Sue’s case demands more scrutiny
There are crucial pieces of evidence in the Sue Neill-Fraser murder appeal that need to be re-examined, argues long-time supporter Lara Giddings
THE release of the Etter/ Selby papers has stirred a hornet’s nest. Extraordinary public statements have been made defending the indefensible surrounding the Sue Neill-Fraser murder case.
I say this because rather than challenge the material collected and presented in those papers, we have seen various parties in the media and on social media disparage the work of Barbara Etter, a past recipient of the Australian Police Medal, and Hugh Selby, barrister, as nothing more than “rumour, innuendo and gossip” (Colin Riley, Talking Point September 6).
On social media, people from within the wider police service have entered the debate calling Michael Gaffney’s statement to parliament “ridiculous” and “misinformation”. In fact, a person went on to say, “just don’t believe everything you read or hear, especially from crackpots that just want their name to be known”.
As one of those “crackpots”, let me assure you that this is not about needing my name to be known! This is about a woman who has spent 12 years in prison for a crime I believe, based on the material before me, she did not commit.
The Etter/ Selby papers raise a number of issues upon which the public can make their own assessment. The papers can be found at https:// www.parliament.tas.gov.au/ LC/tpapers/2021/lc search_frames.html (enter “Susan” into the search box).
I encourage you to read the documents, which are based on detailed research and careful analysis, which has uncovered material not previously disclosed or considered by the courts.
An example is the evidence of Peter Lorraine, an important witness in the trial. He rang police on January 27, 2009 and said he had seen on the day before “a very small yellow dinghy attached astern”, possibly at the Four Winds yacht.
Fourteen minutes after the first call, police recorded in handwritten notes, Mr Lorraine had seen a 5-foot yellow/white cockle boat, not a Zodiac (inflatable) and no motor. The typed police investigation log dropped these critical details simply recording a “small tender dinghy tied to the rear of yacht”. Four days later, Mr Lorraine said in a written statement he had seen a small tender of inflatable or solid construction. The prosecution argued it was the Four Winds dinghy, that is, a blue and white trimmed inflatable Zodiac with a motor.
Defence only had the misleading typed police investigation log and the written statement. Police attempted to remind the ODPP mid trial via email about the discrepancies, but this critical difference in Lorraine’s evidence was not disclosed to defence. Instead, defence accepted Lorraine’s written statement as fact.
Unfortunately, the facts as presented by Mr Riley in his article “The real facts behind police investigation into Sue Neill-Fraser case” are not entirely accurate:
A CORONER’S investigation did not review all the evidence. To the contrary, the Coroner stated he did not read documents that were marked “Highly Confidential” or similar, that is, a 60-page document outlining alleged deficiencies in the police investigation by Barbara Etter, Sue’s solicitor at the time. Moreover, the Coroner rightly acknowledged the significant “fetters” placed upon him by the Coroners Act, which meant he could not make any finding inconsistent with the result of the criminal proceedings. THE investigation has not been “scrutinised inside and out by the courts, including the High Court”. The High Court rejected the special leave to appeal application, which was based on a legal point (such as the test used to refuse the recall of Meaghan Vass). There was no appeal heard in the High Court.
IT is inaccurate to say that those making the “allegations” lack an understanding of “investigative processes, rules of evidence and court process”. Ms Etter is a former Assistant Commissioner of Police and lawyer (holding an Honours Law degree and a Masters) and Mr Selby is an author of various works on expert
Justice systems across the world can get it wrong – and do get it wrong
evidence, advocacy, appellate practice, coronial practice, civil pleading, policing, and current legal issues.
IT is also inaccurate to state that the content is not fresh. The issues raised about the police investigation, and instances of nondisclosure, have not been raised with or considered by the courts. Neither are they currently before the Appeal Court.
Justice systems across the world can get it wrong – and do get it wrong. You only have to look at the miscarriages of justice in Australia, such as, Chamberlain and Mallard, to see no system is perfect.
We just want to see truth and justice upheld for a woman who has been found guilty of a crime in an entirely circumstantial case where there was no body, no weapon and no witness to the crime. If, as Mr Riley claims, investigators are unconcerned over any scrutiny or testing of their investigation, surely he will join me in calling for an urgent Commission of Inquiry into this case.