Bob CHAPPELL

The yacht has been towed to Hobart's constitution dock as the search continues.

Above left - Bob Chappell aboard his yacht

Above centre - Police would like to speak with anyone knowing anything about this jacket which was found in Marieville Esplanade at Sandy Bay                                   

Above right - The yacht has been towed to Hobart's constitution dock as the search continues. (ABC News)

Susan Neill-Fraser and Bob Chappell

Police suspect foul play in missing yachtsman case

Posted 37 minutes ago - January 28th, 2009 - ABC

Tasmanian police are looking at the possibility of murder in the case of yachtsman Bob Chappell who disappeared from a boat moored at Sandy Bay.

Detectives say the 65-year-old man's yacht was sabotaged.

They have grave concerns for the welfare of Mr Chappell who has not been seen since Australia Day.

At the time he was renovating his 16-metre ketch at Marieville Esplanade and it is understood he decided to spend the night on board.

Police received a report the yacht was taking on water early on Tuesday.

Detective Inspector Peter Powell says investigations point to foul play.

"Certainly someone's deliberately tried to sink the vessel, as to who that might of been or why we're not sure at this stage," he said.

Police divers are back in the water today doing more searches and there are foot patrols of the foreshore.

Mystery deepens over missing yachtsman

Posted 7 hours 52 minutes ago - January 28th, 2009 - ABC

Police are appealing for information about a missing Hobart yachtsman.

They were called to the 16 metre ketch, Four Winds, as it was sinking off Sandy Bay this morning.

The owner's wife says she last saw her husband about 1pm yesterday when he said he was going to spend the night on board.

She was unable to contact him this morning and raised the alarm when she saw the yacht taking on water.

Police boarded the yacht at 7:30 am and pumped out water.

Two police boats patrolled the river and four divers searched beneath the boat but failed to find any sign of him.

Sergeant John Pratt says the man had no way of getting to shore because his dinghy was at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania.

He says police hold concerns for his welfare.

"Whilst we hope it's not the case, we have to consider sinister circumstances but it's also quite possible that he may have fallen off the vessel or also the fact that someone else has picked him up," he said.

"All of those circumstances are being considered and looked at."

"Anyone who can provide information about the sailing vessel 'Four Winds' or the movement of a small inflatable dinghy between the Royal Yacht club of Tasmania and the moored vessel, if they could contact police it would be greatly appreciated."

The yacht has been towed to Hobart's constitution dock as the search continues.

Police suspect sabotage in missing yachtsman case

Posted Tue Jan 27, 2009 9:40pm AEDT - ABC

The 16-metre yacht was sinking off Sandy Bay when police arrived to investigate. (ABC News)

Police in Hobart investigating the disappearance of a yachtsman say it is possible the man's ketch was sabotaged before it started taking on water.

The 16-metre yacht was sinking off Sandy Bay when police arrived to investigate.

The 65-year-old owner was not on board and a search of the River Derwent by police divers and boats has failed to find any trace of him.

Detective Inspector Peter Powell told ABC Local Radio the boat has been examined by forensic officers and there is some indication it may have been sabotaged.

"The vessel was taking on water and we believe that there's been some interference to actually cause the vessel to take on water," he said.

"But whether that's as a result of some criminal act or whether there's another reason for that we don't know at this stage."

He says a decision will be made in the morning about whether to extend the river search.

Missing yachtsman planned to sail around Australia

Posted Wed Jan 28, 2009 6:45pm AEDT - ABC

It has been revealed a man who disappeared from his sinking yacht in Hobart's River Derwent was planning to sail around Australia.

Police now believe 65-year-old Bob Chappell met with foul play and his boat was sabotaged.

Mr Chappell was the chief radiation physicist at the Royal Hobart Hospital's Holman Clinic.

Police say he was planning to retire soon and sail around the country, but he has not been seen since Australia Day, when he was renovating his 16-metre yacht off Sandy Bay and decided to spend the night on board.

Detective Inspector Peter Powell of Hobart CIB says the yacht was tampered with - an inlet valve was opened and a hose severed.

"We have grave concerns for the well-being of the man and we believe that there are certainly some suspicious circumstances surrounding his disappearance," he said.

The EPIRB (a personal beacon) and fire extinguisher were removed from the yacht.

Detective Inspector Powell says Mr Chappell had no financial worries and was considered a happy man.

"We're looking into the missing man's background to see if there's anything that's occurred in recent times that might make him want to disappear or anyone else might want to do any harm to him," he said.

Police today intensified their search.

 

Dinghy reports could hold key to yachtsman disappearance

Posted Thu Jan 29, 2009 2:19am AEDT - ABC

Police investigating the disappearance of a Hobart yachtsman are looking into reports a dinghy was seen tied to his yacht before it started sinking.

They now believe 65-year-old Bob Chappell met with foul play and his boat was sabotaged.

Police say he was planning to retire soon and sail around the country, but he has not been seen since Australia Day, when he was renovating his 16-metre yacht off Sandy Bay and decided to spend the night on board.

Police say there is evidence the boat was tampered with.

Detective Inspector Peter Powell says police are baffled by the case and are seeking any information from the public.

"I guess really anyone that might see anything that might come ashore or in the water," he said.

"There were a couple of items missing from the vessel itself and one of those is a large fire extinguisher and one is the actual EPIRB that was fitted to the vessel."

 

Beacon found as murder fears grow

Posted Thu Jan 29, 2009 9:27am AEDT - ABC
 

The emergency beacon belonging to a man who disappeared from his yacht on Hobart's River Derwent earlier this week has been found.

Police were called to Bob Chappell's sinking yacht on Tuesday, but found no trace of the 65 year old.

Police have ruled out misadventure or an accident, saying an inlet valve was opened, a hose was severed and the EPIRB and fire extinguisher were missing.

Detective Inspector Peter Powell has told ABC local radio Mr Chappell's EPIRB was found by a member of the public on the Wrest Point foreshore.

Police are investigating the possibility Mr Chappell was murdered.

He was last seen carrying out renovations on his yacht on Monday.

Detective Inspector Peter Powell says Mr Chappell was happy, had no financial worries and was planning to retire and sail his boat around Australia.

"Certainly someone's deliberately tried to sink the vessel, as to who that might have been or why we're not sure at this stage," Inspector Powell said..

Police are also investigating reports a dinghy was tied to the yacht not long before it began to sink.

 

Hopes beacon will provide clues to missing yachtsman

Posted Thu Jan 29, 2009 4:19pm AEDT - ABC
 

Hobart police are hoping an emergency beacon found on the Derwent foreshore will provide clues to the disappearance of a yachtsman.

65 year old Bob Chappell was last seen on Monday when he was renovating his 16 metre ketch in the River Derwent off Sandy Bay.

Authorities were alerted to the sinking boat the next morning, when there was no-one on board and an EPIRB and fire extinguisher were missing.

Police are investigating the possibility Mr Chappell was murdered

Detectives are now examining the EPIRB which a member of the public found on rocks near the Wrest Point foreshore and handed to police this morning.

Detective Inspector Peter Powell says police also continuing to search the area.

"We're actually going to do a bit of a check round the marina area there just to make sure that no other vessels in the area have been interfered with," Inspector Powell said.

"We're doing that basically as a matter of course just to be confident it was only this vessel that's had damage done to it," he said.

Maritime expert joins search for missing yachtsman

 Feb 5th 2009 - ABC

Police in Hobart are using a maritime expert to help with their investigation into the disappearance of yachtsman Bob Chappell.

The 65-year-old radiation physicist was last seen on his yacht 'Four Winds' off Sandy Bay on Australia Day.

Police found his boat sinking in the Derwent the following morning and later discovered a hose had been severed.

Inspector Peter Powell says the maritime expert has been asked to work out how long the boat had been taking on water before police arrived.

"He's basically measuring up the vessel and making his assessment of it and then it will give us an indication of when the vessel may have started taking on water and how long it would have been taking on water," Inspector Powell.

"We're pretty keen to know when the damage was actually caused on the vessel and that will give us a time line when some of those events happened on board."

Police are looking at the possibility that Mr Chappell has been murdered.

Still no leads on missing yachtsman

Posted Thu Feb 12, 2009 11:34am AEDT - ABC

There are still no leads on the disappearance of yachtsman Bob Chappell. (Police Media)

Detectives in Hobart say there are still no leads in the search for missing yachtsman, Bob Chappell.

The 65 year old cancer specialist was last seen on his yacht, Four Winds on Australia Day, off Sandy Bay.

The next morning the boat was sinking and police found evidence of sabotage onboard.

Detective Inspector Peter Powell says forensic testing has turned up nothing new.

He says six detectives are working on the case.

"They're really wading their way through all the information we've been obtaining about Mr Chappell's background and family members," Insp. Powell said.

"Obviously to try and ascertain if there's anything in his background that might cause someone to want to harm him," he said.

Inspector Peter Powell says he's hoping investigators will turn up something.

"The possibilities are that he's come to harm by someone else's hand, he's disappeared for his own reasons or I guess that he may have even committed suicide," he said.

"If that's happened the mystery is, as to where his body might be."

Police contacted again over missing yachtie

 March 11th 2009 - ABC

Tasmanian Police say they have had another breakthrough in the disappearance of Hobart cancer specialist Bob Chappell.

Police say they have made contact again with a witness they had been wanting to hear from.

The man called them shortly after Bob Chappell went missing on Australia Day.

He said he had seen a dinghy near Mr Chappell's yacht, Four Winds, at the Marieville Esplanade marina between 11:00 pm and midnight on the night he disappeared.

Yesterday police confirmed they had received significant information over the past two weeks that could help solve the mystery and they called on the anonymous witness to contact them again.

He made contact yesterday and police say he has given them more valuable information about the dinghy's movements.

Police found Mr Chappell's yacht taking on water in the River Derwent and later confirmed it had been sabotaged.

Partner of missing Tas yachtsman speaks

Posted Sat Mar 14, 2009 10:46am AEDT
Updated Sun Mar 15, 2009 1:21pm AEDT - ABC

The partner of missing Hobart cancer specialist, Bob Chappell, says she does not know what has happened to him.

Sue Fraser has spoken about his disappearance for the first time.

Bob Chappell was last seen on board his yacht "Four Winds" on Australia Day, the next morning it was sinking and Mr Chappell has not been seen since.

Ms Fraser has told Saturday AM she is not sure if blood found on the boat was from a nose bleed or something more sinister.

"It's hard to know what to think about that," said Ms Fraser.

"However it was the things that were changed on the boat that I don't believe Bob could possibly have done that made me think other people were involved."

Yachtie case: Police appeal for info on jacket

Posted Tue Mar 17, 2009 7:00pm AEDT - ABC

Tasmanian police say they have made a significant advance in their investigation into the disappearance of Hobart man Bob Chappell.

The 65-year-old cancer specialist was last seen on his yacht on Australia Day and the following morning, police discovered the sinking yacht had been sabotaged.

Police are now seeking information about a red ski jacket found in Marieville Esplanade at Sandy Bay.

Detective Inspector Peter Powell says the jacket is one of a number of recent developments.

"We have some other information in relation to the jacket and we're just hoping that whoever may have seen it [will come forward]," he said.

"We understand that someone may have probably either seen this jacket or moved it and we're really keen to find out who might have done that."

Missing yachtie's family hires private eye

Posted Tue Mar 24, 2009 11:21am AEDT - ABC

Tasmanian Police have criticised the family of missing yachtsman Bob Chappell for hiring a private investigator.

The 65-year-old Hobart radiation specialist was last seen by his partner Sue Fraser, on his yacht two months ago.

Police found the yacht sinking in the River Derwent and believe Mr Chappell was murdered.

Ms Fraser has called in a private investigator to search the yacht but the man in charge of the police investigation, Inspector Peter Powell, does not support the move.

"If she wants to do that we've got no way of stopping her doing that," he said.

"I guess most of the reputable firms would probably take the view that they wouldn't interfere in a police investigation and we'd certainly not want them to interfere and if they came across any evidence we'd expect them to to bring the evidence to us anyway," he said.

Police divers continue river sweep

Posted Tue Apr 21, 2009 11:50am AEST - ABC

Three police boats are continuing to search for missing Hobart cancer specialist Bob Chappell on the Derwent River.

