Video footage has been played in court of an ex-cop and a documentary filmmaker appearing to manufacture a statement for a witness in convicted killer Sue Neill-Fraser’s appeal against her murder conviction.
On Wednesday, Neill-Fraser’s last-ditch appeal, made possible under a 2015 piece of legislation, continued in the Court of Criminal Appeal after a 10-month adjournment.
The legislation provides for a person to lodge another appeal after they have exhausted all other avenues of appeal, on the ground that “fresh and compelling” evidence has come to light.
Neill-Fraser was sentenced to 26 years’ jail in 2010, after a jury found her guilty of murdering her partner Bob Chappell on the pair’s yacht Four Winds at Sandy Bay in 2009.
A key figure in the Neill-Fraser legal team’s case for quashing her sentence is Meaghan Vass, whose DNA was discovered on the Four Winds following Mr Chappell’s disappearance.
Ms Vass was 15 years old at the time and was homeless.
She has denied ever being on the Four Winds and it has been suggested that her DNA may have found its way onto the yacht through secondary transfer.
Detective Senior Constable Shane Sinnitt told the court on Wednesday that a Tasmania Police taskforce had seized 500 hours’ worth of video footage from the offices of CJZ Productions in NSW in October 2017.
In the footage, excerpts of which were shown to the court, true crime writer and former Victoria Police detective Colin McLaren dictates a statement to filmmaker Eve Ash, to be signed by Ms Vass.
“We’re making a statement that isn’t a statement. This is a strategy,” Mr McLaren says in the video.
An agitated Ms Vass appeared on the first day of Neill-Fraser’s appeal in November 2017, declaring to the court that a woman had threatened to put her “in the boot of a car” if she didn’t sign the statement.
Detective Senior Constable Sinnitt also revealed that police had, under warrant, obtained recordings of Neill-Fraser’s discussions with visitors at Mary Hutchinson Women’s Prison.
He said the recordings were evidence in a broader investigation of perverting the course of justice in relation to the Neill-Fraser case.
The recordings are said to contain discussions between Neill-Fraser and a visitor, in which she and the visitor appear to plan for a man to sit at the back of the court when Ms Vass is giving evidence to ensure she doesn’t say the wrong thing.
Outside court on Wednesday, Neill-Fraser’s daughter Sarah Bowles said she felt the defence was “putting our best foot forward”.
“We still don’t really know what happened to Bob. And, at the end of the day, this is what this should be about,” she said.
The appeal continues.