CONVICTED killer Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser yesterday failed to convince the High Court of Australia of her right to appeal, but her family has vowed to continue their three-year fight to overturn the conviction.
Chief Justice Robert French and Justice Susan Crennan dismissed the Neill-Fraser family’s bid to appeal the murder conviction for killing Bob Chappell aboard the couple’s yacht moored in the Derwent River in 2009.
The judges ruled that the defence had “not shown she (Neill-Fraser) was denied opportunity on a point of substance”.
Earlier, Michael Croucher, SC, had argued that the defence case was hampered when the trial judge, and subsequently the court of appeal, decided there was no need to recall a witness whose DNA was found aboard the yacht.
“They applied the wrong judgment and, consequently, came to the wrong conclusion,” Mr Croucher said in making their decision.
“Her counsel wasn’t armed with very relevant evidence to her defence until after the witness was gone . . . it was very powerful information and the defence was shut out from developing this.”
Tasmanian Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis said that the 15-year-old witness had already been “bashed by the trial counsel” when there was nothing else to connect her to the victim except the DNA.
He said that in the interests of justice it would not have been fair to recall her “in order (for the defence) to cross examine her, in order to bully her, and to get her to agree to propositions she ought not agree to”.
Outside the court, Neill-Fraser’s daughter Sarah Bowles said that the verdict was disappointing for the family – which would fight on.
“We are extremely disappointed that, once again, we haven’t been able to achieve justice through this court process (although) we always knew that when we got to this High Court level that we would be extremely limited in what we could actually put before the court,” she said.
“But we can hold out hope as we know there’s a lot that hasn’t been able to be presented in the courts given the nature of the High Court federal leave application.”
The family is now seeking legal advice on whether there is a chance of clemency.
The Tasmanian Court of Criminal Appeal dismissed Neill-Fraser’s appeal against the conviction but upheld her appeal against her 26-year prison sentence, reducing it to 23 years with a non-parole period of 13 years. Mr Chappell’s body has not been found.
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