More than a decade after being convicted of murdering her partner, Hobart grandmother Susan Neill-Fraser has another chance to prove her innocence.
The body of Bob Chappell, who disappeared off the couple’s yacht on Australia Day 2009, has never been found.
Neill-Fraser, now 67, is serving 23 years jail but has always maintained she did not kill the 65-year-old, her partner of 18 years.
She will on Monday embark on a landmark appeal hearing in the Supreme Court of Tasmania having convinced a judge there “fresh and compelling” evidence that was not heard at the original trial.
The reliability of the evidence – which centres on then 15-year-old homeless girl Meaghan Vass, whose DNA was found on the Four Winds yacht – will be tested in front of a three-judge panel.
Ms Vass denied being on the boat at the original trial but has signed an affidavit saying she was on board when Mr Chappell was attacked.
Neill-Fraser’s lawyers have also called into question evidence led by the prosecution at the trial relating to DNA and blood testing and a “misleading” winching reconstruction on the yacht.
It was found Neill-Fraser attacked Mr Chappell, dumped his body in the River Derwent and then tried to sink the boat.
“It was a deliberate killing for the purpose of some sort of personal gain,” Justice Alan Blow wrote in sentencing remarks following her 2010 conviction.
The case against Neill-Fraser was based entirely on circumstantial evidence.
If the appeal is successful she could face a retrial or her conviction could be quashed.
High-profile lawyer,Robert Richter QC, who has represented Cardinal George Pell, will lead Neill-Fraser’s legal team at the five-day hearing.
Ms Vass is expected to give evidence via video link from another room in the court.
Neill-Fraser, who is eligible for parole in August 2022, won the right to a second appeal in 2019 under new Tasmanian laws that required “fresh and compelling” evidence to be brought forward.
Her first appeal was dismissed by the Court of Criminal Appeal in 2012.