser had not told lies to the investigators! Eve Ash you could do a film called Web of Lies that shows how an innocent person can torpedo an investigation and incriminate themselves as a result if they choose to actively lie to police!

  5. Isla MacGregor

    November 25, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    #9 I totally agree Barbara …

  6. Barbara Mitchell

    November 25, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    Ms Ash, you note that Sue Neill-Fraser’s fate is ‘in the hands of one man – Brian Wightman, the Attorney General of Tasmania’. This may be true, but, if it is, then her fate is in the hands of a 37-year old former school teacher with only one term in parliament under his belt and NO legal qualifications.

    Mr Wightman relies on his Department of Justice advisers to feed him responses to the state’s legal issues, and every scrap of advice from the faceless departmental hacks would be telling him to keep fobbing this matter off, until it finally goes away.

    The department, and the judiciary in this state, will not countenance ANY enquiry into Ms Neill-Fraser’s conviction, and our Attorney-General is their compliant puppet – a man who neither understands, nor cares to understand, the legal complexities inherent in a patently unsafe conviction. Mr Wightman probably sleeps soundly at night, safely trusting the hypothetical crime scene scenario, and the acceptance of same by both judges and jury.

    The only hope for a review of Ms Neill-Fraser’s conviction is relentless, personal pressure on Mr Wightman, to the point that he is forced to break ranks with the real powers-that-be in the Justice Department. Or, perhaps, identify the likely Attorney-General in an incoming Liberal government and start lobbying them NOW.

    Maybe it’s time to give Vanessa Goodwin a call.

  7. TV Resident

    November 23, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    John Hayward…in my opinion, if anyone presumes a modicum of professional integrity in the Tassie justice system, they would definitely be dreaming. This has to be the ‘State of corruption’, although nothing can be proved at this stage because we are’nt allowed the privilege of having a body of totally independent people overseeing or investigating the injustices that seem to be happening all too frequently.

    IMO the longer they delay an appeal the more we have to wonder about who knew what, why or how Bob Chappell disappeared. To me, iIt definitely points out how weak our AG is when he doesn’t have the courage to respond to correspondence or to make sure the system is run fairly for all, or is he just a spokesman when given the authority??.

  8. Dr Kristine Klugman

    November 23, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    People in Canberra can see a special screening of the film Shadow of Doubt on Tuesday 10 Dec 2013, 6–8.30pm, at the Coombs Theatre on the ANU campus.
    If any Tasmanians have friends or relatives in Canberra please let them know: they can book via email to: shadowdoubt@cla.asn.au
    Documentary producer-director Eve Ash and pro bono lawyer Barbara Etter will engage in Q&As; with the audience, along with CLA CEO Bill Rowlings (the screening is in honour of the 10th anniversary of the founding of CLA, and is on world Human Rights Day).

  9. john hayward

    November 23, 2013 at 11:35 am

    One of the greatest hurdles that Eve and Neill-Fraser face is that the general public, with no experience of the Tas justice system, presume a modicum of professional integrity and conscience in that system.

    If only they knew.

    John Hayward

  10. Eve Ash

    November 23, 2013 at 7:10 am

    Also exceptional is that Sue had no criminal record and when I was making the film SHADOW OF DOUBT I interviewed her first husband who was never interviewed by police to find out if she had a history of aggression or violence. In fact there was a rumour Sue had killed him and was a ‘black widow’. And an informant with a police history, who ‘lied in the past’ is believed as a credible witness?

    How can the theory that Sue murdered Bob be conclusive?
    – How could it have been Sue in her dinghy headed out towards the yacht 11.30pm – midnight, when the witness Hughes only saw what he thought was the shape of a woman, couldn’t describe the dinghy, said the person was seated ‘in the dinghy’ not on the side (BUT THERE IS NO CENTRAL SEAT – you have to be seated on the side of the Four Winds dinghy), and he didn’t remember whether he was in his car or outside the car when he saw it, he originally said it was heading to Battery Point but at court said towards the Eastern shore (direction of the yacht) and I was told by a man who refused to be filmed that he was often out on a dinghy at that time of night as he lived on a boat, is slender with longer hair and could have been the ‘woman’ seen
    – she supposedly winched the body up two sets of stairs (she couldn’t even winch the sail up by herself – testimony of the delivery crew who helped bring the yacht to Tasmania a month before, and she had previous documented back and arm injuries)
    – she supposedly weighted the body with a fire extinguisher (two witnesses didn’t see that same decommissioned old extinguisher on board, one the day before, the other days before, and it was never proved it could have weighed down a body in water)
    – be out dumping the body of Bob Chappell in the Derwent when insufficient fuel was used from the Four Winds dinghy
    – and around the same time she was somehow driving in Sandy Bay Rd – her car (allegedly, by police inference) a smudgy image from an ATM machine CCTV camera at 12.25am?
    – and all the while swimmers on a ‘calm night’ at the end of the Derwent Rd jetty 11.30pm to midnight, heard nothing.

