Don't fool yourself that the innocent never go to jail.
When Bob Chappell disappeared from his yacht, moored in the Derwent Estuary near the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania's marina, on the night of 26 January 2009, he left behind his pipe and tobacco — something that his partner of 18 years, Sue Neill-Fraser, knew he would never willingly do. What she didn't know was that despite no body, no weapon, no cause of death, and no witnesses, she would soon become the only suspect in Chappell’s disappearance.
In their haste to wrap up the case, the police charged Neill-Fraser with murder. In her eagerness to assist police, she virtually talked her way into their hands. And after a lengthy trial that resulted in a guilty verdict, the judge delivered Neill-Fraser a crushing 26-year sentence.
But was the verdict unsafe? Many of Australia’s leading legal minds think so, and other reasonable hypotheses have been mooted about what might have happened on the Derwent that night. The Tasmanian government has changed its laws to give Neill-Fraser one last crack at proving her innocence, because that is what it's come to now — proving her innocence.
The result of years of investigation, and based on extensive interviews with all the key players — including Sue Neill-Fraser and her family, local underworld figures, and legal luminaries — Death on the Derwent is a riveting story of justice not served.
“Describes the greatest miscarriage of justice in this country since Chamberlain—and there’s no matinee jacket in sight.”
—Robert Richter QC
“[An] excellently crafted and deeply disturbing new book…Bowles is at her best when interpreting court transcripts and “reading” people and legal actors as they give and extract evidence. In particular, she’s excellent at evoking the atmospherics of courtrooms and of interviews. She was in court for key parts of the trial process, and conducted many interviews with starring actors after their moment of fame.”
—Bill Rowlings, Civil Liberties Australia
Praise for Accidental Death?:
“Meticulously researched and presented.”
“Robin Bowles’s Accidental Death? is worth reading because it illuminates the gap between justice and the law, the shadowland between accident and culpability, and the restless ghost that sudden death becomes for everyone it touches.”
- Davitt Award, Nonfiction Crime Book