At the weekend 10 sites which contained human-sized objects were found on the riverbed using sonar equipment.

Four sites were inspected by police divers yesterday, with the rest to be done today.

The 65-year-old was last seen on his yacht on Australia Day.

The next day his boat was found sinking and sabotaged.

Partner charged with murder of cancer specialist Bob Chappell

THE partner of a missing Hobart cancer specialist has been charged with murdering him, eight months after he disappeared.

Royal Hobart Hospital's chief radiation physicist Bob Chappell, 65, was allegedly last seen alive by his partner of more than 20 years Susan Fraser, on their yacht in the Derwent River on Australia Day this year.

Police said they arrested Fraser, 55, today and charged her with murdering Mr Chappell.

She appeared briefly in the Hobart Magistrates Court  today to face the charge.

She was not required to enter a plea and Magistrate Chris Webster remanded her in custody to reappear in the same court on Friday.

Fraser was allegedly the last person to say they saw Mr Chappell alive.

She allegedly told police she left him on board their moored yacht in Hobart about 2pm on January 26 because he wanted to work on the boat and sleep on board that night.

The yacht was discovered partially submerged the next day.

Police said it had been deliberately sabotaged.

Mr Chappell's body has not been recovered despite an extensive search of the river.

 

Murder trial start date set

 

THE murder trial for the woman accused of killing her medical specialist partner will begin in Hobart next week.

Bob Chappell, a radiation physicist at the Royal Hobart Hospital, was last seen alive on Australia Day 2009.

His de facto wife, 56-year-old Susan Neill-Fraser, was charged with his murder in August last year.

In the Supreme Court in Hobart today, Justice Alan Blow said a jury would be empanelled on Tuesday morning, with opening addresses to begin that afternoon.

Ms Neill-Fraser's lawyer David Gunson SC said the trial would take up to four weeks to complete.

Murder trial told of kill plots

 
A WEST Hobart woman accused of murdering her millionaire partner plotted to kill him almost a decade earlier a court has heard.

Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser, 56, has pleaded not guilty to murdering her decfacto Bob Chappell, 65, on Australia Day last year.


Her murder trial began before a jury of seven women and five men before Justice Alan Blow in the Supreme Court in Hobart today.

In his opening address Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis, SC, said Ms Neill-Fraser detailed a plot to kill Mr Chappell to a friend's partner in the late 1990s.

Mr Ellis said Ms Neill-Fraser told Philip Triffitt that Mr Chappell, who had an estate worth $1.38 million, was stingy and was drinking too much.

"Previously, she had articulated a plan to kill Bob Chappell," Mr Ellis said.

Mr Ellis said the prosecution's case was "circumstantial, but not second rate".

"This is a case where we can't say how or why he was killed ... but circumstances add up to murder by Susan Neill-Fraser," he said.

More than 50 witnesses, including Mr Chappell's son, daughter and sister are expected to appear in the trial that is anticipated to take four weeks.

Other witnesses include more than 20 police, a forensic scientist, a naval architect and a man believed to have called Ms Neill-Fraser at 10pm on January 26.

In a brief opening address defence counsel David Gunson SC told the jury Ms Neill Fraser denied murdering her partner of 18 years.

"The accused emphatically denies she had murdered Mr Chappell," he said.

"There is no reason whatsoever why she would want to do that.

"She is in no way responsible for his death, if he is indeed dead."

The trial will continue tomorrow, with the jury expected to be taken to the area of the alleged murder to inspect the $203,000 yacht Four Winds.

 

Relationship 'over', court told

 

A WOMAN accused of killing her defacto told a yachtsman she had ended their relationship and planned to buy out his share of their yacht just weeks before the alleged murder, a court has heard.

Queensland delivery yachtsman Peter Stevenson told the Supreme Court in Hobart that Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser said her relationship with Bob Chappell was strained and she had ended it.

Ms Neill-Fraser, 56, of West Hobart, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Chappell, 65, who vanished from the couple's yacht on Australia Day last year.

Mr Stevenson was one of two men who spent several days sailing from Queensland to Hobart with Ms Neill-Fraser on a delivery trip of the couple's new yacht Four Winds in December 2008.

"She had said to us in general conversation that their relationship was strained and over, and had been for some time," he said.

"She said to me at one stage that she would like to borrow $100,000 from her mother to buy out his share of the boat."

Mr Stevenson told the court that Ms Neill-Fraser had shown no affection towards Mr Chappell when he met with them several times before and after the yacht’s delivery.

He said before the delivery Mr Chappell was hospitalised with a severe nose bleed in Queensland for three days and Ms Neill-Fraser only visited him once and was "not overly concerned" about him.

Mr Stevenson said he suggested to Ms Neill-Fraser that he and the other yachtsman would continue the yacht’s delivery and would pick the couple up at Sydney when Mr Chappell had recovered, however she declined.

"She said 'no', and that she would come while Bob remained in hospital," he said.


After a haphazard trip to Hobart, where several mechanical and electrical faults were overcome, Mr Stevenson said the couple’s reunion was emotionless.

"She stood back and ignored him," he said.

Mr Stevenson will be cross examined by defence counsel David Gunson SC when the trial continues before Justice Alan Blow tomorrow.

Earlier today the son of Mr Chappell told a court of increasing tension between his father and the woman accused of killing him.
 

Timothy Chappell told the court that there were "snipey'' words exchanged between his father and Ms Neill-Fraser just weeks before she allegedly murdered him.

Timothy said he felt uncomfortable when sharing time with the couple aboard their new yacht Four Winds, during two occasions in January last year.

"There was tension between them I believe," he said.

"I felt uncomfortable on the boat because of the tension between them."

Timothy said he had witnessed several "snipey" exchanges, but no arguments between the couple.

He said a source of the tension was the couple's different expectations about their new yacht.


He told the court that his father "worked through things slowly" while Ms Neill-Fraser wanted things to happen "snappily".

Timothy told the court he was surprised that his father would choose to spend a night aboard the yacht without a tender.

"He was extremely safety conscious," he said.

"He would have thought if something happened on the boat he wouldn't have had a way to get off...in his normal frame of mind he would not have stayed there the night."

Timothy said his father was passionate about his career as the Royal Hobart Hospital's chief radiation physicist.

He said he had delayed retirement plans for about a year because his superannuation had taken a hit during the Global Financial Crisis and he had a project he wanted to complete at work.

Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis SC asked Timothy if he believed his father was still alive; he answered "No."

Mr Ellis then asked Timothy if he believed his father would stage his own disappearance; he answered: "Absolutely not."

Timothy told the court his father had plans to spend part of his retirement sailing with Ms Neill-Fraser in the D'Entrecasteaux channel and around Bruny Island.

However, he said Ms Neill-Fraser had different expectations.


He said the couple's initial plans were to buy a modest boat, about 30ft to 40 ft for less than $100,000.

He said he was surprised when they brought the 53ft ketch Four Winds, worth $203,000.

"I believe Sue had more energy in the project and motivation for a larger vessel," he said.

"Dad's plans were more modest, along the original lines."

Mr Chappell described his father as quiet man who never showed aggression.

"He was an introverted person, fairly quiet," he said.

"He could be grumpy and prickly, but never aggressive or outwardly aggressive."

Forensic officers from Tasmania police were also called to the stand this morning.

Constable Melanie Redburn showed the court photos she had taken of Four Winds after the alleged murder, detailing red "spatter" markings on a wooden panel in the boat's wheel house and on a torch.

She also showed photos of a pipe in the yacht's bathroom that had been severed and a carving knife that was found in the yacht's wheel house floor.

Earlier today the jury of seven women and five men were taken to the scene of the alleged murder at
Short Beach Sandy Bay.

The trial continues tomorrow before Justice Alan Blow.

 

Accused killer discussed will

 

THE woman accused of killing a Hobart doctor discussed his will with one of his daughters, a court has heard.

In other evidence presented in the Supreme Court in Hobart this morning, the jury was told that a computer belonging accused murderer Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser had been used to research faraway islands and international boat brokers just weeks before she allegedly killed her defacto, Bob Chappell.

Police seized Ms Neill-Fraser's computer during an investigation into the disappearance of her long-time partner Mr Chappell, 65, who vanished on Australia Day 2009.

Ms Neill-Fraser, 56, of West Hobart, has pleaded not guilty to murder.

Police found that on December 30 and 31, 2008 the computer had been used to search for yacht brokers in the US, UK and Asia, and to research the Pacific islands, Galapagos and Marquesas, the court heard.


Mr Chappell's daughter Kate Chappell, 37, of South Hobart, told the court she was concerned by comments Ms Neill-Fraser made about her sailing future.

Ms Chappell told the court the concerning conversations occurred on December 26, two days after Ms Neill Fraser helped deliver the couple's new yacht, Four Winds, from Queensland to Hobart.

"She said she would have like to have kept on sailing further," she said.

"I got the impression she wanted to sail further and to wider seas."

Ms Chappell said she noted the comment at the time of the conversation.

"I was concerned with that comment and the feeling I got from Sue," she said.
 
Ms Chappell told the court she had discussed her father's will with Ms Neill-Fraser, about 2004.
 
"Sue initiated the conversation...it was quite out of the blue," she said.
 
Ms Chappell said Ms Neill Fraser said Mr Chappell, a father of three, had a lot of superannuation, and the will was quite fair.

"She said my siblings and I would receive between $100,00 and $200,000," she said.
 
Mr Chappell's estate was worth $1.38 million the court was told.

The trial will continue before Justice Alan Blow this afternoon.

Trial told of blood, knife

 
BLOOD, a knife and engulfing water confronted the lone police officer first to board the sinking yacht where Bob Chappell was allegedly last seen alive, a court has heard.

Constable Craig Stockdale told the Supreme Court in Hobart he called out to see if anyone was on board the yacht Four Winds when he boarded it about 7am on January 27, 2009.

He told the court he called out as he headed to the wheelhouse of the 16m ketch.

"The first thing I saw was a knife on the floor," he said.

"Then on three steps into the wheelhouse I observed some blood.

"Further up the yacht there was water engulfing it."

Constable Stockdale told the court he saw blood on a yellow torch that was on the right-hand side of the wheelhouse.

He then searched the wheelhouse and attempted to search the yacht's saloon.

"I went as far as I could and yelled out but no one answered," he said.

Constable Stockdale used a police radio to contact Marine Police, who arrived 10 minutes later at 7.25am, the court heard.

He said his police partner waited ashore at Short Beach, Sandy Bay, while local Daryl Balding took him out to the vessel in a dinghy.

In other evidence, Constable John Williamson, who conducted forensic investigations aboard Four Winds on January 29, told the court he took 16 fingerprint lifts from the outside of the yacht.

He also took photos of the yacht's tender, which he presented to the jury yesterday.

Constable Williamson displayed a daylight photo of the tender followed by a second photo in the dark to show where police had applied luminol, a chemical agent used by forensic officers.

The photo taken in the dark revealed extensive bright blue stains on the boat's right side.

Following a cross-examination yesterday, Queensland yachtsman Peter Stevenson told the court that he and a second delivery yachtsman had cleaned Four Winds when they arrived in Hobart on December 24.

Mr Stevenson said there was no blood on the boat from a severe nose bleed Bob Chappell had suffered during the first days of the delivery of the yacht from Queensland to Hobart when he departed.

Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis SC asked Mr Stevenson if the blood pictured in police photographic evidence in areas of the yacht was there when he left the yacht, and he answered: "No it was not."

"We cleaned the boat when we got to Hobart, it wasn't there then."

Man helped woman with boat

 

A BATTERY Point resident has described helping a woman with shoulder-length chestnut hair who was struggling to launch a dinghy near the Sandy Bay Rowing Club on Australia Day last year.

Student Christopher Liaubon had taken his canoe for a paddle and on returning to shore he noticed a woman in her 40s or 50s struggling to free the dinghy, which had become wedged in sand at Short Beach.

THe evidence was presented yesterday before a murder trial in the Supreme Court in Hobart. 

Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser, 56, of West Hobart, is accused of killing her long-time defacto Bob Chappell, on Australia Day last year.

Mr Liaubon said the woman had shoulder-length chestnut hair and was wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.

He said he first noticed her crossing the grass area from Queen St then saw her struggling with the dinghy.

He said she asked him for assistance and he helped her lift the boat.

"She was trying to swivel it but the [outboard motor] leg was caught in the sand," he said.

He then drove home about 2pm and on leaving he glanced back and saw the woman in the boat.

Other witnesses described seeing a rubber dinghy floating unattended at Short Beach the following day about an hour before the yacht Four Winds was seen taking in water.

Resident Timothy Farmer told the Supreme Court he attended his daughter's rowing practice at 5.40am on January 27 and noticed an unattended dinghy nudging some rocks.

He used a rope at the front of the dinghy to secure the boat.

He said the end of the rope had been inside the boat.

An hour later, Mr Farmer and his daughter's coach Daryl Balding returned from rowing practice in a tender dinghy and noticed Four Winds taking in water.

Also giving evidence yesterday, Mr Balding said they noticed police officers on the shore and he gave one officer a lift to the yacht in his tender.

He said the officer got on board and he went onboard as well but they did not find anyone on the yacht.

Mr Balding said the officer requested he avoid walking on blood stains on the steps.

He noticed the power was turned on and a latch for connecting a dinghy to the stern was undone.

The trial, before Justice Alan Blow, continues. 

Accused had drug suspicions

 

THE West Hobart woman accused of killing her defacto told police she had concerns drugs had been smuggled aboard their yacht, a court has heard.

Constable Milazzo said Ms Neill-Fraser said she had argued with Mr Chappell twice in the weeks leading to his disappearance, because she wanted sniffer dogs to search the yacht and he did not.

"[Ms Neill-Fraser] said Bob was petrified of the boat getting a bad name and people wouldn't want to go out on it," Constable Milazzo said.

During the visit with Ms Neill-Fraser on February 5, Constable Milazzo said she was told Mr Chappell, 65, had been depressed after his first marriage broke down.

She told the court Ms Neill-Fraser said Mr Chappell had planned to retire a year earlier but that was delayed because he wanted to complete a quality assurance manual for work.

Constable Milazzo said Ms Neill-Fraser told police Mr Chappell did not use the home computer, except when checking weather charts.

She told the court she inspected Four Winds on January 27 and Ms Neill-Fraser was present.

She said Ms Neill-Fraser was asked to explain if anything had been disturbed and was told not to touch anything.

"I recall her touching lots of things on the boat," she said.

Constable Milazzo said Ms Neill-Fraser pointed out a number of concerns including electrical switches that were in wrong positions, a heavy fire extinguisher that was missing and wooden floor boards in the boat's saloon that had been removed. Constable Milazzo told the court Ms Neill-Fraser said she had visited Mr Chappell aboard Four Winds on January 26 and she had worked in the yacht's laundry while he worked in the engine room.

The accused told Constable Milazzo Mr Chappell had snapped at her because she was in his way, the court heard.

Ms Neill Fraser told Constable Milazzo she could not say what time she left the yacht, but she said she went to Bunnings Warehouse after she left.

She detailed that she had looked at timber, paint and slip mats while at Bunnings, before leaving when "the light was fading", Constable Milazzo told the court.

Rope moved 'to lower a body'

 

A WOMAN accused of killing her de facto husband told a man that ropes on a boat were moved "to lower a body", a court has heard.

Queensland boat broker Jeffrey Rowe told the Supreme Court in Hobart today that Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser said during a phone conversation after her partner Bob Chappell's disappearance that ropes on the couple's boat Four Winds had been moved from the bow to the stern.

"She mentioned a number of ropes had been repositioned on the boat ... repositioned there in order to lower a body," he said.

Ms Neill Fraser, 56, of West Hobart, has pleaded not guilty to murdering her de facto partner Mr Chappell, 65, on Australia Day 2009.

Mr Rowe, who sold the yacht to the couple in 2008, told the court that he had moved the yacht to a different marina in Queensland shortly after its sale because an electrician believed someone had been gaining entry to the boat.

Mr Rowe also said Ms Neill Fraser had called him three weeks before Mr Chappell disappeared and said she had broken up with Mr Chappell.

He told the court she had said she ended their relationship because she was "tired of having to do everything".

Mr Rowe said Ms Neill-Fraser sounded disappointed "but seemed to have herself together pretty well" during the January 8 conversation.

Despite extensive police searches, Mr Chappell's body has never been found after he vanished from the couple's yacht, which was moored off Short Beach, Sandy Bay.

Earlier today, a witness told of seeing a dingy heading towards yachts late on the night Mr Chappell was allegedly murdered.

John Hughes told the court he saw a dingy and heard an outboard motor between 11.30pm and midnight on Australia Day last year near Short Beach.

Mr Hughes said he had driven to Marieville Esplanade to "relax and look out over the water".

He said he saw a dingy travelling in a northeast direction from the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania.

"The person had the outline of a female ... but I can't be definite," Mr Hughes said.

He said he was unable to see the colour of the dingy, the exact length or what the person was wearing.

The trial continues this afternoon before Justice Alan Blow.

Friend tried to reveal kill plot

 

A FRIEND tried to warn Bob Chappell that his de facto partner planned to kill him, a court has heard.

Phillip Triffett told the Supreme Court in Hobart Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser shared plots to kill her brother and Mr Chappell during their friendship.

Mr Triffett said Ms Neill-Fraser asked for his help to take her brother Patrick "out to sea and throw him overboard" in the late 1990s.

Ms Neill Fraser, 56, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Chappell, 65, on Australia Day 2009.

The court heard that Ms Neill-Fraser told Mr Triffett she wanted to kill Patrick because of concerns about their mother's property.

Mr Triffett said Ms Neill-Fraser detailed taking Patrick out to sea in a yacht, throwing him overboard, weighing his body with a tool box and then sinking the yacht by tampering with the bilge pump.

"She wanted to take Patrick out to sea and throw him overboard," he said.

"He was in her way of the property of her mothers."

Ms Neill-Fraser later brought up the plan, but this time in relation to Mr Chappell, around 1997, Mr Triffett said.

"She said what we talked about with Patrick had to happen with Bob," he said.

The court heard Ms Neill-Fraser told Mr Triffett she wanted to get rid of Mr Chappell because of how he managed money and the way he behaved around her daughters.

"Sue suggested Bob was dangerous and more or less said he had to go," he said.

However, the conversation was cut short because Mr Chappell returned home, Mr Triffett said.

He said months later he and his partner were having dinner at Mr Chappell and Ms Neill-Fraser's home and he attempted to reveal the murder plot to Mr Chappell.

"I said she should tell Bob what she planned to do with him," Mr Triffett  said.

However, he said Ms Neill-Fraser interjected.

"Sue cut it short, I wasn't able to (tell him)," he said.
 

Mr Triffett said he was forced to leave after Ms Neill-Fraser called him a liar and asked him to go. He said he did and he never saw them again.

He said he considered telling police, but didn't until Mr Chappell's disappearance.

In testimony this morning, a witness told the court Ms Neill-Fraser claimed police told her Mr Chappell had been murdered onboard the couple's yacht Four Winds.

Queensland mechanic James McKinnon, who worked on the couple's yacht Four Winds, said Ms Neill-Fraser spoke of a fire extinguisher being used to weigh down Mr Chappell's body.

Mr McKinnon said Ms Neill-Fraser told him during a phone call on January 29, 2009, that ropes had been used to winch Mr Chappell's body up from the boat's cabin.

Mr McKinnon said Ms Neill-Fraser told him that a fire extinguisher was tied to his body.

"She expressed her belief was that somebody had murdered him onboard and used the fire extinguisher onboard to weigh down the body," Mr McKinnon told the court.

"They used ropes to winch his body up from the saloon area and tie a fire extinguisher to his body."

Mr McKinnon said Ms Neill-Fraser "claimed that that was what the police had told her".

He said Ms Neill-Fraser was "fairly normal, I don't believe she was upset".

Mr McKinnon told the court the fire extinguisher weighed between 10kg and 15kg.

The trial will continue before Justice Alan Blow this afternoon.

 

Accused had bandaged wrist

 
SUSAN Blyth Neill-Fraser was clutching a bandaged wrist and nursing a cut thumb the day after she allegedly murdered her de facto, a court has heard.

Constable Shane Etherington spoke to Ms Neill-Fraser when she first arrived at Marieville Esplanade the day police began investigating the disappearance of her partner Bob Chappell. Constable Etherington told the Supreme Court in Hobart yesterday Ms Neill-Fraser had several wounds.

"There was some sort of crepe strapping wrapped around her wrist that she continually held and a standard Band-Aid on her thumb," he said.

The court heard that Constable Etherington could not recall Ms Neill-Fraser's explanation for her injuries.

But Constable Etherington said that during a conversation about her injuries Ms Neill-Fraser said her fingerprints might be found on a torch aboard the couple's yacht Four Winds.

Constable Etherington said Ms Neill-Fraser did not appear particularly concerned that her partner of 18 years was missing.

"I don't believe she was overly concerned, no," he said.

Ms Neill-Fraser raised concerns that the yacht could have been used to traffic drugs, and suggested that might have explained why the yacht was found sinking, Constable Etherington told the court.

 

Murky depths dogged search

 
VISIBILITY, depth and lack of resources restricted police divers' bid to find missing Hobart physicist Bob Chappell a court has heard.

Sergeant Paul Steane told the Hobart court the silt bottom of the Derwent River limited visibility to zero at times, forcing divers to search with their hands.

Sgt Steane, who is the officer in charge of the Tasmania Police dive team, said depths of up to 26m also limited visibility and the amount of time divers could spend searching.

He told the court a team of Victorian police, who scanned the riverbed with sonar-imaging equipment, had limited time to spend on the search.

"If we had them for longer, our search would have gone for longer," he said.

Victoria Police Senior Constable Shane Morton told the court sonar searches on April 18 and 19 last year covered a search zone in the River Derwent of one nautical mile by half a nautical mile.

He told the court the search uncovered 90 objects of interest; 25 targets were cleared by Tasmania Police divers -- however nothing of interest to the case was found.

Sgt John Pratt told the court he co-ordinated a grid search from Sandy Bay to Nutgrove from the police vessel Freycinet on January 27.

He also supervised dive searches of the area but "saw nothing out of the ordinary".

 

 

Blood spatter found on yacht

 

BLOOD stains spattered with force were found aboard the yacht where Bob Chappell was staying the night he was allegedly murdered, a court has heard.

Forensic scientist Deborah McHoul examined the yacht Four Winds the day after Mr Chappell was believed to be killed, the Supreme Court in Hobart heard today.

Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser, 56, of West Hobart, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Chappell, 65 on Australia Day 2009.

Despite extensive police searches, Mr Chappell's body has never been found.

Ms McHoul told the court she found red and brown drops, which she believed was blood, in several areas of the yacht's wheelhouse and saloon.

The court heard that drops on a wooden panel beside the yacht's wheel were small, indicating they had landed with force.

"The smaller the drop the greater the force," she said.

Ms McHoul said the direction the drops landed indicated they had come from the saloon area, adjacent to the wheelhouse.

The saloon area was in "disarray" while the wheelhouse was "largely undisturbed", Ms McHoul told the court.

Earlier today, the court heard Ms Neill-Fraser was set to inherit 50 per cent of Mr Chappell's estate plus his house, car and material possessions.

Forty per cent of Mr Chappell's estate would go to his three children and 10 per cent to his sister.

His estate included $800,000 in superannuation and about $30,000 in unpaid employment entitlements.

Mr Chappell's lawyer Phillip Kimber told the court Mr Chappell changed his will in 2004 including details of what would happen if his de facto partner Ms Neill-Fraser should survive him by 30 days.

The court heard Ms Neill-Fraser called Mr Kimber on January 29, 2009, three days after Mr Chappell vanished from the Four Winds.

The court head that if Ms Neill-Fraser did not survive Mr Chappell by 30 days, 90 per cent of his estate was to be divided between the couple's five children – his son and two daughters and Ms Neill-Fraser's two daughters – and 10 per cent to his sister.

Mr Kimber told the court: "She had telephoned me on January 29 and mentioned Bob was missing."