    Sue Neill-Fraser was in shock and was given valium. Are her confusion and ‘lies’ the best evidence of guilt?

    One motive was supposedly to have the yacht to herself – was she testing to see if it could be a submarine by sinking it?
    Why not simply push him overboard whilst out sailing? Far more cool and calculating as she was said to be, and keep the pristine yacht.
    They postulated she wanted Bob’s money – but she was independently wealthy with property and assets, and had been with Bob for almost 2 decades, so could have simply split up and settled.

    When I was interviewed by Charles Wooley for the 60 Minutes story he asked me what I thought had really happened to Bob Chappell. The problem is there are several plausible scenarios. We do not know what happened … and we are nearing 5 years since Bob disappeared.

    This is a case, with a VOLUME of exceptional circumstances, recognised by leading legal experts to be desperately in need of an Inquiry.
    Meanwhile Sue Neill-Fraser approaches her 4th Christmas in jail, missing caring for her aging mother and not sharing the lives of her girls and new grandchildren.

    This is in the hands of one man – Brian Wightman, the Attorney General of Tasmania. He has an education background and was even involved in improvements in schools, which I felt would actually make him more open to learning about the problems, human rights issues and lack of facts in this case.

    I have been writing to Brian Wightman since July 2013. I wrote to him nearly a month ago outlining many of these issues and am still waiting on a full response beyond acknowledgment of receipt. I wrote again 2 weeks ago and sent a copy to the Premier Lara Giddings.

    They had better do some scenario planning around the possibility they are wrong to delay any action.

    Tasmania is such a small place with so many interconnected people and relationships. I wonder if it was a former school teacher from Brian’s staff, a colleague’s mother, a relative or friend in Risdon Prison, would he be more open to the need for a rigorous review of this case?

    Please Brian Wightman step up and open this case to scrutiny not only for justice for Sue Neill-Fraser and to right any wrongs, but for the improvement and best practice of police investigations and legal processes in Tasmania, given the absence in Australia of a Criminal Case Review Commission and no further right to Appeal in Tasmania. Only you have that power.

    Shadow of Doubt – outlining many of the problems in the case – has been chosen for screening in Canberra on 10 December 2013 for the 20th anniversary of Human Rights Day 2013. The focus on this case is growing and will not stop.

  11. john hayward

    November 22, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    Appeals courts are supposed to be fastidiously impartial. … In my experience, Tasmanian courts are very prone to edit evidence to support their judgments.

    The star prosecution witness who testified that Neill- Fraser had previously attempted to solicit the murder of another person in almost exactly the same manner as alleged in this case seemed way too good to be true, particularly in the Tassie ethical context .

    There is also the “beyond reasonable doubt” standard, which known Mafiosi often manage to win on, and which doesn’t seem to be much examined here. This one seems to come from the same place as John Howard’s “instincts” on climate change.

    John Hayward

  12. Garry Stannus

    November 22, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    I’ve argued that a miscarriage of justice occurred in the case, basing my opinion on the homeless girl’s DNA, and the ‘homeless’ people on the beach. [ comments: http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php?/article/justice-system-would-be-a-laughing-stock/ ] Having read Ronald Lee’s article, while still not having seen Eve Ash’s doco, I am ‘even more’ convinced that there should be an inquiry into this matter.

  13. Isla MacGregor

    November 22, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Will the Attorney General please stand up and tell the Tasmanian community he is [i]not afraid[/i] of the fallout from the holding of a Coronial Inquiry or a properly empowered Tasmanian Integrity Commission inquiry into this case?

    The Attorney General has baulked at the request by the Tasmanian Integrity Commission this week for more powers.

    In the ABC News Report this week here:


    [i]It believes its investigations have been hindered because it does not have the power to access information from Tasmania Police or listen to intercepted phone calls.[/i]

    Attorney General – what is it then?

  14. John Biggs

    November 22, 2013 at 10:40 am

    I agree with Ronald. This IS an exceptional case. It is bloody exceptional to convict for murder when there is no body, no motive, no witnesses, unidentified DNA, to name a few.

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