One of Tasmania’s most high-profile convicted murderers is expected to be released from prison within weeks after being granted parole.
Susan Neill-Fraser is set to be freed after spending 13 years behind bars for killing her partner Bob Chappell aboard the couple’s yacht, Four Winds, in 2009.
Chappell’s body has never been found.
The Tasmanian Parole Board on Friday decided to release the 68-year-old Hobart grandmother from the Mary Hutchinson Women’s Prison at Risdon Vale.
A Department of Justice spokesman said the Parole Board’s decisions were published online within eight weeks.
Neill-Fraser was sentenced in 2010 to 26 years in prison with a non-parole period of 18 years after being found to have attacked her partner of 18 years and dumped his body in Hobart’s River Derwent.
That sentence was reduced on appeal to 23 years with a non-parole of 13 years.
Neill-Fraser has never admitted to the murder and has fiercely maintained her innocence while in jail.
She has attracted a loyal following of supporters who have advocated for her name to be cleared.
Those supporters have campaigned hard for an independent commission of inquiry – Tasmania’s version of a royal commission – into the case.
Neill-Fraser Support Group president Rosie Crumpton-Crook said the news she had been granted parole was an “enormous relief” and an impetus to keep pushing for an inquiry.
“I think it’s given us a bit of renewed energy to keep fighting to get her named cleared,” she said.
“The important thing is that we’ll never give up, we’ll never stop. I think Sue has worried that if she took parole that people would forget and say everything’s fine.”
Crumpton-Crook said she had never met Neill-Fraser in person but had been communicating with her in prison via letters.
More than 35,500 people have signed a petition to Tasmanian Attorney-General Elise Archer calling for a judicial inquiry and for “Sue to go home”.
The news comes a month after she lost a last-ditch effort to overturn her conviction when the High Court refused an application to appeal.
Lawyers for Neill-Fraser wanted the High Court to consider if a jury had given appropriate consideration to whether DNA evidence could have placed another person at the scene of the crime.
But High Court Justices Simon Steward, Jacqueline Gleeson and Stephen Gageler “were not persuaded” by the defence’s argument and refused to hear the case.
The application for special leave to appeal centred on questions around how the DNA of a then homeless teenager, Meghan Vass, came to be found on the deck of the Four Winds.
Vass has given conflicting accounts on her whereabouts on the night Chappell was murdered, but told the 2010 trial she did not remember being on or near the yacht at the time.
Neill-Fraser’s appeal before Tasmania’s Court of Criminal Appeal was dismissed last November after it was rejected by two of the three justices there.