The lawyer representing Ms Sue Neil-Fraser says the interests of justice demand that an inquest be held into the circumstances surrounding the 2009 death of Tasmanian radiation physicist Bob Chappell.
Mr Chappell disappeared on Australia Day 2009 and in October 2010, Ms Neill-Fraser was convicted of murdering him. She is now serving a 23-year sentence in Risdon Prison.
The lawyer acting for Sue Neill-Fraser, Mrs Barbara Etter APM, said a 60 Minutes report telecast last night raised disturbing issues that could only be resolved through an inquest or referral back to the courts.
“Justice can only be served by an inquest and a re-examination of the case by the courts” Mrs Etter said.
“There are serious questions regarding the police investigation and significant new evidence that must be considered by the Coroner or presented in court”, she said.
Ms Neill-Fraser’s conviction was based entirely on a circumstantial case, with no body, no weapon, no forensic evidence linking her to the actual crime scene, no plausible motive, no admissions or confessions and no direct eyewitnesses to the crime. There has never been a formal inquest into Mr Chappell’s death.
Mrs Etter has already requested a coronial inquest on behalf of Ms Neill-Fraser who continues to steadfastly maintain her innocence.
Ms Neill-Fraser and her family wanted an open and public investigation into the circumstances of Bob Chappell’s death and this can occur through a coronial inquest, particularly in light of its inquisitorial “search for the truth” approach.
“An inquest and further consideration by the courts 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 or drawn to the attention of the court at the trial,” Mrs Etter said.
“There is a palpable and continuing sense of unease and disquiet in the community about the case and the soundness of Ms Neill-Fraser’s conviction.
“Since the original trial, significant new evidence is emerging relating to the death and subsequent investigation, evidence which was also not presented at appeal hearings.
“This includes 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 Mr Chappell’s death and the subsequent police investigation.
Bob Chappell’s step-daughter Mrs Sarah Bowles said not only would such an inquest test the evidence against her mother and potentially unearth other perpetrators, but would assist in bringing closure too for her and her sister Emma, who believe this case has not been solved.
“They have got a conviction but they have not solved the crime,” Mrs Bowles said.
“Whilst some of the issues were flagged in the 60 Minutes report, the matter can now only be cleared up through a probing and comprehensive public inquiry.”
Mrs Etter said she and other colleagues concerned with miscarriages of justice and human rights issues saw this case as very similar to Lindy Chamberlain’s situation, where a person had been convicted in a dubious circumstantial case – where possible prejudice and an inadequate investigation had resulted in a conviction that must be extremely dangerous and worrying for the Tasmanian community.
“We contend that a miscarriage of justice may well have occurred in this matter. As a result, a woman could be sitting in Risdon Prison for a very long time. It is incumbent on those responsible for the administration of justice in this State to act immediately to address this situation.
“An inquest and further scrutiny by the courts will ensure that justice is properly served,” Mrs Etter said.
How MSM have covered the case: