The judge presiding over convicted murderer Sue-Neill Fraser’s last-chance bid for freedom has allowed the case to be reopened to hear from one final pivotal witness.
Justice Michael Brett made the last-minute decision on Friday during closing remarks from the Crown and Neill-Fraser’s defence team.
The case was permitted to be reviewed after Tasmania passed laws in 2015 allowing for a last chance at an appeal, if all other chances of appeal had been exhausted, if fresh and compelling evidence could be brought to the courtroom.
Neill-Fraser was convicted of killing her partner Bob Chappell in 2009 while on-board their yacht Four Winds, moored at Sandy Bay.
Prosecution had successfully argued in 2010 that she had hit Mr Chappell over the head with a blunt object, most likely a wretch, winched his body into a dinghy and threw him overboard into the Derwent River.
Earlier in these final hearings, the court was shown a video of private detective Colin McLaren appearing to craft a statement for a homeless girl whose DNA was found aboard the yacht.
The girl had claimed she signed a statutory declaration that said she was on the Four Winds the night Mr Chappel disappeared as threats had been made against her.
Justice Brett said he would have trouble resolving the case in the absence of Mr McLaren from the hearings.
“Mr McLaren holds a lot of answers,” he said.
He granted Neill-Fraser’s lawyer leave to prepare an affidavit from Mr McLaren with an expectation that Director of Public Prosecutions Daryl Coates will have the opportunity to cross-examine him in court.
Neill-Fraser’s defence team has argued that the jury at the original trial were not privy to a forensic report which showed 16 tests taken in seven places in the dinghy had failed to return a positive result for blood.
They say this constitutes the other part of their case of fresh and compelling evidence.
Mr Coates has disputed that and said the forensic report was available to Neill-Fraser’s original defence team at her 2010 trial.
There had been positive results for blood found aboard the yacht and on the ropes attached to the dinghy, but Neill-Fraser argued that this was the result of a blood nose from Mr Chappell.
He questioned if they had obtained the report but chose not to use it as it would not help their case at the time.
Mr Percy said they had not seen the report and for him to use it as new evidence now would not only be disingenuous, but fraudulent.
The trial will now continue at a later date.
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