One of Tasmania’s most high-profile murderers has been granted parole and is expected to leave prison within weeks.
- Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser has been granted parole after 13 years in prison for murdering her de facto partner Bob Chappell
- She was convicted of killing Mr Chappell and dumping his body from a yacht on Australia Day in 2009 in Hobart
- Neill-Fraser has always protested her innocence
Susan Neill-Fraser, 68, was found guilty of murdering her partner of 18 years Bob Chappell aboard their yacht on Australia Day, in 2009.
No body or weapon was ever found. Nor have police ever been able to explain how the DNA of a then 15-year-old homeless girl came to be aboard the yacht.
The teen, now known to be Meaghan Vass, has changed her story several times over the years. Either saying she was never on the yacht, or that she was on it and someone else murdered Mr Chappell.
Neill-Fraser was arrested in August 2009, about seven months after Mr Chappell’s disappearance.
The evidence was circumstantial, but it was strong enough for a jury to unanimously find her guilty of murder in October 2010.
In sentencing, Supreme Court Justice Alan Blow said there was “almost nothing that counts in her favour”.
“She did not plead guilty. She has shown no remorse. She has not said or done anything that would assist in the finding of the body,” he said at the time.
“There is no suggestion that Mr Chappell said or did anything to provoke this crime, or even to warrant hostility on the part of Ms Neill-Fraser.
“It was a deliberate killing for the purpose of some sort of personal gain. It warrants a heavier sentence than most murders.”
She was sentenced to 26 years in prison with a non-parole period of 18 years. After an appeal that was reduced to 23 years with a non-parole of 13 years.
Neill-Fraser, though, has always maintained her innocence.
Over the years she’s gained a loyal following of supporters, including Federal Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie and former Tasmanian premier Lara Giddings.
The courts have thoroughly rejected that notion though.
Neill-Fraser has launched numerous appeals to quash her conviction, most recently in the High Court. All have failed.
For a long time, her supporters insisted she would not apply for parole and would only leave prison an innocent woman.
On Friday, Tasmania’s parole board decided to grant Neill-Fraser her long awaited freedom.
But when she leaves prison, in the next few weeks, it will be as a guilty woman.
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