Susan Neill-Fraser’s final appeal attempt continues as Justice Michael Brett is yet to decide if new witness Colin McLaren’s testimony provides new and compelling evidence.
Mr McLaren was questioned before the Hobart Supreme Court regarding his influence over Meaghan Vass’s signing of an affidavit, in which stated she was on the yacht belonging to Ms Neill-Fraser and her partner Bob Chappell on the night Mr Chappell disappeared in the Hobart suburb of Sandy Bay in 2009.
Ms Neill-Fraser was convicted for Mr Chappell’s murder in 2010 and is currently serving a 23-year sentence, but maintains her innocence.
An important part of Mr McLaren’s testimony was in January 2017 he heard via a phone call Ms Vass say she was on the yacht with two acquaintances and saw a fight.
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Mr McLaren wrote contemporaneous notes of the conversation shortly afterwards.
Justice Brett said the matter boiled down to whether there is reasonable belief Mr McLaren was telling the truth regarding the phone call.
Justice Brett questioned the witness as to why he left out the information from this phone call, particularly the fact that Ms Vass said there was a fight on board the yacht, from a draft statement he prepared for Ms Vass.
Mr McLaren said in terms of being a difficult witness, on a scale of one to 10, Ms Vass is a 15.
“She’s a very hard case,” Mr McLaren said.
“The most fractured and conflicted witness I’ve ever dealt with.
“I believed I needed to make baby steps.
“That’s a normal process of memory recall.”
Mr McLaren said he intended to continue working with Ms Vass on further declarations.
Mr McLaren said he initially provided a simple draft statement to start with because if “hit with the whole lot at once, they lockup.”
Director of Public Prosecution Daryl Coates said it is not reasonably arguable Mr McLaren is telling the truth.
Mr Coates said Mr McLaren lied to the court about payments made to witnesses, including a $750 payment to an acquaintance of Ms Vass who was housing her at the time and facing eviction.
The court was shown a video of Mr McLaren discussing this payment with his employer Eve Ash.
“It is ridiculous to suggest he forgot about the $750,” Mr Coates said.
“It wasn’t an outright lie, I just had no recollection of it,” Mr McLaren said.
Since signing the statement Ms Vass said she was made to do it out of fear.
Mr Coates questioned Mr McLaren about recorded comments about Ms Vass he heard from an acquaintance who was helping facilitate Mr McLaren meeting with Ms Vass, such as “what happens if the camera sees me kick her?” and “put her in the boot.”
Mr McLaren said he did not consider these statements towards Ms Vass as threats.
“That is the underworld and that’s how they speak,” Mr McLaren said.
“It’s just heightened criminal talk.”
Justice Michael Brett adjourned the court on Wednesday afternoon and said he did not have a time frame for the decision.
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