Mr Kimber met Ms Neill-Fraser on February 12 and discussed the will for two hours.

The trial continues before Justice Alan Blow.

Traces of homeless girl

 

A HOMELESS teenager's DNA was inexplicably found aboard Four Winds, a court was told yesterday.

The 16-year-old Hobart girl's DNA was found on the starboard walkway of the 16m ketch.

The girl, who cannot be publicly named because of her age, told the court she had never been aboard the yacht.

Police matched the girl's DNA with that on the boat using the Tasmanian DNA database.

Forensic scientist Carl Grosser told the court the girl's DNA could have been saliva or skin and that it may have been transferred to the yacht from another site.

"Potentially, the mechanism for that transfer to occur could be on someone's shoe," he said.

Police 'haul body' from yacht

 

POLICE acted out hauling a body from the cabin of the yacht where Bob Chappell was allegedly murdered, a court has heard.

The detective who was lifted weighed 98kg and told the Supreme Court in Hobart he couldn't stop the force of the lift, despite attempts to resist.

Hobart CIB detective constable Shane Sinnitt said investigations found that several squares of carpet were missing from the saloon area of the 16m ketch, in front of the engine room.

Det-Const Sinnitt said he stood where the carpet was missing and then a rope that was attached to a winch on the rear deck of the yacht Four Winds was tied around his waist.

A second detective operated the winch, lifting Det-Const Sinnitt from the hull of the yacht.

He said he attempted to brace against areas of the yacht but was unable to resist.

"I couldn't stop him," Mr Sinnitt told the court.

Det-Const Sinnitt told the court he weighted approximately 98kg.

The reconstruction took place while Four Winds was kept a ship yard in Goodwood in February 2009, following the disappearance of Mr Chappell.

Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser, 56, of West Hobart, has pleaded not guilty to murdering her long time defacto Mr Chappell, 65.

Mr Chappell vanished from the couple's yacht Four Winds on Australia Day 2009, and despite extensive police searches his body has never been found.

Earlier today the court was told a three-day nose bleed left blood in many rooms on the yacht.

Speaking via video link, Queensland yachtsman David Casson told the court that Mr Chappell's nose began bleeding in the engine room of the yacht Four Winds on December 7, 2008.

Mr Casson said Mr Chappell's nose continued to bleed until the yacht docked at Southport on December 9, where he was taken to hospital.

The court heard there was a small amount of blood in areas including the cockpit and engine room.

"I can't specifically recall seeing it in the saloon area," Mr Casson said.

The court yesterday heard that blood stains spattered with force were found in the yacht's wheelhouse and saloon area.

Mr Casson told the court the blood had been cleaned up.

"I'm not real keen on blood anywhere; in this day and age you don't know what's in blood," he said.

The trial continues before Justice Alan Blow.

Court told of police bugs

 

POLICE surveillance recorded more than a month's worth of data after bugging the home of the woman accused of murdering Hobart physicist Bob Chappell, a court has heard.

Hobart CIB detective constable Shane Sinnitt told the Supreme Court in Hobart police planted listening devices in Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser's home in March 2009, more than a month after Mr Chappell disappeared.

The court heard 96 discs were produced, each containing about eight hours of data.

Det-Const Sinnitt said police listened to the audio, however details were not heard in court.

Ms Neill-Fraser, 56, of West Hobart, has pleaded not guilty to murdering her de facto Mr Chappell, 65, who vanished from the couple's yacht Four Winds on Australia Day 2009.

Defence counsel David Gunson SC accused Det-Const Sinnitt of misleading Ms Neill-Fraser during an interview, before her arrest on August 20, 2009.

The court heard Ms Neill-Fraser told Det-Const Sinnitt she was aware a witness had seen a dinghy moored beside Four Winds late on Australia Day 2009.

Det Const said he told Ms Neill-Fraser the witness saw the dinghy at 3.55pm, which contradicted Ms Neill-Fraser's account that she had left Four Winds about 2pm.

Ms Neill Fraser told Det-Const Sinnitt, "it must have been me, I must have stayed there longer than I first thought," the court heard.

However, Mr Gunson accused Det-Const Sinnitt of misleading Ms Neill-Fraser, because the witness said the dinghy he saw was grey, while the dinghy belonging to Four Winds was white.

Det Const Sinnitt told the court he did not believe he misled the witness nor did he intend to mislead the witness.

The court head that Det-Const Sinnitt did not investigate a grey dinghy.

"I was of the opinion that the person on board was the accused," he told the court.

The court heard a second witness came forward after Ms Neill-Fraser was charged with murder, stating she saw a grey dinghy tethered to Four Winds on Australia Day about 5pm.

During re-examination, Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis SC asked Det-Const Sinnitt what colour the trim on the dinghy belonging to Four Winds was, and he answered "grey".

 

Witness faces own charges

 

A MAN who alleged Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser plotted to kill her de facto asked police if giving evidence would help him with his own criminal charges, the Supreme Court in Hobart heard yesterday.

Phillip Triffett, of Old Beach, was recalled to the witness box yesterday after this week telling the court Ms Neill-Fraser had spoken of plots to kill long-time partner Bob Chappell.

Mr Triffett, who was friends with Ms Neill-Fraser in the 1990s, said her plans involved dumping a weighted body from a yacht before tampering with the bilge and sinking it.

The court heard yesterday that on January 7 last year, Mr Triffett was charged in relation to the unlawful possession of ammunition and several items of property.

On January 28, two days after Mr Chappell went missing, Mr Triffett contacted a detective involved in charging him, saying he had information.

The court heard Mr Triffett met police a couple of days later and outlined details of Ms Neill-Fraser's murder plots.

Defence counsel David Gunson, SC, asked Mr Triffett if he said to police, "Will this help me with those charges?" and he replied, "Yes".

Mr Gunson asked if the officer said, "I don't think so, it's not up to me", and he replied, "Yes".

Mr Triffett told the court he did not contact police in a bid to get off the charges.

"I came forward because of what I heard and I suspected that I knew something about Bob's disappearance," he said.

Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis, SC, asked Mr Triffett if there was an understanding that his charges may be changed if he assisted police and he answered "no".

"I wasn't worried about it, I didn't need any assistance," Mr Triffett said.

The charges against Mr Triffett proceeded in the Magistrates Court and he pleaded guilty.

Ms Neill-Fraser, 56, of West Hobart, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Chappell, 65, who vanished from the couple's yacht Four Winds on January 26, 2009.

Woman tells of guilt

 
THE woman accused of murdering Hobart physicist Bob Chappell said she has been consumed with guilt since his death, a court has heard.

Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser told police during an interview that "every waking hour" she had felt guilty over leaving Mr Chappell aboard the couple's yacht Four Winds the day he was murdered.

The four-hour police interview recorded on April 3, 2009 is part of almost eight hours of video interviews with Ms Neill Fraser that will be shown in the Hobart Supreme Court trial.

In the interview Ms Neill-Fraser said she didn't expect Mr Chappell to spend the whole night aboard the yacht in "choppy and rough" conditions.

The court heard Ms Neill Fraser told police it was "almost unheard of" for Mr Chappell to plan to skip a day’s work.

Ms Neill-Fraser told police she left her mobile with Mr Chappell in case he wanted to leave the vessel, so he could contact her and she could return the dinghy she used to get to shore to pick him up.

"I've been consumed every waking hour with guilt," she told police.

However, she said Mr Chappell was "not physically confident" and his "co-ordination wasn't very good".

"Believe me, Bob would have been at far greater risk if he was getting in and out of the dinghy on his own," she said.

The court heard Ms Neill-Fraser told police that Mr Chappell had "ended up on his back" in the bottom of the dinghy several times when trying to get in and out of it.

Ms Neill-Fraser, 56, of West Hobart, has pleaded not guilty to murdering her long-time defacto Mr Chappell, 65.

Mr Chappell disappeared off the yacht Four Winds on Australia Day 2009 and despite extensive police searches, his body has never been found.

The trial will continue before Justice Alan Blow this afternoon.

 

Trouble expected from deceit

 

THE woman accused of killing Bob Chappell told police she expected to be in trouble for lying about her movements the night her de facto was killed, a court has heard.

During a four-hour police interview being played in court today, Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser told investigators she did return to Sandy Bay the night Mr Chappell was allegedly murdered.

The claim contradicted stories Ms Neill-Fraser had previously told police about here whereabouts on Australia Day 2009 when Mr Chappell vanished from the couple's yacht Four Winds.

Ms Neill-Fraser told police she couldn't even remember being interviewed the day after Mr Chappell went missing, when she told them she spent the afternoon of January 26 at Bunnings Warehouse.

The Supreme Court in Hobart heard in the interview, which was recorded on May 5, 2009, that Ms Neill-Fraser believed she was probably in shock that day.

"It's like walking through thick smoke," she said.

Later during the interview, Ms Neill-Fraser told police she had returned to Sandy Bay on Australia Day night, following a concerning phone call.

She said she walked down to her car, which she had left near Marieville Esplanade, but realised she had grabbed the wrong keys.

She walked all the way back to her West Hobart home to collect the correct keys and back again, a trip which she estimated took 15 minutes one way.

However she was unable to tell police which way she walked, saying she did that walk all the time and couldn't remember.

"I'm not trying to be obstructive," she told police.

During the interview, detectives accused Ms Neill-Fraser of lying and manipulating her daughters, because she did not tell them she returned to Sandy Bay.

Detective Sergeant Simon Conroy asked why Ms Neill-Fraser did not tell her daughters she returned until they identified a car similar to hers, which was captured on CCTV footage driving along Sandy Bay Rd about 12.25am on January 27.

Ms Neill-Fraser said she hadn't wanted to lie to them and "just hadn't told them".

Ms Neill Fraser told police she hadn't told detectives she returned to Marieville Esplanade because she didn't want to upset Mr Chappell's son Timothy and she didn't want to end up on the front page of the press.

She admitted she should have told police.

"I expect to get into a lot of trouble for it," she said.

Ms Neill-Fraser, 56, of West Hobart, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Chappell, 65, on Australia Day last year.

Earlier today, the court heard Ms Neill-Fraser used drug claims to distract the murder investigation.

During the interview being played in court, Ms Neill-Fraser denied any intention to mislead police during the investigation into the disappearance of Mr Chappell.

The court heard Ms Neill-Fraser believed that the couple's yacht, Four Winds, could have been used to traffic drugs.

She claimed the yacht had been illegally entered in Queensland and Hobart, the court heard.

"We were concerned somebody could have put something on the boat," Ms Neill-Fraser told police.

She told police she contacted the drug squad to get sniffer dogs to check the boat.

Police told Ms Neill-Fraser they had looked into her claims by contacting every drug squad officer and by checking phone records.

Sgt Conroy told Ms Neill-Fraser that her claims of contacting the drug squad were "unsupported in every aspect".

The police interview shows Sgt Conroy telling Ms Neill-Fraser that there was no evidence to support the claim she had made a phone call.

Sgt Conroy suggested she had made the claims to distract police from their murder investigation.

"Ms Neill-Fraser said: "I didn't intend to."

The trial before Justice Alan Blow continues

 

I didn't murder him

 
THE woman accused of killing Hobart hospital physicist Bob Chappell told police "I did not murder him", a court heard yesterday.

During an interview in March last year, Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser told police she knew she was a suspect in the murder investigation.

But the 56-year-old from West Hobart maintained her innocence.

"I know I must be a suspect, I mean I didn't murder him and throw him overboard attached to a fire extinguisher," she said.

Ms Neill-Fraser has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Chappell, her de facto husband, on Australia Day last year.

During the four-hour recorded interview with police on March 4, Ms Neill-Fraser said she didn't know what had happened to Mr Chappell the night he vanished from the couple's yacht Four Winds at Sandy Bay.

Ms Neill-Fraser told police she had considered three or four different scenarios.

"I think that something was winched out of [Four Winds]," she told police.

"There's no question somebody winched something, I think with those ropes, and I don't think it was Bob because he was too light."

The court heard Mr Chappell, 65, weighed about 64kg.

She told police that allegations she had plotted to kill Mr Chappell were "fabricated" by people who had "an axe to grind" and accusations she had ended their relationship were not true.

