true crime

Sue Neill-Fraser was jailed for her partner's yacht murder. Now, a new witness could free her.

It was Australia Day in 2009 and Susan Neill-Fraser and her partner Bob Chappell were spending the day working on their brand new yacht.

Neill-Fraser, who owned a horse riding school in Tasmania and Chappell, who was a chief radiation physicist, had plans to sail the ship named the Four Winds around Australia.

But after the fateful night that followed, their plan was well and truly over.

After a long day of work on the brand new $200,000 vessel, Chappell decided to stay on board overnight to continue repairs on the yacht as Neill-Fraser returned home.

It was the last time Chappell would be seen alive.

The next morning, the Four Winds was found half sunk in the waters at Sandy Bay.

Susan Neill-Fraser appeal
Susan Neill-Fraser and her partner Bob Chappell.

A line had been cut to leak water into the boat and the cabin was found splattered with blood.

Chappell's body wasn't found and neither was the murder weapon but police were convinced – Chappell had been murdered and his killer had attempted to hide the evidence.

Before long, Chappell's partner Neill-Fraser became the prime suspect in the 65-year-old's death.

Despite the absence of a murder weapon, a number of clues pointed to Neill-Fraser.

First, police found a red jacket that belonged to Chappell's partner on the Sandy Bay waterfront.

Neill-Fraser initially denied it was hers, before later admitting that it was her own.


It was just the first in a series of lies that Neill-Fraser would tell police that would ultimately become her greatest downfall.

In 2010, Neill-Fraser was convicted of bludgeoning Chappell to death, winching his body from the boat’s cabin to the deck and dumping it in the River Derwent. She was sentenced to a maximum of 26 years in prison.

sue neill fraser 60 minutes
Sue Neill-Fraser was convicted for murdering Bob Chappell. Image: 60 Minutes.

Following her conviction, Neill-Fraser and her daughters have tirelessly maintained her innocence.

"There is no doubt in my mind that mum is innocent. She did not commit this crime," Neill-Fraser’s daughter, Sarah Bowles said.

"I’m very confident that we are going to win this and mum should be acquitted at the end of it. We have very strong and compelling evidence that is going to be presented and I think as this plays out, we’re going to witness once of Australia’s biggest miscarriages of justice cases since the Lindy Chamberlain saga."

Now, over a decade on from Chappell's disappearance, a new witness testimony could provide a breakthrough in the case.

In a new interview with 60 Minutes reporter Liam Bartlett, Meaghan Vass will share how she witnessed Chappell's murder.

Previously in the trial, Vass, who was 15 years old and homeless when Chappell was murdered, maintained that she had never set foot on the Four Winds.

Now, she is finally admitting to what she saw on that fateful night.

sue neill fraser 60 minutes
Witness Meaghan Vass will share a new testimony on 60 Minutes. Image: 60 Minutes.

“If what you’re saying is true, then an innocent woman has been sitting in jail for nine years?” Bartlett asked in a promo for the interview.

“Yes. I’d like to see her go home to her family,” Vass responded.

It's believed Vass' new testimony could have the power to free Neill-Fraser from jail.

60 Minutes airs tonight at 8.30pm on Channel Nine.

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