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High Court rebuffs Neill-Fraser again


Hobart grandmother Susan Neill-Fraser has failed in a second attempt to have Australia’s highest court overturn her murder conviction.

The 68-year-old was sentenced to 23 years in jail for killing partner Bob Chappell aboard the couple’s yacht, the Four Winds, on Australia Day 2009.

Her appeal before Tasmania’s Court of Criminal Appeal was dismissed in November last year, with two of the three judges finding new evidence did not meet the required threshold of “fresh and compelling”.

Susan Neill-Fraser has lost another appeal bid against her conviction for murdering Bob Chappell.
Susan Neill-Fraser has lost another appeal bid against her conviction for murdering Bob Chappell. (PR HANDOUT IMAGE PHOTO)

She applied to the High Court seeking special leave to appeal the judgment, but Justices Stephen Gageler, Simon Steward and Jacqueline Gleeson refused that on Friday.

The court stated that the principles applying to a second appeal based on fresh evidence are established.

But it was not persuaded there were sufficient prospects of demonstrating that the majority of the Court of Criminal Appeal erred in applying those principles.

Neill-Fraser’s appeal was centred around the whereabouts of then-homeless teenager Meaghan Vass, whose DNA was found aboard the yacht.

It was put by the prosecution at the 2010 trial that the DNA deposit was a “red herring” and arrived on the boat via secondary transfer.

Vass has given conflicting accounts about whether she was on the boat the night Chappell was murdered.

She signed an affidavit saying she was on the yacht but later recanted, telling an appeal hearing she was coerced into giving that evidence.

Neill-Fraser’s legal team abandoned the evidence of Vass, which they had held up as the pillar of their case, during the appeal process.

Justice Helen Wood determined evidence of forensic expert Maxwell Jones, which Neill-Fraser’s legal team claimed cast doubt on the secondary transfer scenario, did not prove there was a miscarriage of justice.

She said Jones’ evidence conformed significantly with what the jury heard at the trial.

In his dissenting view, Justice Stephen Estcourt determined there was a “significant possibility” the trial jury might have acquitted Neill-Fraser had Mr Jones’ evidence been before it.

Neill-Fraser is eligible for parole this month but her supporters have indicated she will not leave prison unless her conviction is overturned.

She previously had a special leave application refused by the High Court in 2012.

Neill-Fraser was found to have attacked Chappell and dumped his body in Hobart‘s River Derwent but has maintained her innocence.

Chappell’s body has never been found.

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