She said her family had a "running joke" about her leaving Mr Chappell, and another about her throwing him overboard.

"OK, another joke, and again this was in front of Bob, was if you annoy me any more you'll be dropped overboard," she told police.

During the interview, Ms Neill-Fraser said that since Mr Chappell's disappearance she had been consumed with guilt about leaving him aboard Four Winds the day he vanished.

In the interview, Ms Neill-Fraser said she didn't expect Mr Chappell to spend the whole night aboard the yacht in rough conditions.

She told police she left her mobile with Mr Chappell so he could phone her if he wanted her to bring the dinghy and take him ashore.

She said Mr Chappell had previously encountered difficulty getting in and out of the dinghy on his own.

The trial will continue before Justice Alan Blow today

Police re-interview witness

 
TASMANIA Police last night re-interviewed a witness in the murder trial of Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser.

Det-Sgt Simon Conroy took a second statement from Paul Conde after advice from the Department of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis, SC.

The Supreme Court in Hobart today heard Mr Conde describe a commercial-type dinghy seen near the yacht Four Winds at 3.55pm on Australia Day.

The court heard from last night's interview that Mr Conde said that the dinghy had a lee-cloth, a pointed bow and was old and scuffed.

Defence Counsel David Gunson, SC, said the described dinghy differed from the dinghy that belonged to the accused, suggesting someone else could have been aboard Four Winds that day.

Last night Det-Sgt Conroy re-interviewed Mr Conde, admitting that the original questioning, which was not conducted by him, was pretty poor.

Sgt Conroy told the court that the purpose of the questioning was to establish if there were any lines of inquiry that police could investigate.

He told the court that there were no further lines of inquiry.

Mr Gunson asked if the "trail is cold" and Det-Sgt Conroy, said "Yes."
 
Mr Gunson  said that the boat was not inquired about because an assumption was made that it was the accused in the dinghy.

Det-Sgt Conroy said: "That was not the assumption."

The detective said police made inquiries at yacht clubs and surrounding residences "about all dinghies and considered everyone's descriptions" at the time.

Cross examination of Det-Sgt Conroy continunes before Justice Alan Blow.

Ms Neill-Fraser, 56, of West Hobart has pleaded not guilty to the murder of her long-time de facto Bob Chappell, 65, on January 26 last year.

 

Cops' confession pressure

 
POLICE urged alleged murderer Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser to tell them where Bob Chappell's body was for the sake of his family, a court heard.

During an interview recorded in May last year, detectives told Ms Neill-Fraser her latest account of her whereabouts the night Mr Chappell was allegedly murdered was "less believable than what we had before".

The Supreme Court in Hobart heard the detectives urged Ms Neill-Fraser to "tell the truth" and reveal what she had done with Mr Chappell's body for his family's sake.

Ms Neill-Fraser denied knowing where Mr Chappell was and having anything to do with his disappearance.

"It's a dreadful accusation," Ms Neill-Fraser said.

"I absolutely had nothing to do with Bob's disappearance."

Justice Alan Blow urged jurors to be cautious when considering what the detectives said during the DVD interview.

"What they think doesn't count as evidence against her," he said.

Ms Neill-Fraser, 56, of West Hobart, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Chappell, 65, who vanished from the couple's yacht Four Winds on January 26 last year.

During the four-hour interview, the court heard that Mr Chappell told Ms Neill-Fraser he had "looked after" her in his will.

Ms Neill-Fraser denied reading Mr Chappell's will before his alleged murder, telling police during the interview on May 5 last year that she had only read the will's front cover.

She disputed police claims she was the main beneficiary of his will and expected to inherit about $900,000 in assets.

Ms Neill-Fraser said she thought the will detailed that she was to be able to remain living in Mr Chappell's West Hobart home for five years and then had the opportunity to buy it out.

"He said: 'I've looked after you, you'll be all right, you won't have to move out'," she said.

Police then detailed that she was the major beneficiary and was to inherit 50 per cent of his estate plus his house, car and material possessions, which was outlined by his lawyer Phillip Kimber.

Ms Neill-Fraser debated the detail.

"I'm sure that's not right," she said.

Ms Neill-Fraser asked police if they thought she was "a psychopathic murderer" who killed Mr Chappell because of what she stood to "gain in his will".

Police did not respond.

De facto denies break-up

 
ALLEGED murderer Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser has taken the witness stand to deny claims she had ended her relationship with Bob Chappell.

Ms Neill-Fraser, 56, faced questioning for the first time after Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis, SC, wrapped up the Crown's case after almost three weeks.

She told the Supreme Court in Hobart she and Mr Chappell "worked well as a team".

She denied statements made by several witnesses that she had ended the 18-year de facto relationship with Mr Chappell.

Ms Neill-Fraser, of West Hobart, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Chappell, 65, who vanished from the couple's yacht Four Winds on Australia Day 2009.

The court also heard yesterday that Ms Neill-Fraser was a woman of independence, with almost $1 million in assets, but each fortnight she received an allowance of $500 from Mr Chappell.

Ms Neill-Fraser told the court she believed people had misinterpreted conversations.

"I had said that Bob and I had a heck of a time in our first five years and in fact I left him a few times," she said.

She also denied claims made by Queensland yachtsman Peter Stevenson that she had pushed Mr Chappell away when the couple was reunited in Hobart after delivering Four Winds from Brisbane.

Ms Neill-Fraser said she turned her back to Mr Chappell because she had something in her arms and she later embraced him.

"We went into the saloon and had a hug," she told the court.

"I certainly didn't push him away."

The court heard the couple had searched for years to find their dream yacht, which Ms Neill-Fraser said was to be their "shack".

Ms Neill-Fraser said Mr Chappell had been very happy with their purchase and was looking forward to sailing in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel and to Port Davey.

She told the court Mr Chappell was disappointed to miss the delivery trip of Four Winds in 2008, because of a nose bleed.

She said Mr Chappell's nose bleed had been dripping "on and off" aboard Four Winds for two or three days.

"He certainly sneezed but it never gushed blood," she said.

The court heard that it was Mr Chappell's idea for Ms Neill-Fraser to leave him in hospital at Southport, on the Gold Coast, and continue on the delivery trip to Hobart.

"He sounded disappointed but he thought it was for the best," she said.

The trial will resume before Justice Alan Blow today.

 

Court told of marriage plan

 

ACCUSED murderer Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser spoke of plans to marry Bob Chappell aboard the yacht where she allegedly killed him a court heard yesterday.

Ms Neill-Fraser, 56, told the Supreme Court in Hobart she often spoke of marriage with her defacto of 18-years Mr Chappell, 65.

She said there was a family joke that she was going to leave Mr Chappell and then he would propose, but they also had serious conversations, the court heard.

"We also spoke about getting married on the boat on our 20th anniversary," she said.

Ms Neill-Fraser of West Hobart, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Chappell who vanished from the couple's yacht Four Winds on Australia Day 2009.

Defence Counsel David Gunson SC asked Ms Neill-Fraser if she was aware of the details of Mr Chappell's will, she replied: "no I was not".

Ms Neill-Fraser said she knew Mr Chappell changed his will in 2004.

"I knew the general outline but not the terms," she said.

Ms Neill-Fraser told the court she had been surprised to learn how much superannuation Mr Chappell had accumulated, after a career as the Royal Hobart Hospital's chief radiation physicist.

"I thought he had much less, it came as a complete surprise to me," she said.

Mr Chappell's daughter Kate Chappell had earlier testified that Ms Neill-Fraser brought up a conversation about Mr Chappell's will "out of the blue", around 2005.

Under oath, Ms Chappell told the court Ms Neill Fraser said her father "had a lot of superannuation".

Mr Gunson continued to ask Ms Neill-Fraser to recount details of her whereabouts on the day that she allegedly killed Mr Chappell.

Ms Neill-Fraser had difficulty recollecting several details.

"I can't remember any of this...I'm kind of piecing it together," she said.

Mr Gunson halted questioning, to ask Ms Neill-Fraser if she was feeling alright.

"Yes, I'm alright," she said.

"I'm just very tired."

Ms Neill-Fraser told the court she had fruit cake and a cup of tea with Mr Chappell aboard Four Winds in the late afternoon of January 26.

She said Mr Chappell had wanted to spend the night aboard Four Winds so he could work on the electrics and the engine.

"He actually said to me he may not go to work the next day," she said.

Ms Neill-Fraser could not recall what time she left the yacht, but said she tied the yacht's dinghy up at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, and walked home, leaving her car at Marieville Esplanade.

She said she walked down later that night after an "unnerving" phone call.

"I wanted to see if there was any activity; I hoped I could see the yacht," she said.

However, Ms Neill-Fraser said it was "pitch black" and she couldn't see anything.

She said she drove home, went to bed and then tried to call Mr Chappell in the morning.

Mr Gunson asked if Ms Neill-Fraser had taken the dinghy back out to the Four Winds that night, she replied: "no I did not."

The trial will continue before Justice Alan Blow on Monday.

Woman admits lying

 

ACCUSED murderer Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser admitted lying to police during an investigation into the disappearance of her defacto Bob Chappell, a court has heard.

Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis SC accused Ms Neill-Fraser of "laying red herrings'' to avoid police investigations the Supreme Court in Hobart heard today.

Mr Ellis suggested Ms Neill-Fraser told police several lies, including about drug smugglers and also whereabouts on Australia Day 2009, when she allegedly killed Mr Chappell.
 

"This was entirely typical of the way you conducted yourself with police from the start,'' he said.

Mr Ellis suggested Ms Neill-Fraser initially told police she wasn't sure where she parked her car on Australia Day because: "you wanted the trail to go cold didn't you.''


Ms Neill-Fraser admitted lying to police about where she left her car at Sandy Bay on the afternoon of the 26th and later returning on foot that night to collect it.
 

"It was the only lie I told them,'' she said.

Mr Ellis asked Ms Neill-Fraser why she lied to police about going to Bunning’s Warehouse on the afternoon of the 26th.

Ms Neill-Fraser said it was a genuine memory that she had "transposed'' from another day, the court heard.

"It wasn't true but it wasn't a lie,'' she said.

Earlier today Ms Blyth Neill-Fraser told a court she had never planned or plotted to harm anybody.

Ms Neill-Fraser said claims made by a former friend, Phillip Triffett, that she had planned to kill her de facto Bob Chappell came as no surprise.

Ms Neill-Fraser also said there was not "a grain of truth" in Mr Triffett's claim she had asked him to kill her brother Patrick.

"I've never harmed anybody ... or plotted or planned to harm anybody," Ms Neill-Fraser said.

She said her friendship with Mr Triffett and his partner Maria Hanson came to an abrupt end because of their alleged criminal activity.

She told to court they were "stockpiling weapons".

Ms Neill-Fraser, 56, of West Hobart, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Chappell, 65, who vanished from the couple's yacht Four Winds on January 26 last year.

The trial will continue before Justice Alan Blow this afternoon.
 

 

Accused denies wrench strike

 

ACCUSED killer Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser asked to be briefly excused from court following detailed accusations about how she allegedly killed her de facto.

Ms Neill-Fraser said she felt ill after Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis SC wrapped up his cross-examination in the Supreme Court in Hobart.

During questioning, Mr Ellis accused Ms Neill-Fraser, 56, of hitting Mr Chappell, 65, with a tool from behind and killing him.

He suggested she grabbed a box of latex gloves, resting them on the stove top where police found them, and put on a pair "to cover up what you have done".

Mr Ellis alleged that Mr Chappell bled on squares of carpet and Ms Neill-Fraser removed them, the court heard.

"This is just not true," Ms Neill-Fraser said.

Mr Ellis suggested Ms Neill-Fraser left the yacht and made phone calls to her mother and a daughter from home as means of establishing an "alibi" to corroborate her initial story about staying at a Bunnings hardware store until near closing time.

"I would never harm Bob and I didn't harm him," Ms Neill Fraser said.

"I have never struck anybody let alone somebody I love dearly."

Mr Ellis accused Ms Neill-Fraser of attempting to submerge the yacht Four Winds, where Mr Chappell is believed to have been killed, in a bid to destroy evidence including fingerprints, blood and DNA.

"You lowered his body into the dinghy and took it to the deeper channels of the Derwent," Mr Ellis said.

