Sue Neill-Fraser appeal to focus on homeless girl
Convicted killer Sue Neill-Fraser could walk free from jail this year if she can prove one crucial point - whether or not her lover was attacked on their yacht in the presence of a homeless teenage girl.
Neill-Fraser, 65, appeared in the Tasmanian Court of Criminal Appeal via video link from Mary Hutchinson Women's Prison on Friday ahead of a 10-day appeal scheduled for May 25.
It will the grandmother's second - and possibly final - bid for freedom after she was jailed for 23 years for killing 65-year-old Royal Hobart Hospital chief physicist Bob Chappell on Australia Day 2009.
Neill-Fraser's Melbourne-based lawyer Paul Gallbally - who is also the solicitor for convicted child sex offender Cardinal George Pell - said the 10 days would focus on ground 1.1 of the appeal, which claims there is "fresh and compelling evidence" that "Meaghan Vass had boarded the Four Winds, and the deceased was attacked while she was on board".
Ms Vass - then aged 15 - was a homeless girl whose DNA was found at the crime scene.
"We would then seek the court to rule on that ground," Mr Gallbally said.
"If necessary, the matter can proceed with the balance of the grounds."
The court previously heard Ms Vass will be called to give evidence during the hearing.
Ground 1.2 relates to fresh evidence over DNA testing, luminol blood staining tests at the crime scene, and Neill-Fraser's claims that a winching reconstruction of the Four Winds was misleading during her initial trial.
Mr Gallbally said ground 1.3 - which asserts a dinghy seen near the Four Winds about the time Mr Chappell was attacked, and that the vessel was not the Four Winds' tender - may or not proceed.
Speaking outside court, supporter Rosie Crumpton-Crook noted it had been four years since Neill-Fraser had lodged her first appeal.
"It seems pretty tragic to us that this is how long it's taking," she said.
"It's difficult. We're not going to give up and we're not going to go away - we know Sue is innocent and we'll fight for her as long as this takes."
Fellow supporter Jennie Herrera said progression was "slow but positive".
"She's feeling positive. It's a long road, waiting for May and it's a long time in prison - she's been there 10 years and she shouldn't have been," she said.
"I think she's very happy with her legal team.
In 2010, Neill-Fraser was found guilty of murdering Mr Chappell aboard the couple's brand new yacht, the Four Winds, off Marieville Esplanade at Sandy Bay.
Prosecutors during the trial said Neill-Fraser killed her lover, their relationship at an end, by striking him with a wrench or other tool then dumping his body overboard - possibly weighing him down with a fire extinguisher.
Mr Chappell's body has never been found.
Neill-Fraser lodged her second appeal in August last year under new laws introduced in 2015.
On Friday, Judges Helen Wood, Robert Pearce and Stephen Estcourt adjourned the matter for another potential directions hearing at a date to be determined.