By Candance Sutton


New clues have emerged in the murder case against society heiress Susan Blyth Neill-Fraser who is serving a 23 year prison sentence for killing her scientist lover on their luxury yacht.

Neill-Fraser, a talented equestrian and descendant of an old pioneer family, has been desperate to overturn her murder conviction from behind bars, says new.com.au.

The wealthy and cultured 63-year-old swapped her pearls and silk dresses for life in a blue tracksuit among the female criminals behind the razor wire at Hobart's notorious Risdon prison.

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Bob Chappell on the Four Winds a few days before he vanished leaving his lover Susan Neill-Fraser charged with his murder. Photo / News Corp Australia
Bob Chappell on the Four Winds a few days before he vanished leaving his lover Susan Neill-Fraser charged with his murder. Photo / News Corp Australia

Just a 20-minute drive from where lover Bob Chappell vanished from on board her luxury yacht nine years ago, Neill-Fraser has been working to clear her name.

Last month, her legal team's instructing solicitor Barbara Etter stepped away from a special hearing later this month to present "fresh and compelling evidence".

However now Channel 7's Sunday Night has interviewed Neill-Fraser about the twist in her case that she hopes will free her from the real possibility of dying behind bars.

In failing health, the grandmother is basing her hopes of proving that there were other people aboard the yacht Four Winds when Bob Chappell disappeared.

Two other people's DNA were found on the yacht, one belonging to a homeless girl; the other sample has yet to be identified.

"No body, no murder weapon and not witnesses" is the catch cry of Seven's examination of the Neill-Fraser case.

Four recorded sightings had a grey dinghy tied up to the Four Winds on the afternoon of Australia Day 2009. The yacht's dinghy was white.

But a lack of credible witnesses to say otherwise turned suspicion on the privileged member of Hobart society.

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Across the River Derwent from Neill-Fraser's jail cell, is the spot where her old life disappeared one warm January evening eight-and-a-half years ago.

It was Australia Day, 2009, and Neill-Fraser's de facto husband, Bob Chappell, was on board the Four Winds, moored in Sandy Bay on a bend of the river.

Chappell was a 65-year-old chief radiation physicist at Royal Hobart Hospital.

Neill-Fraser, who owned a riding school, had only recently bought the $200,000 vessel and the couple was making plans to sail it around Australia.

Sandy Bay is one of the Tasmanian capital's most prestigious suburbs and the privileged pair's boat was anchored near the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, Australia's largest yacht club.

Mr Chappell had decided to stay on board to do some repairs.
He would never be seen again.

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At dawn the next morning the coast guard observed the yacht foundering, half sunk in water.

Susan Neill-Fraser with Bob Chappell on holiday in Bali in the late 1990s, a decade before he vanished from her yacht and the nightmare began. Photo / News Corp Australia
Susan Neill-Fraser with Bob Chappell on holiday in Bali in the late 1990s, a decade before he vanished from her yacht and the nightmare began. Photo / News Corp Australia

Police boarded the vessel and found signs of sabotage which made them suspicious that Mr Chappell may have been murdered, and the killer had then tried to scuttle the boat.

Blood was spattered in the cabin, there were missing carpet tiles and a fire extinguisher and a line had been cut to leak water into the hull.

As police began to sift through the evidence and interview Mr Chappell's friends and family, a series of clues began stacking up and Neill-Fraser fell under suspicion.

The emergency beacon from Four Winds was found on rocks near the foreshore.

A policeman who talked to her the day after Mr Chappell vanished saw she had her wrist strapped and a Band-Aid on her thumb.

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A picture of her taken on Australia Day showed no bandage or bandaids.

A red padded jacket was found on the Sandy Bay waterfront near the yacht mooring.

Neill-Fraser's adult daughters identified it as their mother's; she denied it, but later admitted it was hers.

In the media and in local gossip, the story of Mr Chappell's disappearance became a local sensation.

Police questioned Neill-Fraser about her whereabouts on the afternoon and evening Mr Chappell disappeared.

Neill-Fraser said she had been at Bunnings - she hadn't - and then neglected to tell them she had got up in the middle of the night and gone down to the waterfront and collected her car.

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Police bugged her house and began listening to hours of conversations and phone calls.
On August 20, 2009, detectives arrested and charged Neill-Fraser with the murder of Mr Chappell.

She was taken to Risdon Prison which she has only left since to appear in the Tasmanian Supreme Court.

Her three-week murder trial in late 2010 ended in her conviction.

She was sentenced to a maximum of 26 years, which was later reduced on appeal to 23 years.

The case gripped the Tasmanian public, with Neill-Fraser always protesting her innocence and her daughters leading a campaign for her freedom.

Susan Neill-Fraser (second right) and Bob Chappell (right) at her daughter Sarah's wedding in 2007. Photo / News Corp Australia
Susan Neill-Fraser (second right) and Bob Chappell (right) at her daughter Sarah's wedding in 2007. Photo / News Corp Australia

However, police and prosecutors said the weight of her lies was her downfall.

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Apart from the evidence of the DNA on the yacht, Neill-Fraser's team argues that she did not have the strength to use the yacht's winch to dispose of Mr Chappell's body.
Nor did she have the skill to then scuttle the vessel.

Neill-Fraser's daughters have campaigned tirelessly to overturn her conviction and will appear on 'Miscarriage of Justice': Is this grandmother really a cold-blooded killer? on Sunday Night, Channel 7 at 7pm.