"You threw the EPIRB overboard in order to lay a false trail."

Mr Ellis alleged that the next day when police questioned Ms Neill-Fraser, she used a story about the yacht being used to smuggle drugs to distract them.

"You impressed on them this theory of smugglers being involved," he said.

Ms Neill-Fraser repeatedly denied having anything to do with Mr Chappell's alleged murder.

At the end of the cross examinations, Ms Neill-Fraser asked to be excused.

"Could I have five minutes, Your Honour; I feel a bit ill," she said.

Justice Alan Blow granted the request.

Ms Neill-Fraser has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Chappell, who vanished from the couple's yacht Four Winds on Australia Day 2009.

Earlier today, Ms Neill-Fraser again denied claims she told others she had ended her relationship with Mr Chappell.

She said the pair made "vague plans" to marry aboard their yacht Four Winds on their 20th anniversary around September 2011.

The court heard the couple met at Ben Lomond Ski Lodge in the state's north about 1989.

Ms Neill-Fraser told the court their relationship became serious in 1991 when she moved into Mr Chappell's West Hobart home.

The trial continues before Justice Alan Blow.

Psychiatric help sought

 
ACCUSED killer Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser sought psychiatric help for "blackouts" after the alleged murder of her de facto, a court has heard.

Ms Neill-Fraser described feeling inexplicable confusion after January 26, 2009, when Bob Chappell vanished from the couple's yacht Four Winds.

The Supreme Court in Hobart heard she sought treatment for memory lapses from Hobart forensic psychiatrist Ian Sale.

Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis SC said Dr Sale was not a treating psychiatrist, and accused Ms Neill-Fraser of visiting him for the purposes of the trial.

She said she was unaware he was not a treating psychiatrist and often contracted by police to help in investigations.

Ms Neill-Fraser, who has pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Chappell, said it was hard to explain her condition.

"I can't explain the confusion in my mind," she said. "I actually began to get mental blackouts that's the best I can describe it."

Ms Neill-Fraser said the blackouts made her unable to recall details Mr Ellis sought in cross-examination.

The court heard that there were days when Ms Neill-Fraser would be walking along and suddenly she would not know where she was.

"I was very confused for weeks after [Mr Chappell's disappearance]," she said.

Mr Ellis accused Ms Neill-Fraser of intentionally forgetting detail.

"You tell so many lies you can't keep track of them," he said. Ms Neill-Fraser responded: "That's just silly."

Ms Neill-Fraser admitted lying to police about her movements on Australia Day.

Initially, Ms Neill-Fraser told investigators she spent the afternoon of January 26 at Bunnings Warehouse but later said she left her car at Marieville Esplanade and walked home, returning to pick it up after a disturbing phone call that night.

Mr Ellis suggested Ms Neill-Fraser was dropping "red herrings".

"This was entirely typical of the way you conducted yourself with police from the start," he said.

Mr Ellis accused Ms Neill-Fraser of lying to police because: "You wanted the trail to go cold, didn't you."

Ms Neill-Fraser said: "It was the only lie I told them."

The 56-year-old told the court she had lied because she didn't want to upset Mr Chappell's son Timothy.

"I understand it was a dreadful mistake, but that was all it was, I wasn't thinking straight that morning," she said.

Ms Neill-Fraser said she told police she went to Bunnings because she thought she had.

"It wasn't true but it wasn't a lie," she said.

Ms Neill-Fraser denied involvement with Mr Chappell's disappearance, telling the court she had never planned or plotted to harm anybody.

The court heard that Ms Neill-Fraser was not surprised by claims made by ex-friend Phillip Triffett that she had planned to kill Mr Chappell.

Ms Neill-Fraser also said there was not "a grain of truth" in Mr Triffett's claim she had asked him to help her kill her brother Patrick.

"I've never harmed anybody ... or plotted or planned to harm anybody," she said.

She said her friendship with Mr Triffett and his partner Maria Hanson came to an abrupt end because of their alleged criminal activity.

Ms Neill-Fraser said the couple was "stockpiling weapons".

The trial will continue before Justice Alan Blow today.

 

Accused built 'a wall of lies'

 

ACCUSED murderer Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser "erected a wall of lies" to mislead police and the jury, a court has heard.

But the truth will "seep around the edges" and reveal itself when the accused killer "isn't completely on guard", the Director of Public Prosecutions told the Supreme Court in Hobart today.

During his closing statement, DPP Tim Ellis SC urged the jury to use Ms Neill-Fraser's lies against her.

"Those sorts of lies can be used in evidence, considering she knew the truth would hurt her," he said.

Ms Neill-Fraser, 56, of West Hobart, has pleaded not guilty to murdering her de facto Bob Chappell, who vanished from the couple's yacht Four Winds on Australia Day 2009.

Mr Ellis accused Ms Neill-Fraser and her defence counsel of using several red-herrings in a bid to distract from the case against her.

He said a 16-year-old homeless girl whose DNA was found at the alleged murder scene was "treated ferociously" by the defence counsel.

"This was to make a reasonable doubt in your mind that she was connected," Mr Ellis told the jury.

He said the defence also made a "large issue" out of a grey dinghy that was seen tied along side Four Winds on the afternoon of Australia Day.

He said the dinghy that belonged to Ms Neill-Fraser had previously been identified as grey, yet the defence attacked the police investigation.

Mr Ellis said it was "a long bow to draw" and a desperate act by counsel.

"How desperate do you have to be to raise these things and lambast police?" Mr Ellis said.

Mr Ellis said there was little that was reliable about Ms Neill-Fraser's account.

"The only thing consistent about it was that it would change," he said.

He urged the jury to heed caution when considering her evidence.

"Look at them but don't think that because you looked out there, there must be reasonable doubt," he said.

Mr Ellis concluded by saying that Ms Neill-Fraser is "guilty beyond reasonable doubt of murder".

Defence counsel David Gunson SC is anticipated to begin his closing submission this afternoon, before Justice Alan Blow.

Trial a drawcard for public

 
EVIDENCE in the trial of alleged murderer Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser concluded yesterday.

The Supreme Court jury in Hobart has heard three weeks of evidence from more than 50 witnesses.

The case has drawn intense public interest and the court reached capacity in recent days, with more than 50 people packing out the Supreme Court chamber.

Among the onlookers were Ms Neill-Fraser's supportive daughters, Emma Fraser-Meeker and Sarah Bowles, who have attended every day of the trial.

Mr Chappell's son Timothy, daughter Kate and sister Caroline Sanchez have also watched on after giving evidence during the opening week.

Ms Neill-Fraser has maintained her innocence from the moment of her arrest in August last year, denying knowing any detail about how or why Mr Chappell was allegedly killed.

She has rejected claims that she had ended their relationship and has spoken of plans to marry.

However, she told the court she had no doubt he was dead.

The Crown has accused Ms Neill-Fraser of killing Mr Chappell and dumping his body in the River Derwent.

Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis SC will begin his closing submission this morning.

Murder case winds up

 

THE fate of accused murderer Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser could be known today, with the jury expected to begin deliberating.

Defence counsel David Gunson SC made closing submissions yesterday, saying Ms Neill-Fraser might have been "naive" and "silly" for lying to police, but that did not make her a murderer.

"There is one possible verdict you can return in this trial and that is not guilty," he said.

Ms Neill-Fraser, 56, of West Hobart, has pleaded not guilty to murdering her de facto Bob Chappell.

Mr Gunson criticised the police investigation into the disappearance of Mr Chappell, who vanished from the couple's yacht Four Winds on January 26, 2009.

He described the investigation as "appalling", saying police failed to properly investigate a grey dinghy seen moored alongside Four Winds late on Australia Day.

"They could not recognise the possibility that a person other than the accused was aboard Four Winds," he said.

The jury was urged to consider the evidence that the DNA of a 16-year-old homeless girl was found on the yacht.

Mr Gunson said it was a reasonable hypothesis that the girl, who could not account for her whereabouts the night Mr Chappell was allegedly murdered, was involved.

"The reasonable conclusion was she was there for no good," he said.

Mr Gunson discredited allegations made by Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis about the accused's involvement in Mr Chappell's death.

"They're fanciful, created by an imaginative prosecutor," he said.

Mr Ellis said it would take a "ridiculous string of coincidence" for anyone other than Ms Neill-Fraser to be responsible for the alleged murder.

He said Ms Neill-Fraser had "erected a wall of lies" to mislead police and the jury.

He said the truth would "seep around the edges" and reveal itself when the accused wasn't "completely on guard".

Mr Ellis urged the Supreme Court jury to use Ms Neill-Fraser's lies against her.

"Those sorts of lies can be used in evidence, considering she knew the truth would hurt her," he said.

Mr Ellis accused Ms Neill-Fraser and her counsel of using red herrings.

He said a teenage homeless girl was "treated ferociously" by the defence counsel.

"This was to make a reasonable doubt in your mind that she was connected," he said.

He said the defence made a "large issue" out of a grey dinghy, adding that the dinghy that belonged to Ms Neill-Fraser had previously been identified as grey, yet the defence continued to attack police.

Mr Ellis said it was "a long bow to draw".

"How desperate do you have to be to raise these things and lambaste police?" Mr Ellis said.

He urged the jury to be cautious of the "red herrings".

"Look at them but don't think that because you looked out there, there must be reasonable doubt," he said.

Mr Ellis said there was little that was reliable about Ms Neill-Fraser's account.

"The only thing consistent about it was that it would change," he said.

Mr Ellis concluded by saying that Ms Neill-Fraser was "guilty beyond reasonable doubt of murder".

Justice Alan Blow will provide a summary and advice to the jury this morning before it retires to consider a verdict.

 

Jury retires to consider verdict

 

A SUPREME Court jury has begun deliberating to consider the fate of accused murderer Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser.

During his address to the jury, Justice Alan Blow said Ms Neill-Fraser could face a manslaughter conviction if the jury does not convict her of murder.

Justice Blow asked jurors to put aside emotions and focus on the facts of the case.

He suggested the obvious sabotage and blood found at the murder scene of the alleged murder indicated it was not an accident.

Justice Blow said the sabotage was indicative that the person responsible had an intimate knowledge of the yacht Four Winds or, at the very least, yachts in general.

He said winch and ropes tended to suggest that Bob Chappell's body was winched up from the yacht.

Evidence suggested the body was taken away and dropped in an unsearched area of the River Derwent, Justice Blow told jurors.

Justice Blow also advised jurors that there were exceptional circumstances where lies told by an accused could be an indicator of guilt.

He said it was up to jurors to determine if Ms Neill-Fraser's differing accounts of her whereabouts on the night Mr Chappell was allegedly killed were lies and reflective of guilt.

Justice Blow advised jurors they must be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Chappell is dead, that he was killed and that Ms Neill-Fraser killed him, if they are to convict her of murder.

The jury was advised briefly by Justice Blow that manslaughter was also an option.

To return a conviction for murder, all 12 jurors must unanimously reach a guilty verdict, Justice Blow said.

Justice Blow told jurors that after six hours' deliberating he could accept a not guilty verdict or a manslaughter verdict with only 10 or 11 jurors' support.

 

Jury ponders yacht verdict

 

A SUPREME Court jury was in lock-up overnight as it continues to hold the fate of accused murderer Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser in the balance.

The jury began deliberating at 2.30pm yesterday and broke up about 9pm without a verdict.

The jury of five men and seven women will resume deliberating at the Supreme Court in Hobart at 9am today.

Justice Alan Blow said Ms Neill-Fraser might face a manslaughter conviction if the jury failed to reach a unanimous guilty verdict on the murder charge.

The 56-year-old West Hobart woman has pleaded not guilty to murdering her de facto husband, Bob Chappell, on Australia Day last year.

During a closing address yesterday, Justice Blow told jurors they had to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Chappell was dead, that he was killed and that Ms Neill-Fraser was responsible if they were to convict her of murder.

He said evidence at the scene of the alleged murder indicated Mr Chappell's death was not an accident and that his body had been winched from his yacht and dropped into the Derwent.

He said the prosecution did not have to establish a motive, but it had presented possible explanations.

"Possible motives are greed and disagreement over [yacht] Four Winds," Justice Blow said.

