The Girl with Dark Hair in the Sue Neill-Fraser Murder Case - Why was she not followed up?

Posted by Barbara Etter APM on 10 September 2014 | 2 Comments

Sue Neill-Fraser told police, when she was interviewed at her West Hobart home on 5 February 2009, that when she came into the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania (RYCT) on the afternoon of Australia Day to secure the Four Winds dinghy up for the night, that she saw a girl with dark hair standing on the walkway. Reference to the girl is also contained in the typed notes of Constable Milazzo. Her diary entry about a conversation between Sinnitt and Sue Neill-Fraser read:

Girl with dark hair. Think she just tied a dinghy up. She was walking. A guy on slipway walking across. People wandering around.

Detective Senior Constable Sinnitt had also written in his diary “When tying dinghy girl dark hair was there”.

It seems from the cross-examination of Sinnitt by David Gunson SC (CT p.816) that police made no effort to identify or speak with this person:

She said that when she was tying up the dinghy a girl with dark hair was there, did you ask for any description of this girl. Did you ask her whether she knew the girl or anything like that? ….. All the accused could remember was that there was a girl with dark hair there.

Right. Did the police at any stage to your knowledge ask for a public follow-up on that sort of information, to ask for anybody who was at the Royal Yacht Club at about two o’clock, three o’clock or four o’clock, doesn’t really matter, on that afternoon to come forward? …. There’d been several media releases requesting anyone with information and anyone who had been in the area to come forward or contact police.

And no one came forward about being on that wharf, but specifically was the question asked, anybody on the wharf at the Royal Yacht Club come forward? …. I don’t recall that being specifically asked.

And if I said – if I said to you that such a request was not made you’d accept that, wouldn’t you? … Yes

Who might have, if tracked down, been able to confirm the accused’s account? … Yes

And the police made no attempt to specifically find that person by asking for that person to come forward through a media release? .. Well that’s not correct.

For that person on the wharf? …A media release for specifically that person. We’d – we’d done several releases for any person –

No, no , no, stop, concentrate … I hadn’t finished.

Concentrate on the question. Was there any specific request made for that person to come forward? … No

There is also the evidence of a female witness who saw a woman with “dark hair” getting a coke from a drinks machine at the RYCT (on either the 26 or 27 January 2009) and then walk back towards the marina. The woman was estimated to be in her 30’s, with “shoulder length straight black hair” (Duty Allocation Sheet 45, obtained under Right to Information legislation in 2012).

Who was the “girl with dark hair” who saw where Sue left and tied up the Four Winds dinghy? Why is it that she never came forward with all the publicity about the case and why is it that police apparently made no effort to track her down?

And in light of the evidence of the girl with dark hair, why wasn’t the long dark apparent head hair found on the outer surface of the supposedly critical red jacket found on the Marieville Esplanade foreshore not forensically tested (see Forensic Biology Report dated 1 July 2009)? And why is it that another hair (removed from near the bottom step of the moveable steps found to have fresh blood stains from Robert Chappell) was also “Not examined” (item 100)?

Then there is the evidence of the mystery informant Mr X (whose name is known to the Sue Neill-Fraser legal team). He came forward to police with new information in March 2013, it seems, about the sale of a dinghy. He later advised Sue's legal team that he believed that he held critical information, even "the lynchpin" as to what occurred on Australia Day 2009 but police were just "sitting on it". The Coroner, who had access to the information supplied to police by Mr X, stated that the information referred to incidents in a hotel bar around August/September 2012 and March 2013. From the Coroner's comments, it appears that the males in the hotel were two of the homeless men who lived on, or frequented, the Marieville Esplanade foreshore at the time of Bob Chappell's death. Mr X described two males as being drugged up and drunk and "there was a dark haired female with tattoos with them. This female went from bloke to bloke. She was in her late 30's, long dark hair, good looking, and had big teeth". Mr X was informed some two weeks later that this woman had breached a parole condition and had gone back to prison. (see p16 Coroner's findings of 17 January 2014 into the death of Mr Bob Chappell).

There is certainly some mystery surrounding the "girl with dark hair" in the Sue Neill-Fraser case. Could she in any way be involved in the disappearance of Bob Chappell? Why wasn't she properly investigated? Would a forensic analysis of the long dark apparent head hair on the notorious red jacket finally resolve this issue?


Post your comment


  • Reminds me of the Andrew Mallard case in Perth. A guitar player in his doorway saw an agitated blonde man with a backpack run down the alleyway from Flora Metallica where the murder took place, to the train station. The police ignored him because they already had Andrew Mallard. Probably, all the police had to do was to look at the surveillance (CCTV) footage at the railway station to ID blonde, backpack-wearing Simon Rochford who much later turned out to be the killer of Brigitta Dickens and almost certainly of Pamela Lawrence too. Mallard spent many years in jail, wrongfully convicted. Ref Liz Porter's book Cold Case Files.

    Or David Milgaard, who spent 20 years in a Canadian jail due to evidence of a guy who was later admitted to a psychiatric ward. The official inquiry in 2008 sharply criticised police for ignoring and failing to investigate a tip in 1980 that serial rapist Larry Fisher was the killer. DNA proved that tip to be correct, but it was ignored at the time because they had Milgaard.

    In Mallard's case, police ended up losing their jobs. In Tasmania, can't the police try to make things right by, for example, if there is any DNA that is not Meaghan's on the yacht, check it right now against the National Database's latest update?
    I can understand that police, like all the rest of us in our own fields, make mistakes, but owning up to mistakes is what adults do. I think that sending an inaccurate reply to Bob Moles is like how children react to their earlier mistakes.

    Are police allowed to pursue justice, or are they only allowed to pursue convictions? If the latter, then our society needs to add an extra layer of official investigative personnel to our justice system.

    Posted by Peter , 14/09/2014 1:25am (2 years ago)

  • Time for real answers, I want to know that as a society we have exhausted all avenues before taking someone's liberty away from them. Being a law student, this case makes me shake my head!

    Posted by Anne , 10/09/2014 4:25pm (2 years ago)

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments