Neill-Fraser wins right to appeal

Susan Neill-Fraser has won the right to appeal against her conviction for murdering Bob Chappell.
Susan Neill-Fraser has won the right to appeal against her conviction for murdering Bob Chappell.

Almost a decade after being convicted of killing her long-time partner, Hobart grandmother Susan Neill-Fraser has another chance to prove her innocence.

Neill-Fraser was in 2010 found guilty of murdering Bob Chappell, 65, on the couple's Four Winds yacht moored at Sandy Bay on Australia Day 2009.

On Thursday, the 65-year-old convinced a judge there was "fresh and compelling" evidence, enough to allow her to mount a new appeal against her conviction.

Mr Chappell body has never been located, and Neill-Fraser has maintained her innocence.

Justice Michael Brett found that evidence about the whereabouts of then-homeless teenager Meaghan Vass on the night of the murder, and her DNA, satisfied criteria to grant an appeal.

Ms Vass's DNA was found aboard the Four Winds yacht, but she denied ever being on the boat at the original trial.

The lengthy appeal bid concluded in February but was re-opened this month to consider an affidavit from Ms Vass that came to light after her appearance on a 60 Minutes program about the case.

Justice Brett told Hobart Supreme Court Ms Vass's affidavit, purportedly signed in February, states she was on the yacht the night of the murder with two male companions.

"She witnessed at least one of the males assault Mr Chappell. She recalls seeing a lot of blood," he added.

Neill-Fraser smiled to family and supporters in a packed courtroom as the decision was delivered.

He daughter Sarah Bowles held back tears speaking to reporters outside court.

"This is one step in the direction of what's going to be a very long journey," she said.

"She's an innocent woman and it's time she came home and was with her grandchildren to have cuddles."

Neill-Fraser was found guilty of bludgeoning Mr Chappell and dumping his body in the River Derwent.

She was convicted on circumstantial evidence.

Several appeals against her conviction have either failed or been rejected.

Tasmania Police said they interviewed Ms Vass earlier this month after ads from 60 Minutes suggested a "different versions of events".

"Tasmania Police fully supports the legal process and remains confident in the integrity and thoroughness of the original and subsequent investigation teams." Assistant Commissioner Richard Cowling said in a statement.

Neill-Fraser was able to bid for another appeal under Tasmanian legislation introduced in 2015.

Justice Brett was not asked to rule on the credibility of the evidence, only that it was "fresh and compelling".

Australian Associated Press