He said Ms Neill-Fraser stood to inherit Mr Chappell's West Hobart house, car, material possessions and half of his estate which included about $800,000 in superannuation.

Justice Blow said the defence suggested it was improbable for one person to be able to winch a body off the boat and then dispose of it from a dinghy without capsizing.

 

Body of lies sinks murderer

 

THERE was no body, weapon or witness, just a woman who couldn't quite get her story straight.

Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser began spinning a web of deceit from the moment her partner Bob Chappell vanished from the couple's yacht on Australia Day 2009.

But as police investigations intensified, focusing on Neill-Fraser, her lies slowly unravelled and led to only one conclusion: the alluring and refined Hobart grandmother had murdered her partner of 18 years.

Neill-Fraser, 56, has maintained her innocence.

Just months before the murder, the seemingly happy couple bought Four Winds, a 53ft ketch that would see them sail into their dream retirement.

The eccentric Mr Chappell was only one year from retiring from his life's work as the Royal Hobart Hospital's chief radiation physicist.

Neill-Fraser was semi-retired, working part-time managing farming properties she owned in Tasmania's Midlands.

Their sailing dreams stretched as far as a transPacific voyage to visit Mr Chappell's sister in Ecuador, but first they would learn the ropes in home waters.

Having scoured almost every marina along Australia's eastern seaboard the couple knew they had found the one the moment they lay eyes on Four Winds in 2008.

In December the couple set off on the near-1000-nautical-mile trip from Brisbane to Hobart with the hired help of experienced yachtsmen Peter Stevenson and David Casson.

Two days later the yacht's engine was plagued by a fungus known as the black death and they were towed into Southport by the Coast Guard.

At the same time Mr Chappell's nose began to bleed uncontrollably, forcing his admission to a Queensland hospital.

After only a couple of hospital visits, Neill-Fraser continued on the voyage south, raising the suspicion of Mr Stevenson and Mr Casson.

Once they left Southport, Neill-Fraser told the sailors her relationship was on the rocks.

"She had said to us in general conversation that their relationship was strained and over, and had been for some time," Mr Stevenson told the Supreme Court during the murder trial.

"She said to me at one stage that she would like to borrow $100,000 from her mother to buy out his share of the boat."

Despite the broken journey, Neill-Fraser was energised, speaking constantly of desires to sail.

It alarmed Mr Chappell's daughter Kate, who couldn't see where her dad fitted in Neill-Fraser's plans.

"I was concerned with that comment and the feeling I got from Sue," she said. "I just felt Sue would have liked to have sailed in a much bigger way than my father."

After the yacht's arrival in Hobart, the couple worked tirelessly almost every day, finally taking time to enjoy it on January 25, 2009, when they took Mr Chappell's sister, Caroline Sanchez, on a day trip to Bruny Island.

The next morning Ms Sanchez unknowingly spoke her final words to her brother, passing an incidental "good morning" as she made a cup of tea.

Though the evidence presented by the prosecution was circumstantial, the jury accepted that Neill-Fraser's desire for Mr Chappell's million-dollar estate or her hatred of what their relationship had become was consuming her.

The prosecution claimed that while Mr Chappell was working on Four Winds, she boarded the yacht, took up a wrench or similar tool and struck him from behind. The force of the alleged blow spattered his blood throughout the yacht.

She had then hauled his limp body into a dinghy using a rope and winch arrangement.

Under the cover of darkness Neill-Fraser was said to have weighted the body, possibly with a fire extinguisher, before dumping it in the depths of the Derwent River.

In a desperate bid to cover her tracks she had used her intimate knowledge of the yacht to sink it. She had severed a pipe and opened a seacock after switching off the bilge pumps and alarms.

By the time police arrived about 7am on January 27, waves were crashing over the deck of the $203,000 yacht, which was estimated to have been sinking for between nine and 12 hours.

Blood, a knife and engulfing water confronted the lone police officer who was first to board the sinking yacht.

The officer called out to see if anyone was aboard, but no one answered.

Mr Chappell's body was never found, despite intensive police searches.

Before too long what began as a missing person case had become a murder investigation.

Within months Neill-Fraser was the prime suspect.

Her constantly changing account of her whereabouts the night Mr Chappell disappeared meant police could be sure of one thing only: she was lying.

She gave police false leads, including claiming that Four Winds had been used to traffic drugs and smugglers had entered the yacht in Brisbane and Hobart.

"She told police lies and gave police information that was later proven to be untrue -- why would an innocent person do that?" Hobart CIB Inspector Peter Powell said.

On August 20, seven months after Mr Chappell's disappearance, Neill-Fraser's lies caught up with her when she was charged with his murder.

The highly circumstantial prosecution case -- and Tasmania's first murder trial without a body -- appeared to face hard going to secure a conviction.

However, as more than 50 witnesses presented evidence in the four-week trial, the evidence mounted against Neill-Fraser.

The jury of five men and seven women heard that Neill-Fraser had told a former friend of her past plots to kill Mr Chappell in an eerily similar scenario to that which unfolded on Australia Day.

Perhaps most damning was Neill-Fraser's three-day stint in the witness box.

She showed little emotion and even laughed at propositions made by Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis SC.

Under oath her story changed yet again, as details she couldn't recall during police investigations came back to her.

She claimed to have been suffering from shock, that she had seen a psychiatrist for memory loss.

"I can't explain the confusion in my mind," she said.

"I actually began to get mental blackouts -- that's the best I can describe it."

Neill-Fraser's defence counsel David Gunson SC failed to convince jurors that the police investigation was "appalling".

He claimed police had failed to properly investigate a grey dinghy seen moored alongside Four Winds late on Australia Day.

"They could not recognise the possibility that a person other than the accused was aboard Four Winds," he said.

At one point Mr Gunson claimed that a 16-year-old homeless girl, whose DNA was inexplicably found on Four Winds, was involved in Mr Chappell's death.

But his efforts were in vain.

After a night sequestered at a city hotel, and an exhausting 18 hours of deliberation, the jury decided Neill-Fraser's fate.

Late on Friday night, the jury delivered a unanimous decision, convicting Neill-Fraser of murder. Without expression, Neill-Fraser shook her head.

Her daughters, Emma Mills and Sarah Bowles, gasped in shock, before crying as their mother was taken to prison minutes later.

While many believed she was guilty, few thought that a jury could reach unanimous agreement, none more than Neill-Fraser.

Sentencing will begin next week, but an appeal is expected.

He was a father to us

 

THE daughters of convicted murderer Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser have spoken about the pain of losing their "father figure" Bob Chappell.

Sarah Bowles, 26, and Emma Mills, 29, have considered the 65-year-old physicist part of their family since moving into his West Hobart home in 1991.

However, since Mr Chappell's murder on Australia Day 2009, their family has been torn apart.

The sisters have been left feeling like outsiders while supporting their mother's claim of innocence.

"It's been extremely traumatic for us to get through this, being treated almost as though we were not Bob's family," Mrs Bowles said.

"In fact we grew up with him as a father figure."

Mrs Bowles said Mr Chappell was a constant source of support and advice for the pair.

Mr Chappell, who was the Royal Hobart Hospital's chief radiation physicist, was also the motivation behind Mrs Bowles' decision to become a nurse, she said.

"For me, I took a lot of my life advice and support from him, which is what has led me to my career now."

Mrs Bowles said her mother was struggling since being convicted of killing Mr Chappell, her de facto of 18 years.

The sisters, along with their grandmother, visited Neill-Fraser in prison over the weekend following Friday's late-night conviction.

"She's really just in a state of shock, disbelief, disgust but also determination," she said.

"I think that we're quite ready to fight this one straight on and keep going."

Neill-Fraser also had drawn strength from the support of prison officers and fellow inmates, Mrs Bowles said.

Among her supporters was Fiona Garth, who was convicted of assaulting Liam Osborne, 4, who died in her care during a sleepover at her home last year.

Ms Garth and Neill-Fraser are believed to have become friends while sharing time in custody.

During Neill-Fraser's trial Ms Garth spent a day at the Supreme Court, where the women were seen smiling and talking together.

 

Stepdaughters mourn missing father figure

Posted 1 hour 58 minutes ago - 19th October 2010 - ABC

The stepdaughters of radiation physicist Bob Chappell have spoken of their distress over the death of their stepfather.

Their mother, Susan Neill-Fraser, has been found guilty of murdering partner Bob Chappell on the couple's yacht on Australia Day last year.

His body has never been found and the 56 year old is maintaining her innocence.

Neill-Fraser has returned to court for sentencing submissions with her lawyer telling the judge his client maintains her innocence.

The Director of Public Prosecutions told the court Neill-Fraser had shown no remorse.

Outside court, Neill-Fraser's daughter Sarah Bowles said she had visited her mother in prison since the verdict.

"She's really just in a state of shock, disbelief, disgust," she said.

She and her family have no idea what happened to Mr Chappell.

"It's been extremely traumatic for us to sit through this being treated almost as though we were not Bob's family when we in fact grew up with him as a father figure, and you know for me I took a lot of my life advice and support and what's led me to my career now from Bob," she said.

Neill-Fraser will be sentenced on Wednesday next week.

Neill-Fraser gets 26 years

 

HOBART grandmother Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser has been sentenced to 26 years' prison for the cold and calculating murder of her de facto Bob Chappell.

Neill-Fraser clutched at her chest and drew long breaths in the Supreme Court in Hobart as Justice Alan Blow handed down a sentence that could imprison her until she is 81 years old.

Justice Blow described Neill-Fraser as a clever and cool-headed woman who concocted a plan "long ago" to kill her de facto for financial gain.

"This was not a killing that occurred because of a loss of self-control," he said.

"It was not a crime of passion. It was an intentional and purposeful killing."

Justice Alan Blow's full sentencing comments

However, Neill-Fraser, 56, maintained her innocence through a statement which was read by her daughter Sarah Bowles after the sentencing.

"I loved Bob deeply and would never have harmed him," she wrote.

"I must now place my fate in the appeal process and I can only pray that in the fullness of time I will be vindicated."

Justice Blow said he was convinced beyond reasonable doubt that Neill-Fraser killed Mr Chappell, 65, dumped his body and sabotaged their yacht in a bid to cover her tracks.

He said he believed she attacked Mr Chappell on board their yacht Four Winds on Australia Day 2009 in either the saloon or the wheelhouse "out of public view, when the couple were alone".

"Mr Chappell probably died on board the yacht, but I cannot rule out the possibility that the attack left him deeply unconscious, and that drowning was the cause of death," Justice Blow said.

He said he was satisfied Neill-Fraser used ropes and winches to lift Mr Chappell's body on to the deck and into the yacht's tender, where she weighted it with a fire extinguisher.

He believed she travelled some distance in the tender before dumping the body in the deep water of the River Derwent.

Justice Blow said the evidence suggested two possible motives, both involving financial gain:

• A desire to acquire Mr Chappell's share in Four Winds without having to borrow money.

• A desire to acquire Mr Chappell's assets that would pass to her upon his death in accordance with this will.

"It was a deliberate killing for the purpose of some sort of personal gain," he said.

"It warrants a heavier sentence than most murders."

The judge said the only factor in Neill-Fraser's favour was a previously "blameless" life.

"She did not plead guilty," he said. "She has shown no remorse. She has not said or done anything that would assist in the finding of the body."

Justice Blow sentenced Neill-Fraser to 26 years with 18 years non-parole, backdated to August 2009 when she was first incarcerated for the murder.

Det-Insp Peter Powell spoke to the media outside court after the sentencing.

"We don't take any pleasure in that sort of sentence, our only reaction about the whole trial is that we're happy that a lot of hard work ended up with the right result," he said.

Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser's appeal over homeless teen's DNA found on Bob Chappell's yacht

CONVICTED killer Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser should be acquitted because a homeless teen whose DNA was found at the murder scene was not properly examined, a Full Court appeal has heard.

During a lengthy hearing in Hobart's Supreme Court yesterday, Neill-Fraser's new counsel, Melbourne barrister Michael Croucher, claimed his client was the victim of a manifest miscarriage of justice, The Mercury said.

Mr Croucher said the prosecution and trial judge's refusal to allow the re-examination of the 16-year-old homeless girl denied the potential discovery of another suspect and new evidence.

