Murder case: claim of yacht tampering


MISSING cancer specialist Bob Chappell's yacht was tampered with several times while it was undergoing maintenance in Queensland, the Hobart Magistrates Court has heard.

Susan Blyth Neill- Fraser, 55, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Dr Chappell, her partner, who was last seen aboard Four Winds in January 2009 while the yacht was moored off Sandy Bay.

During a preliminary proceedings hearing yesterday, Queensland marine mechanic James McKinnon said he organised for the yacht to be moved after he continually noticed his tools had been moved and ropes had been retied.

Mr McKinnon said after a few weeks he spoke to Ms Neill-Fraser about his concerns and she agreed the yacht should be moved.

He said he did not notice any interference with the vessel after it was moved to another marina.

The yacht was sailed to Hobart after Mr McKinnon finished his work.

Police Constable Shane Etherington said when he interviewed Ms Neill- Fraser shortly after Dr Chappell's disappearance, he noticed a plaster on her thumb and strapping on her wrist.

"She did further state that her fingerprint may be on a torch inside the boat," he said.

Ms Neill-Fraser's lawyer, David Gunson, SC, said Constable Etherington did not record this observation in his notes from the interview.

Constable Craig Stockdale told the court he was one of the first officers to arrive at Four Winds after Dr Chappell's disappearance and said he noticed spots of what looked like blood on some stairs on the vessel.

Dr Chappell was 65 years old at the time of his disappearance. His body has not been found.

Ms Neill-Fraser has been remanded in custody and will appear in the Supreme Court in Hobart on Monday.