It was one of eight grounds of appeal against the 57-year-old's conviction and two against her 26-year prison sentence for the murder of her partner Bob Chappell aboard their yacht Four Winds on Australia Day 2009.

His body has never been found. The sabotaged yacht was partially submerged but still on its mooring at Sandy Bay the following day.

Despite the unanimous conviction following a four-week trial last year, Neill-Fraser has maintained her innocence.

In front of a public gallery that was packed with Neill-Fraser's supporters, Mr Croucher argued that his client's principal defence was that "she had nothing to do with it, it must have been someone else".

The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, gave evidence at the trial that she had never come into contact with the yacht.

It was later revealed the girl had given inconsistent statements to police regarding her whereabouts on the night of Australia Day.

Mr Croucher said Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis SC had an obligation to recall the girl during the trial.

"Here is someone who has DNA on the boat, who has lied about her movements on the night and who has lied to the court about her whereabouts that night," Mr Croucher told the court.

"All that is very suspicious behaviour.

"The appellant's [Neill-Fraser's] defence is that she had nothing to do with the disappearance of her husband ... this was compelling evidence that pointed towards another suspect.

"Who knows what she [the girl] would have said."

 As a result of the failure to allow the re-examination of the teen, who Mr Croucher claimed had lied about her whereabouts, Neill-Fraser had been denied the chance to explore alternative suspects and evidence.

"The miscarriage of justice is manifest and this conviction should fall," he said.

Read more on this story at The Mercury.

Convicted murderer calls for inquest

TASMANIA'S chief magistrate has been asked to conduct an inquest into the death of a physicist whose former partner is serving a 23-year sentence for his murder.

Radiation physicist Bob Chappell, 65, was last seen alive on his yacht Four Winds on January 26, 2009.

His partner, Sue Neill-Fraser, was convicted of his murder in October 2010 but has steadfastly maintained her innocence.

Mr Chappell's body was never found.

The sabotaged yacht was partially submerged but still on its mooring at Sandy Bay the day after he disappeared.

Ms Neill-Fraser's solicitor Barbara Etter lodged the request for the inquest on the four-year anniversary of Mr Chappell's disappearance.

She said there had never been a completed formal inquest into his death.

"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," Mrs Etter said in a statement on Saturday.

Neill-Fraser's daughter Sarah Bowles has likened her mother's case to that of Lindy Chamberlain and the death of her baby Azaria at Uluru in 1980.

"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," Mrs Bowles said.

"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.

"We see this as very similar to Lindy Chamberlain's situation, where a person has been convicted in a dubious circumstantial case."

Mrs Bowles was in primary school when Mr Chappell moved in with her family.

She said she and her sister Emma respected and admired him as a father figure and are profoundly distressed that they do not know what happened to him.

Tasmania's Supreme Court dismissed an appeal against the murder conviction in March last year.

 

 

Splatters of blood, missing carpet tiles on a $200,000 yacht and what really happened to Bob Chappell

IT'S not that hard to kill a little, frail man in his 60s. Anyone with a weapon and the rage or ruthlessness to use it can take a life in the time it takes to read this sentence.
 

But scuttling an ocean-going yacht is harder. It takes inside knowledge to know where "sea cocks" are - and to cut the toilet outlet pipe to leak water into the hull.

Even then, it takes time to sink a 16m craft. Up to 12 hours, according to the naval expert Tasmanian police asked to inspect the ketch Four Winds when its new owner vanished late on Australia Day four years ago.

That's why it had not actually sunk by the time dawn broke over Hobart's Royal Yacht Club the next day, which must have dismayed the would-be saboteur.

If Bob Chappell was murdered on board - and police, a jury and appeal judges say he was - surely it was his killer who tried to scuttle the yacht, too.

Sinking it must have seemed a quick way to trash a murder scene so forensic sleuths would have trouble finding clues.

Even if a sunken yacht were found quickly, it would take hours to salvage and pump out, destroying evidence in the process.

But who knew a yacht would take so long to sink? At daybreak on January 27, 2009, Chappell's $203,000 ketch was listing, but still far enough above the waterline for curious police to board it.

At first, it was a missing person case. It seemed possible Chappell had fallen overboard or staged his own disappearance after trying to scuttle the yacht. But, by the hour, it seemed more likely someone else was involved.

By day three, the words "foul play" crept into news updates about a mystery that had caught Tasmania's imagination.

Police did not reveal every sinister detail, but there were plenty. Such as blood spattered in the cabin, implying a blunt weapon attack.

Police thought it unlikely he had committed suicide or faked his disappearance. The spattered blood all but ruled out accidental drowning

And the fact five carpet tiles and a fire extinguisher were missing. When the yacht's dinghy was found, forensic tests showed blood in it.

The police suspected the carpet tiles had been ditched because they were bloodstained, and that the fire extinguisher would be an obvious choice to weigh down a body.

They learned the sea cocks had been modified in a way few people knew.

It looked as if Bob Chappell was not just missing, but murdered.

The respected chief radiation physicist at Royal Hobart Hospital seemed unlikely to be involved in anything criminal.

Police also thought it unlikely he had committed suicide or faked his disappearance. The spattered blood all but ruled out accidental drowning.

The first people investigators talk to when someone disappears is the last to see them alive, then their nearest and dearest: spouses, lovers, siblings and offspring. The homicide handbook says to eliminate them in order.

Police had two watertight reasons to talk to Chappell's de facto wife. She was not only his bed partner, but last to see him alive.

Sue Neill-Fraser was a textbook suspect - with pearls and hyphen.

Midsomer Murders had come to Tassie.

SUSAN Blyth Neill-Fraser gave the impression she had money to match her social position as a descendent of an old pioneer family. An impression strong enough for some to assert she would not have a financial motive for murder.

But it seemed that where Bob Chappell's charming partner of 20 years was concerned, the truth was elusive. Within days, police glimpsed another side to the charming woman who could not get her story straight.

The first policeman to talk to her the day after Chappell vanished saw she had her wrist strapped and a Band-Aid on her thumb.

The officer did not think about this until later, when he saw a photograph of her taken at lunch the day before - and realised there was no sign of Band-Aid or bandage. She must have hurt herself the night Chappell disappeared.

There were other odd things. A red padded jacket was found on the Sandy Bay waterfront near the yacht mooring. Neill-Fraser's adult daughters identified it as their mother's - but she denied it.

After forensics proved the jacket was hers, she admitted it.

The police installed listening devices and spoke regularly to Neill-Fraser while divers searched the River Derwent in vain, looking for a body.

Whereas other family members spoke of the missing Chappell in the present tense, his partner used the past tense, as if he was dead.

She also searched the internet in the first days, wanting to know how long before a missing person could legally be declared dead.

Some thought this a little calculating for a distraught woman hoping her man might turn up. It suggested she was keener on money - and more sure of his death - than she let on.

The police soon found what she already knew: that Chappell's will had been changed in her favour. She lied about knowing that, too.

When detectives took her onto the yacht, they told her not to touch the winch handle and other surfaces. She promptly disobeyed, effectively sabotaging forensic tests.

Police deduced that if Chappell had died in the cabin, a lone killer would have used the winch to haul the body up the companionway to drop in the dinghy and dispose of it.

Asked the next day about the previous afternoon, when Chappell had vanished, Neill-Fraser said she had browsed a Bunnings store for hours but had not bought anything.

She was definite about the Bunnings "alibi" then, but later retreated from it after learning she could not have been there for "hours" because the store had closed early - and she had not appeared on security film.

So what was she really doing that afternoon - and, vitally, that evening?

She told police she had stayed home all night after a telephone call that ended about 10.30pm. But telephone records showed that she had dialled the *10# "callback" service at 3.08am to see if anyone had called.

It meant she had been out until 3am - and lied about it.

APART from revenge, the classic murder motives are sex and money. Sometimes both.

No one thought Bob Chappell, the mild-mannered, ageing medical boffin, had been killed in a fit of jealousy.

Financial motives seemed more likely - although evidence would be put that Neill-Fraser, 10 years younger than Chappell, also had tired of his "stinginess" and craved adventure. She told three men she was leaving him.

Neill-Fraser had been unlucky in love. Her first husband, Brett Meeker, was arty, American-born - and seven years younger. He was also a farrier.

Jurors had to decide if the witness was a villain keen to please the police - or the sort of villain a cold-blooded woman might approach to set up a death in the family

Love bloomed in the early 1980s when he came to her riding school at Bagdad, north of Hobart, to shoe horses. Her mother, Helen Neill-Fraser, opposed the match.

The couple had two daughters, Sarah and Emma, before parting. Neill-Fraser took up with a man different in all ways.

Bob Chappell was English-born and Melbourne-educated, a longtime radiologist at Hobart's Holman cancer clinic. He was dedicated to his work and well paid. His first wife, mother of his three grown children, had left.

Susan was "horsey" and outdoorsy. Her main accomplishment had been taking equestrian courses in Britain before returning to Tasmania.

She was the elder of two children of Tasmanian-born Helen Hayes, who had married a Scottish businessman in the 1950s. Helen brought Susan and her brother Patrick back to Tasmania after divorcing their father in Edinburgh about 1960.

Helen was briefly a "matron" at Geelong Grammar, but has lived for decades in the faded gentility of her waterfront house overlooking Sandy Bay.

The family has been around almost as long as Hobart has. Their ancestor Thomas Hayes' gravestone at St David's Cathedral states he was one of the first free settlers to arrive, in 1804.

Generations of Hayes avoided what used to be called the "convict taint". But it caught up with them in late 2009.

UNLIKE other states, Tasmania had never used circumstantial evidence to convict a murderer. That was no comfort to the prime suspect when she was arrested seven months after Bob Chappell's disappearance.

By then she had tangled herself in a web of contradictory stories that had one thing in common, a prosecutor later said: they showed "consciousness of guilt".

The head of the investigation, Inspector Peter Powell, says the case was like any other missing persons inquiry for six weeks - until Neill-Fraser admitted lying about her movements the night Chappell died.

On March 4, 2009, Neill-Fraser still insisted she had not left the house on the night. But five days later, she told her sister-in-law by telephone that she had lied. Police were recording the conversation.

Days later, she admitted to a reporter she had gone to the waterfront that night. One reason she had to change her story was the police had security film of a car identical to hers passing a local bank after midnight, when she had claimed she was in bed.

It would be six months before she was arrested, but from the moment she admitted lying, her story crumbled.

A three-week trial began in October 2010. A damaging piece of evidence came from a "colourful" identity - the partner of a former friend - who swore Neill-Fraser once had discussed getting rid of her brother, Patrick, by pushing him from a boat so she could inherit all her mother's estate.

Jurors had to decide if the witness was a villain keen to please the police - or the sort of villain a cold-blooded woman might approach to set up a death in the family.

The jury returned a guilty verdict. But the fact it took 18 hours to reach suggested the defence had stirred up enough doubt to fuel a campaign by friends and family of the woman sentenced to 26 years, since reduced to 23.

Neill-Fraser's daughters Sarah Bowles and Emma Mills - attractive and articulate young women - are the most public faces of a campaign that has created a conga line of supporters.

They range from her mother's social circle to civil libertarians and activists who insist Neill-Fraser is on the list of wrongly jailed innocents.

Among lawyers agitating for a coronial inquest so that "new evidence" can be aired are those retained by Neill-Fraser and her long-suffering mother.

One of them is Barbara Etter, a former Western Australian assistant police commissioner who also happens to be suing the Tasmanian Government after being ditched as head of its Corruption Integrity Commission.

Two lawyers with political ambitions - Greg Barns and Madeleine Ogilvie - lead the push for an inquest they hope will produce material for a petition of mercy.

Neill-Fraser's supporters insist she is innocent, repeating her description of herself as Tasmania's "Lindy Chamberlain".

The lawyers are less shrill. At best, they think there was just enough doubt to scrape in a "not guilty" verdict.

Meanwhile, the best-dressed woman in Risdon Prison is keeping up standards. "She looks as if she's going to the golf club, not working in a jail vegetable garden," a lawyer says.

Bob Chappell's children maintain a dignified silence. His son, Tim, said last week the evidence and the verdict spoke for themselves.